NEW YORK - A Roman Catholic priest in New York expressed sympathy this week for some clergy who sexually abuse children, as well as for convicted child rapist Jerry Sandusky, saying that it is often the "youngster" who is the seducer.

The remarks by the Rev. Benedict Groeschel, 79, co-founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Westchester County outside New York City, drew strong criticism from the Archdiocese of New York and the support group Survivors Network of those Abused 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," Groeschel said when asked by an interviewer from the National Catholic Register, the nation's oldest Catholic newspaper, about his work with priests who abuse children.

Groeschel, who has published numerous books and hosted shows on the Eternal Word Television Network, suggested that children might seduce priests because they lacked a father figure, adding, "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."

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