Facing the issue of moral culpability of corporate, religious superiors
By Roger Bianchini
Warren County Report
A 15-page complaint in a $5.35-million lawsuit alleges six causes of action against Human Life International, the international pro-life advocacy group Father Thomas Euteneuer headed for a decade as president, and the Arlington Catholic Diocese. Included in the complaint are graphic accounts of truly perverse behavior that went on to a great extent, plaintiff Jane Doe contends, under the roof of what is billed as the world’s largest pro-life organization, headquartered in Front Royal, Virginia.
While neither Euteneuer nor his home diocese is named, HLI, its endowment and the Arlington Diocese where plaintiff Jane Doe took her story of over two years of abuse on July 7, 2010, is, along with the diocese’s presiding Bishop Paul S. Loverde and the Arlington Diocese corporate entity.
Euteneuer headed HLI for a decade (2000-2010) and become the highly public face of the anti-abortion, pro-life lobby in the United States and around the world. During that tenure he was under the auspices of the Palm Beach, Florida Diocese.
We contacted Palm Beach Diocese Communications Director Dianne Laubert to ask if the diocese had reached an out-of-court settlement for itself, Father Euteneuer, or both, that might explain their absence as defendants in the Jane Doe lawsuit. Laubert declined comment for the diocese, suggesting we contact the plaintiff’s attorneys for that information. As of July 5, attorneys for Doe declined comment as well.
At the center of the complaint are not only alleged acts of sexual, psychological and spiritual abuse by a perpetrator that could only be described as sexual predator if true, but the negligent complicity of those with direct supervisory control of the priest.
Doe is alleged to have first sought Euteneuer’s spiritual help in late February 2008 and signed a contract offered by the priest for “spiritual ministries” that included travel to HLI headquarters for that ministry.
His treatment and abuse is alleged to have begun within a month and by April 2008 the priest told Jane Doe he had received church authorization to conduct exorcisms on her. The complaint states that with one break in July 2010, that abuse continued at various locations through August-September 2010.
“During the following weeks, during every meeting, Euteneuer became progressively persistent in touching the Plaintiff inappropriately. He kissed the corners of her mouth; stroked her legs, breasts and things, caressed her face; laid his body on top of hers; and frequently explained full, passionate kisses as ‘blowing the Holy Spirit into’ her,” the complaint states. Later abuse included “digital (finger) penetration” of the victim, requests she touch his penis, continued fondling and overnight sleeping in an HLI guest bedroom, the complaint also alleges.
The lawsuit states Human Life International officials were fully aware of their president’s so-called “spiritual ministries” and exorcism rituals conducted within their Front Royal, Virginia, headquarters; and even allowed Jane Doe to be employed there by her alleged abuser in the midst of two-and-a-half years of sexually-tinged “spiritual therapy.”
The $5.35-million lawsuit is filed in the name of Jane Doe in an attempt to keep private the identity of a victim the complaint describes as a vulnerable and psychologically troubled, and now emotionally-scarred woman. The lawsuit filed by Fairfax attorneys Demetry Pikrallidas and Robert T. Hall alleges multiple counts of Assault, Battery, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligent Entrustment and Negligent Retention resulting from the alleged acts committed by then HLI President Father Thomas Euteneuer. A combined total of $5 million in compensatory and $350,000 in punitive damages is being sought from the defendants by plaintiff Jane Doe.
Reacting to its being cited as a defendant in Jane Doe’s $5.35 million lawsuit, on June 28 Human Life International issued a press release distancing itself from the alleged sexual abuse the lawsuit says often occurred on its property by the priest then serving as its president.
“To the extent Father Euteneuer has already admitted to engaging in highly inappropriate and gravely sinful conduct with a young adult woman, we can only emphasize that such behavior was never within the scope of his employment with HLI. We intend to vigorously defend HLI from the false accusations made against it, and we are undeterred in pursuing HLI’s mission to build a culture of life and protect the unborn,” the HLI press release of June 28 states.
How a jury requested to hear the lawsuit might react to HLI’s attempt to distance itself from admitted “grave harm” to an adult, post-embryonic person the lawsuit states it eventually employed and set up at a desk directly across from the office of her alleged abuser, remains to be seen.
