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Priest (Fr. Benedict Groeschel) plays down abuse crisis; helps clergy keep jobs
Dallas Morning News
| 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."
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.
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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I'm really disappointed in sinkspur more than anything.
And, after all you've been through with Adamec and others covering up for abusive priests, I find it opportunistic for you to take shots at me because I publish a story that's not complimentary of somebody you like.
Young men were ruined by abusive priests, Polycarp, many for life.
If Fr. Groeschel was in any way complicit in any of this, he needs to come clean, and not hide behind "blaming the media" for the problems in the Church.
And you've not answered my question: why did Groeschel return known homosexual predators to the priesthood?
To: B Knotts; Polycarp; Siobhan
Background: Father Benedict Groeschel C.F.R.
Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R., is the Director of the Office for Spiritual Development of the Archdiocese of New York. He founded and is on the staff of Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for the clergy. John Cardinal O'Connor appointed him promoter of the cause of Canonization of the Servant of God Terence Cardinal Cooke in 1984.
Previously Father Benedict was chaplain of the Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, for fourteen years.
Father Benedict obtained his doctorate in psychology at St. Joseph's Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.
He has taught at Fordham University, Iona College, and Maryknoll Seminary. He is also chairman of the Good Counsel Homes and the St. Francis House, which provides residence and programs for the homeless young mothers and homeless youth.
In May 1987, along with eight other friars, Fr. Benedict formed the community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal under the patronage of the late Cardinal O'Connor. This community, which follows the Capuchin Tradition, is dedicated to preaching reform and providing care for the homeless in South Bronx.
I do not agree with you on everything but do ask the same question,"why did Groeschel return known homosexual predators to the priesthood"?My son's were there .Trust no- one with your kids and hold your money if you are not happy.
posted on 03/04/2003 1:01:05 AM PST
(Prayers for all our troops and loved ones.)
Some Catholic journalists and bloggers have risen to the defense of Fr. Groeschel; they assail the Dallas Morning News stories that I sent you yesterday and today.
The links, and the relevant quotes, are below, as a counterpoint to the stories that I sent earlier.
First, Michael Dubruiel:
AOL link: Annunciations
Text URL: http://michaeldubruiel.blogspot.com/2003_03_01_michaeldubruiel_archive.html#90027344
Care to Comment?Feedback Father Groeschel
There is a story about Father Groeschel in a certian metro paper today that I will not link. In many ways the story which ignores much of what Father Groeschel says about the clergy scandal and intimates that his reason for his slant on the crisis is because of his own role in working with such priests.
--One priest featured in the story, I know as an a very holy priest who had been living at the retreat house that Father Groeschel runs for "troubled priests" as well as for priests seeking spiritual renewal. This priest whose story I knew has been living a life of complete penitence since his crime. In many ways he has been imprisoned in the retreat house. How anyone can find anything wrong with that is beyond my grasp.
--A reference is made that Father Groeschel lives in a mansion. In fact Father Groeschel lives in the half of the garage of what once was a large house that is now coverted into a retreat house. I've been there, stayed there and in no way is it palatial or to be confused as a "mansion." It is usually overfilled with retreatants and others who are there for a lengthy period.
--Father does attack the media. And he does. After reading the Dallas piece I would tend to agree with him. What is the purpose of this piece? To question why a priest who has been removed from ministry is living in a retreat house for other priests like himself? Would they rather that he be living in an apartment complex unsupervised? Much is made of Father Groeschel's failures in using pschology to remedy priest who had abused. Guess what he acknowledges this in the book, apologizes for the stupidity of the field of psychology and its past mistakes. He never claims that he was any different than others in the field. So where is the story here?
--Father includes prayers in the book for victims, bishop and perpetrators. He apologizes profusely for those who have been hurt by the church. What he does in Scandal to Hope is calls for reform. How could anyone find fault with that?
-- posted by Michael at Sunday, March 02, 2003
Next, Mark Shea:
AOL link: Catholic and Enjoying It!
Text URL: http://markshea.blogspot.com/
"I pretty much agree with him. I think Fr. Groeschel's worst failing has been his tendency toward over-the-top "blame the press" rhetoric. If it weren't for the press, the Scandal would not have come to light. Period. He need to quit talking as though this is primarily the press' fault.
