A Catholic priest who traveled the country performing exorcisms and launching fierce attacks against anyone he viewed as insufficiently tough on abortion — he once suggested Fox News host Sean Hannity was a “heretic” for saying birth control could be a better option than abortion — has been removed from ministry for sexually exploiting at least one woman he was treating for demonic possession.
The surprising revelations about Father Thomas Euteneuer, who was for a decade the charismatic leader of Human Life International (HLI), a Catholic anti-abortion lobby, have not only stunned his many fans among church conservatives but have also left them sharply divided.
Some of Euteneuer’s avid disciples continue to praise him as a prophet who confessed to a single and very human failing, while others feel betrayed and say the priest and his organization are so hypocritical they have hurt the sacred cause of protecting the unborn. Critics also say that the full story of Euteneuer’s misdeeds has still not been told, and that policies on exorcism must be tightened to prevent further abuses…Exorcism is enjoying something of a renaissance both in popular culture and in the Catholic Church…[J]ust last November, 66 priests and 56 bishops turned out for a two-day seminar sponsored by the American hierarchy to teach clerics about exorcisms and hopefully ease the shortage of priests authorized to formally cast out demons; reports of demonic possession are overwhelming the handful of exorcists in the United States, church officials say.
Euteneuer was one of those few priests with a mandate to conduct exorcisms, and that job, along with his campaign against abortion for HLI (based in Front Royal, Va.), kept him traveling around the country and in demand in conservative Catholic circles…Questions about Euteneuer, a handsome, square-jawed 48-year-old, first arose last August when he abruptly resigned as president of HLI. He had been living in Virginia while heading up the organization, but as a priest of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., he was subject to the authority of Bishop Gerald Barbarito, who ordered him back to Florida.
Euteneuer portrayed the move as a return to the life of a parish priest that he had always wanted, and as a much-needed respite from his labors…Fellow conservatives like Deacon Keith Fournier praised him as a “heroic priest” and the board of directors of Human Life International released a statement on Aug. 27 effusively praising Euteneuer for 10 years “of meritorious service to HLI” and for “his leadership, hard work and dedication.”
In reality, however, Euteneuer had been forced to resign after being accused of inappropriate relations with a “young adult woman” on whom he was performing an exorcism.
An interesting story, at many levels. Read the whole thing.