In fact, Euteneuer is the author of a book on exorcism, “Exorcism and the Church Militant,” published by HLI in June 2010. HLI decided not to reprint any further editions of the book after it sold out shortly after Euteneuer’s recall. At the time, HLI officials indicated there was nothing substantially wrong with the book’s content but decided that promotion of exorcism was not a main focus of the HLI mission.
“It was decided not to reprint the book as HLI no longer had Fr. Euteneuer on hand to promote and explain his book. HLI’s mission has always been to work for a culture of life around the world and confront all who threaten the dignity of the human person,” HLI public information official Adam Cassandra told us on June 5.
Plaintiff attorney Pikrallidas told us the Catholic Diocese of Arlington is included as a defendant because his client went to a diocese official identified as Father Creegan on July 7, 2010 with the story of her abuse as part of the “spiritual ministries” of Father Euteneuer. Euteneuer remained at his HLI post until Aug. 27, 2010, when he was recalled to the Palm Beach Diocese by his Catholic superior, Bishop Gerald Barbarito.
“They knew,” Pikrallidas told us of the Arlington Diocese during that nearly two month lapse when more abuse is alleged to have occurred after a short interlude that July.
However, Arlington Diocese Public Information official Michael Donohue stated diocese records indicate diocese officials contacted the Palm Beach Diocese within two days of Jane Doe bringing her story to them. “The plaintiff did receive psychological and spiritual assistance from the Diocese of Arlington subsequent to informing us about the abuse,” Donohue added.
“Rev. Euteneuer is not and has never been a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. Rev. Euteneuer is a priest of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, and was an employee of Human Life International (HLI), Inc., an independent corporation. He was working for his employer, HLI, subject to his bishop in the Diocese of Palm Beach, and not in regular ministry in the Diocese of Arlington,” Donohue stated.
While the Arlington Diocese does have a religious official authorized to perform exorcisms, it was never Euteneuer, Donahue said. And while Arlington Diocese authority extends to Warren County and its Catholic Church, St. John’s in Front Royal, Donohue said that despite its religious ties, as an independent corporation, “HLI was not under the direction or control of the Arlington Diocese.”
On Jan. 27, 2011, exactly five months after Euteneuer’s recall to Palm Beach, Warren County Fire & Rescue responded to what was officially reported as a “medical seizure” at HLI’s Shenandoah Shores Road headquarters. However some witnesses had a different perspective, believing the incident to be a manifestation of demonic possession of a woman at chapel that day. From information acquired about the incident, we believe the effected person is the woman identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit.
“I heard from someone who attended that Mass at Front Royal the other day that people were traumatized by what happened – a suddenly screaming, howling, cursing person – and are demanding to know what’s going on,” a Catholic blogger known as Adele told us at the time.
Five days after that incident, on Feb. 1, 2011, amidst an increasingly shrill and sometimes threatening debate in the online Catholic blogosphere over allegations of sexual abuse by Euteneuer against multiple victims of the priest’s spiritual counseling, both Diocese of Palm Beach Bishop Gerald Barbarito and Euteneuer issued statements on the Catholic LifeSiteNews website addressing Euteneuer’s status.
“Father Euteneuer has been undergoing intensive evaluation and counseling to address admitted inappropriate crossing of adult heterosexual boundaries on the occasion of carrying out his priestly ministry,” Bishop Barbarito stated.
In a statement seen as incomplete, insufficiently contrite and oddly aggressive by some, Euteneuer said his sinful lapses of moral judgment were his own and that the great majority of his work while at HLI was “all motivated exclusively by my desire to give priestly assistance to people in great spiritual distress.”
But Euteneuer added in what is included as part of Jane Doe’s $5.35-million lawsuit, “I must acknowledge, however, that one particularly complex situation clouded my judgment and 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.”
Following Barbarito and Euteneuer’s public statements of Feb. 1, 2011, Interim HLI President Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula issued a statement referencing the work of two HLI employees and the many hours they had put in “assisting the young woman gravely harmed in this case.”
But was it too little, too late?
Ultimately, an Arlington County Civil Court jury may decide if anyone beyond the perpetrator himself is culpable for acts alleged to have been committed on their watch, and in HLI’s case on their property, in the name of their faith and their God.
The spider & the fly
The complaint states that seven months into her abuse-laden treatment, Euteneuer paid for Jane Doe’s move from Sterling to Front Royal in September 2008. At the same time, acting as president of HLI, Euteneuer hired Doe for contracting services at HLI. On March 25, 2010, Jane Doe was hired as a full-time employee of HLI under circumstances the complaint states “were contrary to HLI corporate policy but were ratified and approved by HLI and HLIE (Human Life International Endowment).”
