Benedict Groeschel

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Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
Religion Christian (Roman Catholic)
Born (1933-07-23) July 23, 1933 (age 81)
Jersey City, New Jersey
Senior posting
Based in New York City
Title Franciscan friar, priest
Period in office 1959–present
Religious career
Ordination 1959
Previous post Order of Friars Minor Capuchin
Present post Franciscan Friars of the Renewal

Benedict Joseph Groeschel, C.F.R. (born July 23, 1933) is a Catholic priest, retreat master, author, psychologist, activist and former host of the television talk program Sunday Night Prime, which is broadcast on the Eternal Word Television Network. He has also hosted several serial religious specials in addition to Sunday Night Prime. He is the founder of the Office for Spiritual Development for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York as well as a former associate director of Trinity Retreat and a former executive director of the St. Francis House.[1] He is professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York and an adjunct professor at the Institute for Psychological Sciences in Arlington, Virginia. He is one of the founders of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

Early life and education[edit]

Born Robert Peter Groeschel[citation needed] in Jersey City, New Jersey, he entered the Detroit province of Capuchin order in 1951.[2] The following year, he was admitted to temporary profession of vows and given the name Benedict Joseph (after Benedict Joseph Labre). He made his perpetual profession in 1954 and was ordained a priest in 1959. He received a master's degree in counseling from Iona College in 1964 and a doctorate of education (Ed.D.) in psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 1971.[3]


In 1960, Groeschel became the chaplain for the Children’s Village, a Dobbs Ferry, New York based facility for emotionally disturbed children. In 1965, he joined the staff of St. Joseph's Seminary and has taught classes at Fordham University, Iona College and Maryknoll Seminary. In 1967, he founded The St. Francis House in Brooklyn, New York, which provides a safe haven for young men looking for a new start in life. The results of his counseling, teaching ability and the manner in which he treated his subjects attracted the attention of many, including Terence Cooke, then Archbishop of New York. In 1974, at the request of Cardinal Cooke, he founded the Trinity Retreat in Larchmont, New York, which provides spiritual direction and retreats for clergy. In 1984, New York's Cardinal Archbishop John Joseph O'Connor appointed Groeschel to the position of promoter of the cause of canonization of the Servant of God Terence Cooke.[4]

In 1985, he co-founded with Christopher Bell the Good Counsel Homes[5] for homeless pregnant women and children. In 1987, Groeschel and seven Capuchin colleagues left their order to begin the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal[6] with the mission of preaching reform and serving the poor.[7] Since joining the Institute of Psychological Sciences[8] in 2000, he has taught an annual intensive course focused on how to give practical assistance to people experiencing trauma, extreme stress, and sorrow - while at the same time integrating religious values with counseling and psychotherapy.

Groeschel is Chairman of the St. Francis House and the Good Counsel Homes. He is on the board of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida and is a member of the American Psychological Association. Other works of charity that Groeschel is involved with are the Padre Pio Shelter, St. Anthony Residence, St. Francis Youth Center[9] and St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center in Honduras.[10]

Author and activist[edit]

Groeschel has received wide public attention through his preaching engagements, writing and television appearances. He is the author of over 30 books and has recorded more than 100 audio and video series. He publishes articles in several Catholic magazines on a monthly basis and posts a weekly meditation on the Oratory of Divine Love website.[11] His most recent books include The Tears of God (2008), Questions and Answers About Your Journey to God (2007), The Virtue Driven Life (2006), Why Do We Believe? (2005) and There Are No Accidents: In All Things Trust in God (2004).[12] His weekly television program, Sunday Night Live with Father Benedict Groeschel, offers a mix of interviews, answering viewer questions and discussing spiritual and social matters relating to the Catholic faith.[13]

