The prominent NY friar who caused a boatload of controversy after he came to the defense of priests who have been caught in sex scandals with underage boys (claiming that oftentimes, the priests are "seduced" by teens) has apologized for his comments. Father Benedict Groeschel of the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who also expressed sympathy for "poor guy" Jerry Sandusky, released a statement saying, "My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be."
I apologize for my comments. I did not intend to blame the victim. A priest (or anyone else) who abuses a minor is always wrong and is always responsible. My mind and my way of expressing myself are not as clear as they used to be. I have spent my life trying to help others the best that I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone.
The Rev. Glenn Sudano, one of the founders of the Friars of the Renewal, told the NY Times that the remarks might have been the result of Father Groeschel’s advancing age, failing health, and the aftereffects of a near-fatal 2004 car accident in Orlando: “Poor Father Benedict,” he said. “It is painful for us, seeing someone who was so much an advocate and a defender for the underdog, say that.”
The New York Archdiocese also denounced the comments, which spokesman Joseph Zwilling called "terribly wrong"—but they added that it was unlikely Father Groeschel would be disciplined, because he was not officially a priest of the diocese. The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal also gave a statment apologizing on behalf of Father Groeschel:
The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal sincerely apologizes for the comments made by Fr. Benedict Groeschel in an interview released August 27 by the National Catholic Register. In that interview, Fr. Benedict made comments that were inappropriate and untrue. A child is never responsible for abuse. Any abuser of a child is always responsible, especially a priest. Sexual abuse of a minor is a terrible crime and should always be treated as such. We are sorry for any pain his comments may have caused. Fr. Benedict has dedicated his life to helping others and these comments were completely out of character. He never intended to excuse abuse or implicate the victims. We hope that these unfortunate statements will not overshadow the great good Fr. Benedict has done in housing countless homeless people, feeding innumerable poor families, and bringing healing, peace and encouragement to so many.
Fr Benedict helped found our community 25 years ago with the hope of bringing the healing peace of Jesus Christ to our wounded world. Our desire has always been to lift-up humanity and never to hurt. About seven years ago Fr. Benedict was struck by a car and was in a coma for over a month. In recent months his health, memory and cognitive ability have been failing. He has been in and out of the hospital. Due to his declining health and inability to care for himself, Fr. Benedict had moved to a location where he could rest and be relieved of his responsibilities. Although these factors do not excuse his comments, they help us understand how such a compassionate man could have said something so wrong, so insensitive, and so out of character. Our prayers are with all those who have been hurt by his comments, especially victims of sexual abuse.