Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The penitent priest and the Catholic crackpot: the "Saving Father Euteneuer" update

I take full responsibility for my own poor judgment, my weakness and my sinful conduct that resulted...[in] one particularly complex situation...[that] led me to imprudent decisions with harmful consequences, the worst of which was violating the boundaries of chastity with an adult female who was under my spiritual care…[w]hile I would much prefer to allow this public act of contrition to stand alone, I regret having to address the malicious falsehoods...[of] every crackpot with a website. --from Father Euteneuer’s January 31 confessional statement

I'm sorry, but since I've been included in this e-mail, I have to respectfully disagree with Sister. Based on what I know, I'm morally certain that the information contained in Catholic author Tom O'Toole's latest largely, if not entirely, accurate. --e-mail comment from a respected (non-crackpot) Catholic journalist

Never underestimate the power of a crackpot. --from "The Pushcart War," a popular children’s novel by Jean Merrill.
In April 2009, when President Barack Obama's (or, as Fr. Thomas Euteneuer liked to call him, the "Abortionist-in-Chief") invasion of Notre Dame was going largely unopposed, "radical" pro-lifer Randall Terry issued a challenge to South Bend's to-that-point-silent-on-the-matter Bishop D'Arcy to issue a public statement denouncing Obama's Notre Dame award and appearance. Although privately peeved at Terry, Randall's cry did motivate D'Arcy into delivering an on-fire document denouncing Fr. Jenkins' decision to invite the president, which rallied thousands of pro-life protesters to Our Lady's university, and over 400,000 online objectors to Obama's presence at that fateful commencement. Still, Terry felt this battle effort was not a complete victory, as he did not prevent Obama from appearing. Similarly, while pro-life "crackpot" Catholic bloggers are happy their efforts helped deliver Fr. Euteneuer's just-published public online confession, a complete contrition and admission still seems missing from his current state and statement.

First, I believe much positive has come from this public figure’s public admission of wrongdoing (albeit almost 6 months after the fact), for without it, the healing of his public ministry (whether it be Human Life International or the Catholic Church in general) cannot really begin. It is good that Euteneuer finally publicly apologized to "the heroic, faithful people…who have placed so much trust in me," and acknowledges that "the circumstances that led to my departure from HLI were entirely" his own fault. In addition, Father Tom’s admission that his "ministry of exorcism [was] carried out independently from my responsibilities at HLI" is key, for it shows the bishops that such a dangerous ministry should under no circumstances be undertaken independently in the future, and Euteneuer’s acknowledgement that "the rare exceptions" he prayed the exorcism prayers alone with women, shows once again that any actions done "not [by] proper [Church] protocol," while not sinful in and of themselves, often precede the fall.

But then comes the part where Father's confession starts to degenerate. First, Father departs from the humble high road by resorting to name-calling (including the term "crackpot"), a Fr. Tom tactic which probably made Bishop Barbarito reluctant to let Euteneuer respond in the beginning. Father then continues his descent with, "While I would much prefer to allow this public act of contrition to stand alone, I regret having to address the malicious falsehoods that were published this past week on various internet sites." While I definitely agree with Father that no one should publish things like the address of his parents, it seems to me that if his confession is totally accurate, and these accusations truly false, there's really no reason to mention them at all. Or, as Shakespeare would say, he protests too much.

Note that Father's firm affirmation of "only one" chastity violation directly contradicts an earlier HLI statement citing two, promoting an almost immediate (if nuanced) rejoinder from HLI, which states, "In August 2010, HLI received allegations of inappropriate conduct by Rev. Euteneuer involving a young adult woman, which occurred within the context of his exorcism ministry. The Board immediately commenced an inquiry into the allegations, and Rev. Euteneuer admitted inappropriate conduct…HLI sought and received Rev. Euteneuer's resignation…since [that] time…the Board subsequently learned of additional allegations in connection with his exorcism ministry." Thus, by citing this timeline, HLI can still state their case without calling Father an out and out liar.

Of course, every soul (which includes myself) who has benefited from Father's ministry over the years would like to believe Father's soulful soliloquy citing only one (sexual) slip-up, but with each new revelation this becomes increasingly difficult. In his January 30 post, retired Marine and Catholic convert Frank Weathers recalls a 2009 Facebook encounter in which he caught Father in a "Mark Kirk," fabricating his military record to appear more fabulous. After reading Father's account of being in boot camp, Weathers writes, "Uh-oh. This is where my 'integrity meter' started pegging. Sir, your biography states you went to 'boot camp' in Quantico VA and that is simply not possible because the Marine Corps doesn't have Recruit Training at that location. In this article you relate your memory of 'boot camp' and the lesson of integrity. Square this away." Euteneuer cannot, but instead a lady comes on the site to defend her man, a lady whose address, according to a Florida directory, once matched that of Father Euteneuer’s parents. Squaring away Father's military record (in relation to the other allegations) may not be a big deal, but squaring away the true story of Father Euteneuer's exorcism ministry surely is.

Still, in the end I do have to admit that Father's calling me a crackpot (albeit a Catholic crackpot) is absolutely correct. Anyone who believes that Notre Dame will again return to Our Lady, that abortion will again be banned from our country, and that a father of four can earn a living as a Catholic writer, deserves that title as much as anyone. Still, it is interesting to note that in the children's novel in which the "crackpot" quote originates, the lowly pushcart peddlers, Frank the Flower, Morris the Florist, General, and Harry the Hot Dog, somehow defeat the mighty trucking conglomerates to earn a permanent spot on the sidewalks of New York. So if my crackpot Catholic writing can somehow get the pro-life efforts of Notre Dame and Father Tom back on track, all the crackpot cracks will be worth it.