Groeschel has also been a highly visible Catholic activist, first in the civil rights movement. He publicly criticizes insulting depictions of the church in popular culture and the media. In September 1998, he led protests outside of an Off-Broadway theater in New York City against the production of Terrence McNally’s play Corpus Christi.[14] In his 2002 book, From Scandal to Hope, he accused The Boston Globe, The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle of revealing anti-Catholic prejudice in their respective coverage of the sexual abuse scandal that disrupted the church. "Seldom in the history of journalism have I seen such virulent attacks on any institution that is supposed to receive fair treatment in the press", he wrote.[3]

In April 2005, he again questioned the anti-Catholic sentiments of the United States media by charging distorted coverage of Joseph Ratzinger, who had become Pope Benedict XVI. Groeschel noted that the new pope had "been very badly abused by the American media", adding that the pontiff’s World War II biography was negatively distorted and incorrect reports of his personality were published.[15]

Car accident[edit]

On January 11, 2004, Groeschel was struck by an automobile while crossing a street in Orlando, Florida. He received a head injury and broken bones, and over a four-hour period, he had no blood pressure, heartbeat or pulse for about 20 minutes. A few days later the trauma triggered a near-fatal heart attack. While he was recovering from his injuries, he collaborated with John Bishop on the book There Are No Accidents: In All Things Trust in God.[16] He broadcast his first live program on EWTN on October 24, 2004. Although the accident left him with limited use of his right arm and difficulty in walking, he was back preaching and giving retreats by the end of 2004 and has continued to keep a full schedule. As he told the New York Times nearly four years after his accident: “They said I would never live. I lived. They said I would never think. I think. They said I would never walk. I walked. They said I would never dance, but I never danced anyway.”[17]

Comments on sexual abuse[edit]

Groeschel made controversial comments in a 2012 interview published by the National Catholic Register on August 27 related to the sexual abuse of children by priests: "Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer."[18] On August 30 he issued a statement:[19]

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 Franciscan Friars of the Renewal organization also apologized for Groeschel's remarks, noting that they were out of character for him and stemmed from infirmities due to his 2004 car accident and a recent stroke.[20] On September 3, EWTN announced that Groeschel had resigned from his position as host of Sunday Night Prime and that other members of his order would serve as the show's host.[21][22]



  1. ^ The St. Francis House
  2. ^ Groeschel, Benedict (2007). "The Life and Death of Religious Life". First Things. 
  3. ^ a b Gruen, Abby (25 March 2007). "Straddling Liberalism and Conservatism". New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Terence Cardinal Cooke Guild
  5. ^ Good Counsel Homes
  6. ^ Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
  7. ^ “Fr. Benedict Groeschel,” Ignatius Insight
  8. ^ Fr. Benedict Groeschel Teaches IPS Students about Stress, Psychology and Faith
  9. ^ Fr. Groeschel's Work of Charity
  10. ^ St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center
  11. ^ Fr. Groeschel's Weekly Meditations
  12. ^ Fr. Groeschel's List of Books and Tapes
  13. ^ EWTN Sunday Night Prime Time Line-Up
  14. ^ “Anger at Play on Gay Christ,” New York Daily News, 23 September, 1998
  15. ^ “New York Catholic Leaders Celebrate the Election of Benedict New York Sun, 20 April, 2005
  16. ^ "Father Groeschel's Words, ZENIT News Agency, 17 August, 2004
  17. ^ “A Circle of Faith Grows in Unexpected Ways,” New York Times, 23 December, 2007
  18. ^ Otterman, Sharon (30 August 2012). "Priest Puts Blame on Some Victims of Sexual Abuse". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 August 2012. 
  19. ^ For Immediate Release: August 30, 2012
  20. ^ Gibson, David (1 September 2012). "Benedict Groeschel, Franciscan Friar, Apologizes For Controversial Sex Abuse Remarks". Huffington Post. 
  21. ^ Warsaw, Michael P. "Executive Officer of EWTN Global Catholic Network regarding Father Benedict Groeschel". EWTN. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  22. ^ "Father Groeschel Steps Down From EWTN Show". EWTN News. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 

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