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Priest (Fr. Benedict Groeschel) plays down abuse crisis; helps clergy keep jobs
Dallas Morning News | 3/2/2003 | Brooks Egerton

Posted on 03/02/2003 8:54:18 AM PST by sinkspur

Prominent friar's counseling criticized by NJ diocese, victims

In the world according to Father Benedict Groeschel, the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal is largely the stuff of fiction. Reporters "doing the work of Satan" are driven to lie, the New York priest says, because they hate the church's moral teachings.

These are not the opinions of a marginal figure. Indeed, Father Groeschel is one of the most prominent priests in America, reaching millions with his books, tapes, parish lectures and regular appearances on the Eternal Word Television Network.

His stature is high among many church leaders, too – he has heard the confessions of a cardinal, consulted with the Vatican on a case for sainthood, been a friend to Mother Teresa.

The preface to his media-blaming 2002 book From Scandal to Hope was written by Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who praised Father Groeschel for putting the abuse scandal in context.

For all his commentary on the crisis, Father Groeschel has revealed few details about his role as a player in it: He has been a key figure for 30 years in the loose-knit nationwide network of therapists who have helped troubled priests keep working.

The Franciscan friar's base is a mansion on Long Island Sound, where he runs the Archdiocese of New York's spiritual development office and Trinity Retreat Center for clergy. There, according to his own written account, he has counseled hundreds of his brethren and "happily, 85 priests have returned to the active ministry."

Father Groeschel, who declined interview requests, has not said publicly how many of his clients were accused of abuse. Archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling would not comment on Father Groeschel.

Dallas Bishop Charles Grahmann has allowed one of his priests, removed from parish work after the diocese concluded he had abused a girl, to help manage the retreat center in recent years. That priest, the Rev. Richard T. Brown, moved to a hermitage a few months ago and "is not contactable," said Father Groeschel's secretary, June Pulitano. Neither she nor Bishop Grahmann's spokesman, Bronson Havard, would identify the hermitage.

Mr. Zwilling said Father Brown "never did any pastoral work" in the archdiocese and did not have its permission to serve as a priest there.

Leaders of the neighboring Diocese of Paterson, N.J., one of several that sent business to Father Groeschel, blamed three "unfortunate" reassignments on his advice. Two of those priests were subsequently accused of misconduct in their new jobs.

"We relied on his recommendations," said Marianna Thompson, spokeswoman for Paterson Bishop Frank Rodimer. Father Groeschel used words such as "transformation," she said, and helped arrange transfers between dioceses.

Ms. Thompson said Father Groeschel had much to recommend him – he had taught pastoral psychology at Catholic institutions and had a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University's Teachers College. He had close ties to the late New York Cardinal John O'Connor, who endorsed the friar's secession from a Franciscan order in the 1980s and formation of a new group that has won renown for service to the poor. The cardinal earlier had Father Groeschel prepare the sainthood case for the previous leader of New York Catholics, Cardinal Terence Cooke, for whom the priest had served as confessor.

In From Scandal to Hope, completed shortly before the nation's bishops met in Dallas last summer, Father Groeschel acknowledged that some priests had abused boys. He described the problem as "active homosexuality with minors," stressing that most victims were teenagers and never mentioning girls.

"Many of the cases now in the papers are about clergy who, perhaps under the influence of alcohol two or three decades ago, engaged in improper actions, but not sexual acts," he wrote. "They went into treatment and have behaved well over the years."

Father Groeschel also said that church leaders sometimes had relied, to their detriment, on the advice of behavioral experts.

"I've been involved in psychology for four decades, and we in the profession were naïve enough to think that these offenders could almost always be cured," he wrote. Therapists "often were correct in their assessments," but "were sometimes tragically wrong about a particular case."

Father Groeschel said nothing in his book about his own success rate in treating priests.

He saved his harshest words for the news media's coverage of the abuse issue, which he called a "blitz of lies." Like Adolf Hitler, he wrote, news organizations are "spreading lies in order to destroy" the Catholic Church.

"When a scandal occurs," the priest wrote, "about two percent of what is said in the media is true." Last month, he made similar statements to a standing-room-only crowd at a suburban Boston church.

Such statements have infuriated victims. "It just burns me to no end," said Buddy Cotton, who has accused the Rev. James Hanley of abusing him in the Paterson Diocese and recently called Bishop Rodimer to complain about Father Groeschel.

The bishop, Mr. Cotton said, agreed that Father Groeschel "had failed a lot of victims."

Ms. Thompson, the bishop's spokeswoman, said Father Groeschel's critique of the media was misguided. "Bishop Rodimer has told the media, 'Thank you for opening the window on this,' " she said. "The media have been fair. We created this story, not the press."

The victims

Father Groeschel has said he is sensitive to victims. "As a psychologist for priests, I have occasionally spoken to the victims of priests and to their families," he wrote in From Scandal to Hope. "I can only say that I am deeply, deeply grieved. I often had to accept their anger, not directed personally at me, but at Church authorities. ...

"I am willing," he added, "to suffer with the victims."

Mark Serrano, who also has said that Father Hanley abused him as a boy, questioned Father Groeschel's sincerity. His skepticism, he said, is based on an experience he had after his family's complaints led Bishop Rodimer to suspend Father Hanley.

In 1986, the year after the abuse complaints, Mr. Serrano agreed to talk to Father Groeschel, who was counseling Father Hanley. Mr. Serrano, who was then a college student, said he thought the counselor "wanted more information" for therapeutic purposes. Instead, Mr. Serrano said, Father Groeschel lashed out at him.

"He said, 'Why don't you stop harassing this poor priest? He's a sick man. You are wrong for what you're doing to him.' "

Monsignor Kenneth Lasch, a Paterson diocesan priest, said he had urged Mr. Serrano to talk with Father Groeschel because the friar had expressed pastoral concern for Mr. Serrano – "something like, 'Mark seems to be a troubled person.' "

Hearing Mr. Serrano's account of what ensued "left me very, very uncomfortable," Monsignor Lasch said, "and made me wonder what was going on" at Father Groeschel's retreat center.

Father Groeschel's 2002 book warned that Catholics would still face a crisis after "the media monster ... slither[s] away to attack other victims." He prescribed a return to conservative moral teachings, saying that nothing would restore confidence in church leadership "better than a firm stance against pornography, extramarital sex, abortion, euthanasia and the general moral decline of the United States. ... Tough topics like contraception and autoeroticism need to be consistently and publicly addressed."

He said that the news media fail to mention that most priests aren't pedophiles, that cover-ups occur in other denominations, and that abusers "are among the most penitent people I've ever met in my whole life."

He cited the example of the late Atlanta Archbishop Eugene Marino, who resigned in 1990 after an affair with a young woman in lay ministry and went to Father Groeschel's retreat center, in the New York City suburb of Larchmont. He "lived a life of extreme humiliation, humility and penitence," Father Groeschel wrote.

In the mid-1990s, Archbishop Marino became spiritual director of the outpatient Clergy Consultation and Treatment Service at St. Vincent's Hospital, near Trinity Retreat. It was formed at the request of the late Cardinal O'Connor and works closely with the retreat center.

One priest who was counseled by Archbishop Marino and Father Groeschel was the Rev. Morgan Kuhl.

He was sent to them in 1999, after he solicited sex online from undercover officers posing as adolescent boys and was arrested. The subsequent FBI investigation showed that he had met teens this way and abused them.

Clergy treatment

The prosecution of Father Kuhl, who has been removed from ministry, opened a rare window into the Catholic clergy treatment system.

A psychologist who evaluated Father Kuhl for federal prosecutors recommended that he "be enrolled in a program specific to sex offenders," not just in the general psychotherapy and spiritual counseling he was getting. Dr. Barry Katz wrote that the priest "expressed regret over the effects that his actions have had upon himself, but no remorse for the effect that his actions have had upon the minors with whom he was involved."

After pleading guilty, Father Kuhl apologized to a judge for "the hurt and the embarrassment that I have caused so many other people." He also said he had devoted his life to helping others, and had learned in church-sponsored therapy "that there was one person I never did seem to try to help, and that was myself."

