A prominent Roman Catholic leader provoked outrage this week when he referred to sexual abuse victims as “youngsters” who were often to blame for seducing priests.

The comments made by Rev. Benedict Groeschel, were published on Monday by The National Catholic Register. When asked about his work with priests who were involved with abuse, he made the following remarks.

“Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him,” 79-year-old Fr Groeschel, said in the interview. “A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer.”

The founder of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Groeschel  said that he was “inclined to think” that priests who were first time sexual abusers should avoid jail time because “their intention was not committing a crime”.

The New York based priest hosts a weekly show, "Sunday Night Prime," on EWTN, the Catholic television network, according to the New York Times.

On Thursday the comments were removed from the publications website as the publication's editor, Father Groeschel and his religious order apologized.

“I did not intend to blame the victim,” Groeschel wrote in a statement published on The Catholic
Register’s site. “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.”

Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, described the comments as “terribly wrong”.

Responding to the remarks Deacon Bernard Nojadera, executive director of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "There is never a time when you can blame a minor who is sexually assaulted for the crime perpetrated upon him or her. The responsibility is always with the adult. Sexual abuse of a minor is abhorrent and indefensible. It is especially heinous when the abuse is perpetrated by a cleric."