Sunday, 2 September 2012

Fr Groeschel: a track record

And here is a little update for those who claimed that Fr Benedict Groeschel's comments on child abuse in the Church reflected his current poor health status and he was being hard done by.

Kudos to pewsitter for providing a link to this 2003 story from the (US) Herald News by Maya Kremen

"The Diocese of Paterson is now placing some of the blame for an alleged serial abuser on a spiritual counselor who said he was fit to return to ministry.

The Rev. Benedict Groeschel, a prominent New York Franciscan friar and psychologist, treated James T. Hanley, during the 1980s, after Hanley allegedly abused more than 15 boys in a Mendham parish. Groeschel said at the time that Hanley's problem was alcoholism, not a tendency to abuse minors, according to Marianna Thompson, the diocesan spokeswoman.

The diocese removed Hanley from ministry in 1986, 10 months after Mendham parishioner Mark Serrano revealed that the priest abused him when he was a minor. Bishop Frank J. Rodimer then allowed Hanley to serve in an Albany hospital in 1987.

Over the past year, Rodimer has apologized numerous times for his mishandling of the situation. He said he would like to see Hanley in jail. He recognized in a statement that he was wrong to follow the advice given to him at the time.

Now, through his spokeswoman, he has pointedly named the source of that bad advice.

"'I acted upon advice given me at the time, and that advice all stems from Benedict Groeschel,'" Thompson quoted the bishop as saying in a private conversation.

Groeschel could not be reached for comment at his residence or his workplace. He is the director of the Archdiocese of New York's Office of Spiritual Development in Larchmont. He is also a professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph's Seminary, and the head of the Trinity Retreat for Clergy, also located in Larchmont. He is nationally renowned as a religious leader and has been called by some "the male Mother Theresa" for his work with poor children in Harlem. He has also counseled hundreds of priests, according to a recent interview on a Catholic Web site.

Hanley elected to be defrocked in June 2002, after U.S. Bishops passed new, harsher rules for abusive priests. He was never charged with a crime because the statute of limitations for child abuse had passed by the time the case was investigated. His alleged victims, who have come to be known as the Mendham Survivors, are some of the most outspoken proponents of the victims' movement in the country.

...Serrano said that he had been wary of Groeschel since the mid-1980s.

A few months after he filed a civil lawsuit against the diocese in the spring of 1986, Serrano said, he got a phone call from Groeschel.

According to Serrano, Groeschel was calling to get background information about Hanley, whom he was treating at the time. But Serrano also said that Groeschel encouraged him to distance himself from the Hanley case. Groeschel also treated the Rev. John Picardi, who was transferred from Boston to Pequannock after he had been accused of raping a man. The Diocese of Paterson said that it was never made aware of the accusation.

Boston Archdiocesan records obtained by the Herald News show that in 1992, shortly before Picardi was transferred, Groeschel called the Boston Archdiocese to ask if the accuser was "still angry" and "still in a litigious stance." Groeschel identified Picardi's problem as "an acute emotional stress reaction," and indicated that he "would not be surprised that within a few months (Picardi) would be ready to return to active ministry," the records show. In 1995, Picardi was accused of inappropriately touching a girl in Pequannock, and he was transferred back to Boston.

The Rev. Patrick D. Browne, another priest Groeschel treated, was transferred to the New York Archdiocese in the mid-1990s after allegedly having affairs with two women. In New York he allegedly had an affair with a woman he was counseling for marriage therapy, the archdiocesan spokesman confirmed Monday."


A Canberra Observer said...

Curious. I wonder what it says about modern psychology, especially as applied by those within the Church but perhaps also outside - the latter [secular] 20th century doesn't admit of evil so perhaps any explanation other than the grotty one is grasped at.

In relation to known offenders I am continually surprised that the virtue of Prudence seems to have been ignored - don't put yourself, or others, in harm's way - the temptations of the flesh are not amenable to being engaged headon - the only thing that works is avoidance. I would have thought that for bishops and superiors prudence must dictate that those with any proclivity of this sort should be assiduously kept away from situations where they would be tempted, and put others at risk.

Robert said...

Dr John Zmirak - who has written several best-selling books in recent years on Catholic culture - has made the following public statement (I should add that while I cannot claim to know Dr Zmirak in person, he and I have very occasionally corresponded, and we both write for the same magazines now and then):

"This [Dr Zmirak has said openly on Facebook] isn't the place to discuss it, but Fr. Groeschel has done things like this before. It is NOT senility. It is a serious blind spot in his thinking, one with ugly consequences for innocent kids. Keep your charity where it belongs -- with the 'little ones,' not with those wearing the millstones."

