Rodimer: Psychologist Gave Me Bad Advice
By Maya Kremen
March 4, 2003
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
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
Now, through his spokeswoman, he has pointedly named the source of that
"'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.
Two of the Mendham Survivors, who for months blamed Rodimer for failing
to control Hanley's abuse, have shifted some of their blame to Groeschel.
Buddy Cotton said his anger was sparked when he read an article published
Feb. 19 in The Metro West Daily, a Massachusetts newspaper. The article
quoted Groeschel saying that 98 percent of what was put forth in the media
about the church wasn't true.
"I think Groeschel's more to blame than Rodimer at this point,"
said Cotton. "He's the person the Church turned to. Even today, he
has this horrific arrogance. At least Bishop Rodimer is humble and recognizes
that this damage was done."
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