In attempting to defend convicted child sex abuser and former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, Father Benedict Groeschel has suggested that child victims of sexual abuse initiate such encounters.

Groeschel, a prominent Franciscan priest and the director of the Office for Spiritual Development for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, made the comments in an interview published Monday in the National Catholic Register. The publication has since removed the item and replaced it with an apology.

“People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to – a psychopath. But that's not the case. 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. … It's not so hard to see – a kid looking for a father and didn't have his own – and they won't be planning to get into heavy-duty sex, but almost romantic, embracing, kissing, perhaps sleeping but not having intercourse or anything like that.”

“It's an understandable thing … there are the relatively rare cases where a priest is involved in a homosexual way with a minor,” Groeschel said.

“Here's this poor guy – [Jerry] Sandusky – it went on for years. Interesting: Why didn’t anyone say anything? Apparently, a number of kids knew about it and didn't break the ice. Well, you know, until recent years, people did not register in their minds that it was a crime. It was a moral failure, scandalous; but they didn't think of it in terms of legal things.”

He added that he does not believe that a priest or “any responsible person in society” should go to jail on their first conviction of child sexual abuse because “their intention was not committing a crime.”

Groeschel, 79, is the author of The Courage to be Chaste, which calls on gay men to honor God by leading a life of celibacy, and a co-founder of the Catholic support group Courage, which also claims gay people should lead chaste lives, according to a report on Box Turtle Bulletin.