That said, I also hasten to add that if it weren't for the Assyrians, Israel would not have been punished for their sins. This does not, however, transform the Assyrians into saints and they did indeed have their own judgement to face. Israel survived it's judgement. Assyria did not. In short, it's obvious to me that Groeschel is right that the press *is* profoundly hostile to the faith. So it's silly to talk as though one must pick between two truth: the hostility of the press to Catholic Faith vs. the corruption of the Church. Both are true.
As Dom Bettinelli and Mike Dubruiel both showed, the Dallas Morning News' attempted hatchet job was a typical case of that. "Mansion" indeed. The man lives in half a garage. And today's DMN is another example, to my mind. And a worrisome one for what it portends for the Church's doctrine of redemption and mercy. Frs. John Hardon and Groeschel are, in essence, tried and found guilty because they were "willing to help anyone, including abusers, and believed deeply in rehabilitation." Dear Heaven, as pastors and healers, they actually took seriously the mercy of Christ? What further evidence do we need? Off with their heads!
Call me crazy, but from what I can see, these men did the legitimate work of Christian healers in giving the guy his dignity the best they could and finding some way he could live out his vocation in a way that was not a danger to anybody. They were not his bishops. It was not their task to give him his walking papers. It was their task to extend mercy and healing to a miserable sinner. Are we going to press on until we've annihilated the doctrine of redemption entirely? I don't want a Church that coddles abusers or endangers children. But even less do I want a Church where, when I sin gravely (oh, I know *you* haven't, but I have), I have to watch my back because somebody is keen to discover and publicize, not only my sin, but to expose any believer who was kind enough to have mercy on me when everybody else had written me off. I fear we are in danger of becoming a Church of Javerts from Les Miserables ("Financial Scandal engulfs French diocese: Priest admits giving priceless silver candlesticks to known escapee"). Every damn one of us has skeletons in our closets we regret and saintly people who have extended grace to us when we deserved nothing but disdain. In our zeal to find and expose the sinner, are we really doing Christ a favor when we create a climate where a penitent and the people who have tried to help him are treated as the DMN treats Groeschel today?
Sorry, but the more the DMN does this, the less over-the-top Groeschel will sound."
And then, Domenico Bettinelli, who is with Catholic World Report:
AOL link: Bettnet.com - Musings from Domenico Bettinelli Jr.
Text URL: http://bettnet.dyndns.org/blog/weblog.php
"The Dallas Morning News has unloaded both barrels on Fr. Benedict Groeschel. For those who dont know, Fr. Groeschel is a Franciscan of very strict observance. His order lives in true Franciscan poverty. Hes a crotchety grandfather sort, but very well-educated with advanced degrees in psychology. Hes also had TV shows on Mother Angelicas EWTN cable network.
But this is what the News had to say about him.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.Thats a little deceptive. Yes, hes a key figure in the network of therapists who treat priests with various ailments, and yes, some therapists kept risky priests in ministry, but although B is a subset of A, A is not equal to B. Not all therapists kept sex-abuse priests in ministry.
The Franciscan friars base is a mansion on Long Island Sound, where he runs the Archdiocese of New Yorks 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. A mansion? Its a large building owned by the Archdiocese of New York, probably a former mansion donated to the Church by a wealthy and long-dead Catholic. But by pairing it with his title as Franciscan, they make him sound like a hypocrite. As for the 85 priests who have returned to ministry, we dont know what their ailments were. Maybe most were treated for depression or insomnia or other common mental health ailments. There is nothing to suggest those priests were perverts.
All the News has done is reinforce Fr. Groeschels thesis that the Scandal is an anti-Catholic fiction created largely by the media. For myself, I think Fr. Groeschel underestimates the magnitude of the Scandalnot in numbers of actual sex-abuse priests, but in the damage done by erring bishopsalthough hes dead on in saying that many in the media have approached the work of exposing the hyposcrisy and cover up with way too much glee.
Even then, the News article overstates Fr. Groeschels objections.In the world according to Father Benedict Groeschel, the Catholic Churchs 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 churchs moral teachings.Yes, the media hates the Churchs moral teachings; they certainly dont embrace them. And he never said that most reports of abuse are fiction, just that the media overemphasizes the cases that do exist, casting aspersions on the vast majority of good priests.
Father Groeschels 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."I dont disagree with any of that. The cause of sexual sin and crime among the priesthood is sexual sin and crime in society. You can help everyone by bringing about a return to the Gospel.
