Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Father Euteneuer Story: Parents of Victim Speak Out

In the news the past two days: significant follow-up statements about two stories of clerical abuse re: which I've blogged a number of times recently.  The first of these is a public statement made by the parents of the young woman whom Father Thomas Euteneuer has admitted abusing while ministering to her pastorally.  The second is a thorough summary of the case of Father Martin O'Loghlen, with pointed questions about the role Cardinal Roger Mahony played in that case.  I'll deal with these two updates in two separate postings.*

The public statement of the parents of the woman Euteneuer exploited is at Tom O'Toole's Fighting Irish blog.  Again, a remarkable aspect of the Euteneuer story is that it broke and has been persistently pursued on right-wing Catholic websites.  The family of the woman whom Euteneuer abused were once admirers of Euteneuer, as are others who have blown the whistle on his exploitation of at least one (and allegedly several more) women to whom he ministered.

One reason the Schadenfreude charge of those who want to shut down conversation about this case (and about clerical abuse in general) is so absurd is that it's not the Catholic liberals who keep pushing it.  It's not the Catholic liberals, who are being slammed as shamefully joyous about the Euteneuer story, who insist on keeping the heat on Euteneuer.  It's his own former friends and acquaintances that do so.  And if they are insistent on speaking, then I think it behooves all of us to listen, since the religious and political right normally protect their own with great ferocity--until one of their own does something so heinous and so much in contravention of the principles of the religious-political right that those on the right finally speak out.

The statement of the parents of the woman Euteneuer has admitted abusing in his "ministry of exorcism": first, they insist on referring to him as Euteneuer and not Father Euteneuer.  They also state that they know of two cases of abuse that occurred as he exorcised women, rather than the single case to which Euteneur's confession referred.  And they also state that they have seen documentation of a third case.

Note the use of the plural term "victims" in their public statement:

The Church can attest to the fact that there is a considerable body of documentation and evidence, both from third-party sources and the victims themselves, that contradicts significant elements of the public statement by Euteneuer regarding both the nature and extent of the sexual and psychological abuse Father perpetrated on his victims. Both Human Life International and the Diocese of Palm Beach have investigated the claims of our daughter (and the diocese also has investigated the claims of at least one additional victim) versus the statement of Euteneuer, and have found the victims' statements to be true, especially in contrast to Euteneuer's claim that he prayed (and preyed) alone with the victims only on "rare" occasions.

They also state that the abuse occurred when Euteneuer was alone with the women on whom he was conducting exorcisms, and that it occurred "at the end of an exorcism session when the victims were in an altered cognitive and physiological state and at the most vulnerable, both spiritually and emotionally."  And then there's this:

To date, the statements released by HLI and the Diocese of Palm Beach also do not reveal anywhere near the full extent of Euteneuer's abuse, both psychological and sexual, toward his known victims, which includes our daughter.

Furthermore, according to this source--and these parents surely know much more than almost anyone else about the Euteneuer case--even after Euteneur was removed as director of Human Life International and brought back to Florida when the abuse became known to HLI and church officials, he apparently continued to have access to his former victims!

There are a lot of red flags here, and they all deserve attention.  There's, first of all (red flag #1), the astonishing lack of wisdom on the part of Catholic pastoral officials in permitting a priest who claims to be gifted with a calling to exorcise folks to fly around the nation conducting exorcisms with no supervision at all.  With--red flag #2--vulnerable young women apparently predominating among those he exorcised.

(The term "exorcism" itself is--I'm sorry; I simply have to say this--a red flag in and of itself.  I have little patience at all with some of the centrist members of my own guild of Catholic theologians who have been babbling at Catholic blog sites recently about how wonderful and how valid and how unquestionably right exorcism is.  The heavy investment (red flag #3) of contemporary Catholicism--at an official level--in a medieval rite whose pertinence for contemporary Christianity is surely open to legitimate question is an alarming sign of who and what we're becoming.  And the willingness of trained Catholic theologians of the center who ought to know better to collude in this charade of clerical medievalism sickens me.)

And then there's the red flag (red flag #4) of continued disconnect between what Euteneuer has told us he has done, and what the parents of the woman he admits abusing say he did.  Two victims about which they state unambiguously they are certain.  Another about whom they say they've seen documentation they apparently regard as credible.   And both HLI and the diocese of Palm Beach have examined the claims of the one additional victim known to the parents, and find their claims true.

I've taken quite a bit of heat on this blog from some quarters in the past several days for even blogging about the Euteneuer story.  I've been accused of taking shameful joy in Euteneuer's downfall.  I've been accused of hounding a good man who has displayed an unfortunate lapse of judgment in getting involved with an adult woman.  I've been told that, well, at least Father went for a woman, and who knows the real story, after all?  As one of the babbling crowd has recently said at a Catholic blog site of the center as that site discussed the Euteneuer story, there are lots of young women for whom a clerical collar is just an aphrodisiac.

Who can blame a normal, red-blooded man for falling for young women who throw themselves at him, young women whose sexual parts the devil makes fly around as they're exorcised? 

But the parents of this particular young woman whom Euteneuer admits he abused insist on continuing to speak out, and they say that the harm done to their daughter and other "victims" was considerable, and must be addressed.  This is remarkable: we now have Catholics of the right, who have characteristically defended church officials and who have often even colluded in church officials' attempt to blame victims of sexual abuse for their own abuse, speaking out and saying that stories of abuse need to be taken seriously.  

Because people who do not deserve to be hurt are being hurt, for God's sake!  And because those causing this harm do not deserve to be excused, simply because they are wearing clerical collars.  Their clerical vocation, in fact, makes their abuse of vulnerable people to whom they are ministering all the more indefensible.

And then, finally--red flag #5--there's that sickening element that has come to be so predictable in these stories: even after HLI and church officials knew of what Euteneuer had done, he was still permitted--if the information available to the parents is correct--to have contact with the women he had victimized.  

With these red flags still popping up all over the place even after Euteneuer has made his statement and this story has ostensibly been laid to rest, I suspect that the Euteneuer story will continued to be discussed.  And should continue to be discussed.  Despite--or perhaps all the more because--some of those who continue to want to suppress discussion of the ongoing problem of clerical abuse claim that Euteneuer is being unfairly hounded, and that it's unethical to ask whether the confession of Father Euteneuer might not address all the ramifications of what he's done.

As Barbara Blaine of SNAP observed when this story first broke, one of the exceptionally disturbing patterns those following the abuse situation in the Catholic church keep finding in case after case, is that many initial stories of a single limited transgression almost always widen in time to become stories about multiple, serial cases of abuse--re: which, all too often, church officials have known.  And which they have not adequately addressed, or about which they have refused to release accurate information even when a perpetrator's identity has become known.

Though apologists for the clerical boys' club will continue hollering that it's unfair or even unmerciful to ask if a priest who has abused one person may have abused others, people aware of the preceding patterns will continue asking questions in cases like the Euteneuer case, where a number of credible red flags point to a story more complicated than the story Father Euteneuer tells in his confession.  And they're right to ask these questions.  Mercy is owed, after all, not only to the priest who has committed abuse: it's also owed to anyone he has abused.

(My companion piece to this posting, following up on the O'Loghlen case, will following in a separate posting.)

*And a note of profound gratitude to the wonderful Abuse Tracker site for posting the two updates to which I'm referring in my own set of interlocking postings here.

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