.- Franciscan friar Father Benedict Groeschel has stepped down as host of EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime television show following his apology for making comments about the sexual abuse of minors.
“Father Benedict has led a life of tremendous compassion and service to others and his spiritual insights have been a great gift to the EWTN family for many years. We are profoundly grateful to him and assure him of our prayers,” Michael P. Warsaw, president and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network, said Sept. 3.
“At the same time, we ask our EWTN family to pray for all those who have been affected by this painful situation and in particular those who have been victims of sexual abuse.”
Fr. Groeschel decided to step down from the program after consulting with EWTN and with his religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Warsaw said.
In a National Catholic Register interview published Aug. 27, Fr. Groeschel suggested that a minor is “the seducer” in “a lot” of sexual abuse cases. He said he was inclined to think that abusers on their first offense should not go to jail “because their intention was not committing a crime.”
Fr. Groeschel apologized for the remarks last week, saying he did not intend to “blame the victim.” He affirmed that a priest or anyone else who abuses a minor is “always always wrong” and “always responsible.”
“I deeply regret any harm I have caused to anyone,” the priest said, adding that his mind and his way of expressing himself are “not as clear as they used to be.”
Warsaw said the comments at the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register “should never have been published” and “in no way” reflect the views of the Register or EWTN.
“It should have been obvious to the editor that Father Benedict's physical condition and mental clarity have deteriorated and that the comments were completely inconsistent with his life's work and witness,” the EWTN president said. “We apologize that these remarks were published and ask for forgiveness for this error.”
EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime program will continue with other Franciscan Friars of the Renewal serving as hosts.