The complaint continues, “Between Sept. 11, 2008 and June 2010, Euteneuer had numerous deliverance sessions with the Plaintiff during which he sexually abused her during work hours and in various rooms at HLI and HLIE headquarters.”
The complaint states that as his alleged abuses escalated and continued for two-and-a-half years during “exorcisms” and “spiritual deliverance ministries” HLI administrators condoned within their walls, Father Euteneuer understood that Jane Doe was suffering from a psychological “dissociative disorder” and had become “physically, emotionally and spiritually dependent on him,” as well as financially and professionally the complaint adds.
Psychology & Satan
That understanding is further illustrated by the contention Euteneuer later paid thousands of dollars, including travel and housing expenses, for Jane Doe to get psychological treatment from two other sources, one identified as Stephen Oglevie, the other an unnamed psychologist in Florence, Kentucky.
The complaint specifies six instances when Euteneuer paid “thousands of dollars in expenses” between November 2008 and the spring of 2009 for sessions with Oglevie and in August 2009 for five sessions with the unidentified Kentucky psychologist.
A Stephen E. Oglevie is identified online as a central figure in “Satanic Panic” incidents in which unexplained murders in which corpses are discovered in various states of decay are blamed, without evidence, on Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). Oglevie is also identified as a defendant in a Canadian lawsuit brought by a woman alleging members of Elijah House, including Oglevie, induced her and her children to believe that “satanic cults and witchcraft had penetrated all levels of society,” that she had “500 alternate personalities,” and that “demons posed a present danger” to her and her children.
The website of a British organization (SAFF) opposing the sort of spiritual and psychological “treatments” offered by SRA advocates like Oglevie or exorcisms as offered by Euteneuer, states, “Thousands of people afflicted with Schizophrenia could fall into their clutches and be misdiagnosed as Victims of Satanic Abuse and then suffer mind-bending exorcisms to cure it! Schizophrenia is a terrible and frightening illness, how much more will they suffer with the extra paranoia of thinking their minds are being taken over by Satanists? It is psychotherapeutic Black Magic.”
Blinded by the light
At the time of his August 2010 departure, no mention of the reason for Euteneuer leaving his HLI post was made by any involved party. In fact, it appeared to be business as usual as Euteneuer bid adieu and was lauded as a great spiritual influence upon this community and the world.
“I have been utterly privileged to serve this great mission for a decade, and now I am called back to my diocese to continue my priestly service in parish work, which was the original calling of my vocation,” Euteneuer posted on the HLI website when he left.
Some now silent or expressing distaste for Euteneuer’s alleged behavior had a different perception of the priest when he left HLI and Front Royal on August 27, 2010.
“Father Euteneuer is a very much beloved priest. He will be sorely missed by our local and international community because he has traveled the world over spreading the message of love, life and family. He is an excellent and very holy priest. I hope he comes back to our community often,” Front Royal Town Councilman Tom Sayre was quoted in the Northern Virginia Daily on Aug. 31, 2010. “Some of my fondest memories are playing basketball with Father Euteneuer at Christendom College on men’s night. He brought stability to HLI,” Sayre added.
In that same NVD article, HLI Chaplain Frank Pappa said of Euteneuer, “Marvelous man to work for, amazing gifts. I’m one of his tremendous fans. He has tremendous zeal for the Catholic faith and for the mission of saving life.”
HLI officials were declining any further comment on their former president due to the lawsuit, HLI Communications Specialist Adam Cassandra told us.
“Had I known the truth about Fr. Euteneuer’s disgusting actions I certainly would not have made a positive public statement,” Sayre told us. “As I mentioned to the NV Daily, like many others in the community at the time, I was not privy to any of the circumstances surrounding his departure; I was not involved in, nor had knowledge of his actions as an exorcist, nor how he conducted them. Unfortunately, upon learning of the allegations leveled against Fr. Euteneuer I was very disheartened, angered and disturbed by them. I truly hope that HLI will take the steps necessary to maintain their good works. This is an example of where one person’s wrong actions and decisions affect and harm many.”
Well, we know of at least one living person who appears to have been gravely harmed by the wrong actions either alleged or admitted to by Father Thomas Euteneuer during his tenure as president of Human Life International.