[UPDATE: HLI has written me with the following: "We've only discussed the one case that we confirmed and addressed ... [w]e have not [officially] referred anywhere to two specific cases."]

Please see related posts here.
Reprinted on Spero News and RenewAmerica.


Adele said...

Lovely post Tom! (and Jeanette). Thanks for all you have done to bring the truth to the light. I don't know about you but I'm battle weary and very sad about the whole mess. Keep the Faith! God bless you both.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Adele! Tom is working, and our Internet still is not (been 24 hours now), so I'm typing this at the library (which is quite nice indeed!).

We are with you in continuing to pray for the complete truth from all three parties. If God wills it to be so, it surely will be heard, right?

Prayers for Father's victims.

Carol McKinley said...

HLI said they investigated one case and in that investigation Fr. Euteneuer admitted his guilt. They have indicated that the woman is devastated and expressed their gratitude for the two people who are counseling her.

HLI further said that subsequent to Fr. Euteneuer's departure, other women have turned in numerous other complaints about abuse during exorcism which they turned over to the diocese for investigation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Here are just a few comments Tom has received recently (they are *all* from women btw).

"Even if he got a woman pregnant and made her abort their own baby, I wouldn't say 'CRUCIFY HIM' as you do."

"I really don't buy the 'I was concerned about the health of the victims, which were still in danger.' If Father Euteneuer is in treatment and not involved in the ministry, how are the supposed victims still in danger?"

"Considering Father Euteneuer's service and record I would more likely think he was the victim [and not the gravely harmed woman]."

marylee said...

No Carol, that is not true. What HLI said was:

Since the time of Rev. Euteneuer’s resignation, the Board subsequently learned of additional allegations in connection with his exorcism ministry.

Please quote accurately.

I do not see the word numerous. Do you?

marylee said...


We are also wondering when your apology will appear for posting inaccurate information on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Can you be more specific, marylee?

marylee said...

You said:“Note that Father’s firm affirmation of “only one” chastity violation directly contradicts an earlier HLI statement citing two..”


[UPDATE: Stephen Phelan of HLI has written Tom O’Toole with the following: “We’ve only discussed the one case that we confirmed and addressed ... [w]e have not referred anywhere to two specific cases.”

SO YOU MADE AN ERROR! Where is your apology???

Adele said...

What is with all these women groupies of Fr. E supporting/ defending him with such fervour? I haven't heard one man speak up... interesting. (Good for the men! They have much more sense!)

Marylee, Stephen Phelan also said in a statement to Lona O'Connor of the Palm Beach Post before the scandal broke:

"Rumors that the book was 'pulled' or 'recalled' are not true," said Stephen Phelan, Human Life International spokesman. "We released Father Euteneuer's Exorcism and the Church Militant in June, and sold out of it some time after his departure from HLI, so it was on sale for over three months. It was decided not to reprint it as we no longer had Father Euteneuer on hand to explain the connection between exorcism and our pro-life mission, and we wanted to focus completely on our mission going forward."

Can Stephen Phelan's word really be trusted after that? Of course they were pulled, and it was not just because Fr. E was not around to explain them.

Tom needs make no apology. May the full truth come to light for the healing of the Church and for the conversion of Fr. E.

Please look again Marylee. It's VIOLATIONS (see the s) and not A violation of chastity. Huge difference.

Why don't you find someone more worthy to spend you time and effort on?

God bless you,

marylee said...

Well I hardly call that an apology - they are correcting you and you reject it.
It seems like you have one set of "logic" for Father, and quite another for yourself.

I will forward your comment to HLI and let them see if they need to correct you again.

JimAroo said...

I am just getting up to speed on all of this. Mary and I thank God you are taking this on. I know it is painful. My guiding principle is that it is better to shine the light on our problems rather than hide them. Keep the faith, Tom and Jeanette- God is with you always!

Karen said...

We have all missed the point of what life is all about completely. Yes, of course abortion is inherently evil. But, so is a society that is so full of hypocrites that we can't even tell right from wrong anymore. Like the criminalization of immigrants. All of us have an obligation to see that the dignity of each person is upheld from conception until natural death. To focus on merely the evil of abortion, without addressing the fact that far too many women live in poverty, or believe that they actually have a right to kill the child in their womb, or the fact that men simply have refused to be men and lead, protect, and take care of the women in their lives and insist that other men do as well. Until we honestly and sincerely care about all human life the abortion debate will fall on deaf ears i.e. pro-choice women who are not women at all, and we will continue to be surprised when we realize that the priests we are taught to revere are just men and are just too distracted to be totally committed to the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We will demonize President Obama, and call him "Obama", a man that is just as confused about abortion as the rest of the ill-informed. We need to pray for him not publicly disrespect him especially at Notre Dame. Peace to all.
Karen Stallworth
A visiting Fighting Irish
in 1993 from Xavier University in New Orleans

Karen said...

The blog registration asks for you to check male, female or other. I was not aware that there was a third choice. My, point again, there is only male and female, don't get it confused people.