Perhaps some blind spot is part of the deal when a Catholic specialises in psychology. I really would not know. At any rate, if Fr Groeschel is not afflicted with dementia or with any other mental condition of similar severity, then I shall need to retract what I said on the topic earlier on this website, which was written in the belief that he was thus afflicted.

Terry said...

Psychology appears to be rather more subjective than objective. Yet in recent decades in Australia, those wishing to enter a Catholic seminary, had to first undergo a psychological assessment, usually conducted by a priest, brother or nun. It would be interesting to know how many of these paedophile priests, underwent one of these psychological assessments. If a significant number of them did, this raises the obvious question of how they passed the pschological assessment, lasted 7 years in a seminary, without detection and were ordained.

Stephen K said...

I think we have to be careful here not to fall into the trap of trying to find a scapegoat in “modern psychology”. From my lay perspective, I have no doubt that it has flaws and shortfalls. However I think it would be too sweeping to dismiss psychological testing completely. The point I wish to make is that I think it would be a mistake to simply see the the phenomenon of child sexual abuse as a modern one. What we do know is that the last couple of decades or so have seen widespread disclosure of it. How widespread it was in eras when disclosure was not easy, was discouraged and societal and ecclesiastical attitudes were different is unknown but it would be naive, I suggest, to think or protest that it was just one more of the regrettable features of modern Catholicism etc. For, to simply point the finger at failures in seminary screening would seem to me to be blind to the universality of sin and sinfulness in all its forms. Also, the sexual abuse crime is not simply an example of abnormal sexual proclivity, but an example of the misuse of power, and though the greater injury resided in the abuse itself, the greater scandal resided and continues to reside (wherever it occurs) in the attempt to hide or justify or downplay the abuse. Or find fault in anything but something within us or what we might have otherwise cherished, like one’s image of the ideal Church.

Kate Edwards said...

The problem is that much psychology does not seem to be particularly evidence based.

And its attempt to present itself as a science involves a pretesne that it is value free, when of course, it must inevitably make judgments...

Certainly all of the catholic psychologists I have come across or read seem to struggle to find a way of presenting their field in ways consistent with the faith.

Those who attempted to 'treat' abusers aside, think of the destruction of some religious orders in the US courtesy of psychologists.

I'm not saying it is impossible - there are, I gather different schools of theory within the discipline some of which are more compatible with catholic ideas than others. But it does seem a very problematic discipline.

Fr Ripperger FSSP's homily on this is interesting:

Robert said...

Whatever might be the case in Fr Ripperger's America, it appears impossible in Australia to undergo psychological instruction and remain a decent Christian human being, never mind a Catholic. Even the pagan Clive James admitted, in his Unreliable Memoirs, that Sydney University's Psychology Department in the late Menzies era "would have made Pavlov look like a mystic."

For my part, I have seen myself what can happen to a hitherto dignified, scholarly, and whole-hearted Australian Catholic who gets caught up in the head trades. It was as if a zombie had taken over my friend. Where once she could converse on neutral and on religious subjects as well as anyone (and better than 99% of people), a few months of employment in the head trades turned her into a bloviating, half-witted social worker for whom evil became "trauma", the spewing of obscenities by teens became "boundary testing," and these teens' recidivist thuggee became "crying out for help." I wish we could have my friend back.

As former US Marine Fred Reed (now an expatriate in Mexico) put it eight years ago, from a non-believing yet broadly pro-Christian perspective: "Therapists see only two classes of people, those who are in therapy and those who ought to be. ('Are you saved?') They exhibit the smug assurance of those who have seen the light, and have Truth in a half-Nelson. The difference is that, whereas religions usually say that you are responsible for your bad behavior and you ought to stop it, therapy tells you that you are never responsible for anything. No. It was your childhood. Or some chemical imbalance. The Church of Avoided Guilt."

Here are more horror stories (2010) of secular therapeutic professions. Even the Melbourne and Hunter Valley dioceses would be hard put to match this catalogue of crime:

PM said...

And all the time we had in the Secunda Pars of the Summa a philosophical psychology that has never been bettered.

Its eclipse, however, is partially understandable: the behaviour of bishops and superiors who kept sweeping the abuse problem under the carpet in the interests of a quiet life is the sort of thing that gives prudence a bad name.