Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Prominent Right-Wing Catholic Priest-Activist Fr. Euteneuer Caught in Scandal

Remember Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, the priest-director of the high-profile right-wing Catholic Republican party front "pro-life" beltway organization Human Life International?  Euteneuer came on my radar screen back in 2009 when he published a Good Friday homily entitled “Good Friday: The World’s First Exorcism,” which he apparently first delivered in 2006, and which he then published on his HLI  blog in 2009.  A homily that was, well, flat crazy.  And not a little dangerous.  

It's full of apocalyptic folderol and bloody apocalyptic imagery, and uses the word "Jesus" twice, while it talks about "blood" ten times, and about people "mired in" "immoral lifestyles" on whom we need to call  down the blood of Jesus and free from the clutches of Satan.  Euteneuer continued on my radar screen as he combined his Republican front work "pro-life" activities with some good old-fashioned gay-bashing, writing hair-raising essays about how gay marriage spells the end of civilization.  

And my radar continued to ping when one of the top employees of HLI began to plaster this blog with toxic comments about this and that--most recently, with rants about the end of DADT and the moral decline of the military.  Which is a big theme with HLI--the military, that is.  Fr. Euteneuer used to make much of his supposed Marine background until a former Marine and Catholic convert named Frank Weathers began to question Euteneuer's claims about the extent of his military service, and those claims began to be revised in publications about the HLI director. 

Euteneuer and the HLI bunch are, in other words, firmly in that manly-man camp of thinking about the priesthood, re: which I blogged earlier today. They're in the camp that sees the gays as the problem in the priesthood and the world at large, and they're just outdone that the military, which looms large in their apocalyptic right-wing version of Catholicism, will now begin permitting openly gay service members to serve. 

And so with my radar pinging along, I wondered what on earth was going on a few months back, when Euteneuer suddenly disappeared from his post at HLI and showed up back in the diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, where he's apparently incardinated as a priest, and where he has also apparently been continuing what he calls his "ministry of exorcism."  I wondered, because priests who head high-profile Republican front groups right-wing Catholic "pro-life" organizations don't normally up and leave those organizations in haste like this unless some story is attached to the departure.

I said nothing about any of this on this blog because, of course, I knew nothing.  But I continued thinking my own thoughts and wondering whether we'd hear some story to explain that departure down the road. 

And now the story begins to come out: all the while that he was calling down the blood of Jesus on those "mired in" immoral lifestyles and ranting about gay marriage as the end of civilization and casting out demons, it appears Fr. Euteneuer has been involved in his own little drama.  Involving, he admits, an adult female with whom he "violated the boundaries of chastity" without engaging in "the sexual act."  Said adult female was, in fact, under his pastoral care in his "ministry of exorcism."

And what an adult chooses to do with another adult in a private and consensual relationship, I wouldn't  usually care a flip about or consider any business of mine at all.  Except for this: when religious authority figures betray the trust of someone to whom they're ministering by enticing them into an intimate encounter, they do something seriously harmful and seriously wrong.  By its very nature, such a relationship involves a power dynamic that  threatens to turn the person enticed into intimacy by the religious authority figure into an object, and which turns the relationship into a relationship of coercion.  I'm of the opinion that those who take vows of chastity should try to abide by them or seriously consider leaving ministry if they are unable to do so.

As I say, I wouldn't consider any of this my particular business, except: for the exceptionally serious violation of pastoral trust that is, by Fr. Euteneuer's own admission, at the dark heart of this story.  And except for this: except this particular priest has made it his business to advocate for the denial of communion to Catholics using contraception.  And to argue that Senator Ted Kennedy was a "heretical Catholic" about whom there was nothing admirable from a "moral point of view," and that this fellow Catholic should be denied a Catholic burial. 

And he has stoutly defended the barring of gay persons from the priesthood on the ground that "celibacy . . . requires that men renounce marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God—something homosexuals cannot do."  And that the homosexual "lifestyle compromises a man’s ability to competently serve as a priest."  And  permitting gays to form legalized same-sex unions will spell "'the end' of the Christian civilization whose values used to form the basis of American common life."  

And while decrying the immorality of his brother and sister Catholics who happen to be gay or lesbian, and while denouncing a brother Catholic as "heretical" and arguing for the denial of Catholic burial to him, and while calling for the barring of Catholics using contraception from the communion table, Fr. Euteneuer has been using his "ministry of exorcism" to violate "the boundaries of chastity"?  Something's wrong with this picture.

As I say, none of this would be my business or would merit commentary if this particular right-wing Catholic activist in a clerical collar had not made it his business for some years now to try to further the cause of one political party and the agenda of that party to capture the Catholic vote, by playing the gay-bashing card over and over, and by attacking fellow Catholics who have different political and theological views in a conspicuously nasty way.  While, it now appears, betraying the moral principles he accuses others of betraying.

And so here's yet another of those rabidly anti-gay manly-men priests who should give anyone thinking about their analysis of the ills of the contemporary church, and of the remedy for those ills, serious cause to think.  Serious cause to think about the pitfalls of their analysis that the gays are the big problem in the priesthood, and getting them out of the way--and attacking them at every turn in society at large--will surely cure the ills of the church today.

No comments: