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Father Benedict Groeschel Under Fire For Controversial Child Sex Abuse Comments

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Shocking assertions about child sex abuse from a well-regarded Catholic priest resulted in condemnation and apologies from various parts of the Church on Thursday afternoon.

Father Benedict Groeschel, the host of Sunday Night Prime on EWTN, is under fire for his comments saying that priests who have allegedly sexually abused children are often seduced by their accusers.

Groeschel made the comments in an interview with the National Catholic Register earlier this week.  However, the interview has since been removed from the paper's website.

1010 WINS' Eileen Lehpamer Reports


"In many cases, the youngster -- 14, 16, 18 is the seducer," Groeschel told the paper.

Groeschel has previously counseled accused pedophile priests at his retreat in Larchmont.  He even had sympathetic words for convicted Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.

"Here's this poor guy Sandusky. It went on for years. Interesting. Why didn't anyone say anything?" Groeschel is quoted as saying.

But Thursday evening, Groeschel issued an apology for his comments, saying he "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 I could. I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone," the statement read.

Sister Suzzanne Duzen is one many Catholics reeling from the comments Father Groeshel made to the National Catholic Register.

"It strikes such outrage in me, such grief that I'm trying desperately to contain myself," Duzen told CBS 2's Lou Young.

Father Groeshel, who also said in the interview with the paper that he doesn't believe accused priests should go to jail for their first offense, is the head of his own splinter religious order -- The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

He is not a Diocesan priest and is privately criticized by many who are, CBS 2's Young reported.  One source diplomatically told Young he considered Groeschel not to be a very progressive thinker.

Groeshel is currently recuperating from injuries he sustained in a fall in which he hit his head.

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal said that it was during Groeshel's recovery from the fall that he gave the interview, suggesting the incident may have led to confusion and ultimately his comments.

Groeshel's statements were officially denounced on Thursday by the New York Archdiocese. A spokesman said
"What Father Goeshel said cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged."

"That his statement is not only terribly wrong, it is also extremely painful for victims," the spokesman said in a statement. "The Archdiocese of New York completely dissociates itself from these comments.  They do not reflect our beliefs or practice."

The National Catholic Register has also responded to the controversy.

"Child sexual abuse is never excusable. The editors of the National Catholic Register apologize for publishing without clarification or challenge Father Benedict Groeschel's comments that seem to suggest that the child is somehow responsible for abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth," the publication said in a statement.

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