He said that the news media fail to mention that most priests arent pedophiles, that cover-ups occur in other denominations, and that abusers are among the most penitent people Ive ever met in my whole life."Perhaps they are the most penitent people. Hes not saying that they should be patted on the head and sent on their way.
As for the charges that Fr. Groeschel referred three priests for reassignment, only one of the cases raises a red flag (Picardi) and even that one looks ambiguous as far as the friar is concerned.
Posted by: Domenico Bettinelli on Mar 03, 03 | 10:26 am | Profile"
the perpetual grandstanding and fisticuffs have grown old.
Timely reminder and rebuke. Thank you.
I'll be giving up FR for Lent again, it appears. Out of necessity.
I am tempted to note that satan is as satan does, but I will acknowledge that palpy's satan-inspired vitriol has occasionally brought out the worst in me.
I hate it when he lures me to stoop to his own satanic level.
(Yes, it is satanic since it is of the devil.)
I will continue to say that gay/lesbian organizations have a long track record in finding new and creative ways to publicly disparage Church teaching
Like, for example, calling Fr. Mychal (?) the NYC FD chaplain, a homosexual AFTER he was DEAD???
posted on 03/04/2003 9:01:04 AM PST
I know Catholic Guy [was] banned
Really? He's still on my ping list and I never got a "doesn't live here anymore" message.
He was a bit lefty in his interpretations, but quite knowledgable.
posted on 03/04/2003 9:06:41 AM PST
Well, after reading the article, it is apparent that Fr.G. may have made a couple of mistakes--although the article is written in a rather obfuscatory fashion (as you probably noted, yourself.)
Now if FrG treated 100 people and 3 are recidivists despite his opinion that they were 'fixed,' that's not bad. I believe that AA expects 80% recidivism, as a comparison.
It is certainly the case that the press has had a feeding frenzy on the topic of abuse, and it is certainly the case that much of the brouhaha is in reference to crimes committed over 10 years ago--and up to 40 years ago. Some of the "crimes" are still allegations.
OTOH, it's ALSO interesting that Bp. Rodimer was perfectly happy to blame FrG for one of Rodimer's problems. Just exactly WHO is the Diocesan Bishop? Who is geographically closest to the priest? Who SHOULD be getting reports from the faithful and other priests who live with the problem?
Methinks Rodimer is passing the buck.
And HERE is the real problem. Bishops pass the buck (as you have tirelessly noted.) They are wrong to do so, and they are (in at least a few cases) culpable.
Given what we all know about this mess, seems to me that FrG is a VERY minor player, compared to people like Grohmann and Weakland (to name only two.)
(BTW, did you know that Rudy Kos was acquainted with the Milwaukee seminary as well??)
posted on 03/04/2003 9:29:07 AM PST
CatholicGuy had a...er..."bad day." :-/
He went on a rather nasty anti-Bush tirade.
I didn't really think that alone warranted being banned, but it was pretty bad.
To: B Knotts
I KNEW he was a lefty.
posted on 03/04/2003 11:50:04 AM PST
Comment #162 Removed by Moderator
Comment #163 Removed by Moderator
Well, I am of mixed mind, too.
If GWB would show us documentation that SadHus financed or otherwise helped AlQuaeda, it would be open-and-shut. But he won't show the cards.
OTOH, even Rome might agree that taking out SadHus is going to be a benefit to Iraqis--especially the ones SadHus is targeting for liquidation. Didn't Rome approve our occupation of Bosnia/Herzegovina?
It's my belief that SadHus used AlQuaeda as his intermediaries not only for the WTC, but for TWA800, the Cole, and maybe even OKC (although he managed to find a couple of Americans to help there, too...) I think the guy should be taken out, and I think it's justifiable.
The Pope is not saying "no;" he's merely trying to find a better way that shooting. I believe that GWB would be very happy to find a better way, too.
posted on 03/04/2003 12:55:46 PM PST
Comment #165 Removed by Moderator
Comment #166 Removed by Moderator
I'll address it. I don't poast much, but I read everything.
Polycarp hasn't done anything to harm the Catholic Caucus. It's all the other condescending, arrogant, full-of-themselves so called Christians. And that's as far as I'll go to describe them. Anything else will cause me to be booted.
My Lenten fast from here begins now.
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