U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson initially sentenced Father Kuhl to a short prison term followed by house arrest. But she later reduced the penalty, over the objections of prosecutor Donna Krappa, to five years of probation and ordered the priest to "adhere to the program requirements at Trinity Retreat."

In advocating probation, Father Groeschel represented himself to the court as a counseling psychologist, Ms. Krappa said in an interview. New York state officials said he has never had the license generally required for use of that title. Using the title without a license is a misdemeanor, state officials said.

"I think that the judge would have been interested in this fact," Ms. Krappa said, "when she considered the quality of treatment Father Kuhl was receiving through the archdiocese."

TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: catholicchurch; catholiclist
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To: Chancellor Palpatine
Just can't keep away from the Catholic threads, can you?

It's like an illness with you.

121 posted on 03/03/2003 12:38:02 PM PST by american colleen (Christe Eleison!)
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To: Polycarp
Luke 6
32 "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
35 But love your enemies, and do good, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
122 posted on 03/03/2003 12:47:52 PM PST by Maximilian
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To: Maximilian
Thank you, Maximilian. I needed to see that right now.
123 posted on 03/03/2003 12:49:23 PM PST by Polycarp
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To: Polycarp; Chancellor Palpatine
If there's anything that's made Catholics uncomfortable around Free Republic it's the Catholic Bashers like you, the Nutty Nurse, etc., etc.

Apostates, miscreants, heathens, pagans--hey, most of those kinds pose no problem for freeping Catholics. We can and do handle the arguments, respecting the dissenting opinions while not sharing them.

It's the ranting, bilious hatemongerers who get mighty tiresome. The same old slanders, the same old lies, the same old bile. That's you, Chancellor. Tiresome and pathetic.

124 posted on 03/03/2003 12:56:11 PM PST by d-back
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Comment #125 Removed by Moderator

To: Chancellor Palpatine; Polycarp; ninenot; Antoninus; Siobhan; american colleen; Campion; ...
With a first name like Brooks, the author may be a fag, may be a lesbian, may be a transsexual or any of the rest of the exotic flora and fauna cultivated by those who resist Western Civilization but the author is definitely a newsie with an agenda, else why even belong to much less lead the faggot/lesbian propagandists organization of Texas, no less.

It would be just as bad as if the author of the propagandistic hit piece were, say OPH nude cruising with a barrel of Margaritas.

CP or OPH or whomever or whatever you may be, you are apparently still operating under twin delusions: the delusion of competence and thge delusion that your opinion matters. Time is ticking and your eternal flaming future awaits. If you are not a Catholic, the business of Holy Mother the Church is none of your business.

As to the "Catholics" whom you disingenuously defend, if they are not Catholic enough, they are not Catholic. Got it?

126 posted on 03/03/2003 1:02:59 PM PST by BlackElk (Viva Cristo Rey!)
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To: Chancellor Palpatine; Polycarp; Siobhan
Okay, I'm confused. A good Catholic wants to talk about inside Catholic issues and how we all could be better Catholics and live good Catholic lives and he's the one causing trouble?

Not the one who comes here to stir the pot?
127 posted on 03/03/2003 1:03:15 PM PST by Desdemona (Maybe too much Beethoven over the weekend?)
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To: Chancellor Palpatine; Antoninus; ninenot; Siobhan; american colleen; sandyeggo; Campion; ...
If the Church happens to be in crisis (when was it not?) that is simply because it is the Church which Satan deems worthy of attack. The one with the Mass, the sacraments and no silly pretensions of becoming part of God when we die; the one founded by Jesus Christ Himself and guaranteed for all time by him.

You and Brooks can stuff your criticisms. You are in no position to offer us the cities below and, if you were, we would not be accepting the offer any more than Christ did. The gates of hell will not prevail and that includes you and Brooks.

128 posted on 03/03/2003 1:09:37 PM PST by BlackElk (Viva Cristo Rey!)
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To: BlackElk; sinkspur
as if the author of the propagandistic hit piece were, say OPH nude cruising with a barrel of Margaritas

Well said.

But I expect crap to roll out of an a$$hole like CP/OPH.

I'm really disappointed in sinkspur more than anything.

