Friday, February 18, 2011

Exorcist sex scandal
Exorcist sex scandal raises questions on the Rite, and the Right
February 17, 2011, 11:50 am Posted by David Gibson

Father Thomas Euteneuer was the longtime head of Human Life International (HLI) who developed a reputation for blasting anyone he deemed insufficiently pro-life by his own exacting standards. (Reporting on the resignation of a friend of his, which I did when Scranton Bishop Martino stepped down, could also be sufficient to earn his ire, as Euteneuer characterized me as “anti-Catholic” and a “dishonest hack” with a “sick media mind.” That’s okay as I’ve been called far worse, and I was in good company in that Euteneuer included “many” American bishops in his condemnation. He also said Father Jim Martin should “hang up his collar” and Sean Hannity was a “heretic.” All in a day’s work.)

Euteneuer in recent years had also become a popular exorcist, flying around the country casting out demons. But in at least one case he also crossed sexual boundaries with a young woman. He resigned from HLI last August to wide praise from many Catholic conservatives and HLI itself. But lingering questions by some suspicious former fans of his and reporting by The Palm Beach Post (Euteneuer’s home diocese is in Palm Beach) finally shook out the truth last month. Or most of the truth, as there are apparent discrepancies between Euteneuer’s confession of a single lapse and allegations from several other women.

I have a write-up on the whole saga at PoliticsDaily.

Palm Beach Bishop Gerald Barbarito has told his priests that Euteneuer is “undergoing intensive evaluation and counseling” but said no decision had been made on when Euteneuer would return to ministry.

This is a big hit for the hardline pro-life movement, and the movement isn’t helped by a contingent of Euteneuer loyalists who see his fall as evidence of his grace. But it also raises serious questions about policies regarding exorcism which, as The New York Times reported last November, is increasingly in demand and is encouraging the bishops to try to train more exorcists. But it seems there are no set rules preventing an exorcist from being alone with a person in his care. This seems like it could be problematic, given the terribly uncertain nature of possession (real demons or mental illness or both?) and the vulnerability of the victim and the correspondingly powerful sway of the priest.

Euteneuer’s fate as a priest may answer some questions about how the church will deal with these questions, but a wider policy review may be in order.

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