129 posted on 03/03/2003 1:10:06 PM PST by Polycarp
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To: Chancellor Palpatine
That's, ummm, Jesus Christ's stern theological line. We simply obey and follow. It's a wonderfuylly liberating experience which you ought to try some time before it is too late for your unlikely salvation.
130 posted on 03/03/2003 1:13:04 PM PST by BlackElk (Viva Cristo Rey!)
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To: Polycarp
I'm an average, everyday Catholic if there ever was one, and won't hesitate to post my opinion on any subject, anywhere, even the Catholic threads.

One doesn't have to hold a certificate in Advanced Catholicism 501 to post in the FR religion forum.

To be quite honest, I could probably use a good preachin' to occasionally, but nobody has ever done it to me.

131 posted on 03/03/2003 1:34:58 PM PST by Kryptonite (Free Miguel)
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To: Polycarp; All
I've been avoiding this food fight, but since my name has been taken in vain...

I've no beef with Polycarp. Doesn't mean I always agree with him.

OTOH, there is a contingent on this forum of people who aren't Catholic, who repeat every vile falsehood in the book about the Catholic Church, and who go out of their way to repeat those falsehoods in spite of repeated correction. I have come to believe that those people are not interested in the truth, and that the truth is not in them. These people also turn many potentially intersting threads (both supportive of and critical of the Church) into sewers.

Y'all know who you are.
132 posted on 03/03/2003 1:35:30 PM PST by ArrogantBustard
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To: Kryptonite
I could probably use a good preachin' to occasionally, but nobody has ever done it to me.

Careful whatcha ask fer ;-)

133 posted on 03/03/2003 1:36:36 PM PST by Polycarp
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Comment #134 Removed by Moderator

To: sandyeggo
LOL - if you notice, you were included in a very small subset I addressed directly from their comments on this thread. "Everyday" is not a word I would use to describe you - where I come from, you are way out on the wingnut fringe of the RCC, as are the others I listed.
135 posted on 03/03/2003 1:58:22 PM PST by Chancellor Palpatine (those who unilaterally beat their swords into plowshares wind up plowing for those who don't)
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To: Chancellor Palpatine
Glad to see you're following along, Chancellor Pervert.
136 posted on 03/03/2003 2:10:38 PM PST by Polycarp
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To: sandyeggo
way out on the wingnut fringe

That's a badge of honor. Wear it proudly. It means you're part of the faithful remnant.

137 posted on 03/03/2003 2:12:04 PM PST by Polycarp
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Comment #138 Removed by Moderator

To: sandyeggo; Chancellor Palpatine
CP:i have wracked my brain trying to remember Catholics who once posted and were chased off by us mean-spirited Catholics,who remain posting on FR.

I know Catholic Guy and allend were banned but I think they were more in tune with those of us who remain than those for whom you seem to speak.Then there was Theresa,who did get involved in something about ecumenism and could have been turned off.A couple of others have commented they had to focus more on their daily work and families and were cutting down,one person said they were becoming addicted and needed to stop for a while.So other than Theresa,I can't think of any Catholic who stopped posting regularly, I would be interested in any names you can come up with since none of us want to scare people away,dialogue sharpens our wits,our faith and our thinking.

139 posted on 03/03/2003 2:18:25 PM PST by saradippity
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To: Chancellor Palpatine
Dear Chancellor Palpatine,

Well, I notice that I wasn't addressed formally as one of the "fringe wingnut RCs", so I suppose I am just an ordinary, average, everyday Catholic. This I affirm.

I've been spending less time here for other reasons than who posts and who does not. But what encourages me to post, when I post, is the friendship and fellowship of Polycarp, BlackElk, sandyeggo, saradippity, JMJ333, Aquinasfan, St.Chuck, Siobhan, Salvation, american colleen, Desdemona, ArrogantBustard, NYer, Notwithstanding, sinkspur, patent, SoothingDave, RobbyS, ThomasMore, and others.

What discourages me is having to encounter the likes of you and other Catholic haters, as well as those who are or near to schism.

140 posted on 03/03/2003 2:25:35 PM PST by sitetest
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