Sadly, the saga of Fr. Tom Euteneuer is back in the news. For 10 years, Fr. Tom provided fearless and uncompromising leadership as president of Human Life International (HLI), taking the organization and its pro-life mission across the globe. He traveled over a million miles worldwide, distributed over three million St. Michael the Archangel prayer cards internationally, wrote two books, [wrote] a weekly column of inspiration to be matched by few, and boldly proclaimed the immutable teaching of the Roman Catholic Church against birth control and abortion. Along the way, Fr. Tom became involved in exorcisms and answered the call of countless souls in spiritual distress. This is dangerous work that requires unique, selfless courage.
Way too many people today stand silent when the personal risk feels too high to speak up. I was taught from my earliest memories to stand up for the truth, even at the most difficult times. This is one of these times. It is no coincidence that God allowed me to work at HLI with Fr. Tom Euteneuer just prior to his departure. I write this for those who knew Fr. Tom and experienced his kindness and holy priesthood. They are the ones that sense that there is more than meets the eye here. They are also the ones who fully understand why he would be a prime target for such a severe spiritual attack.
Fr. Tom left HLI in August 2010 for reasons that did not reach the public realm until early 2011. As Fr. Tom explained in his one public statement, which included an apology that was the model of true humility and repentance, he had violated priestly chastity with one woman who was under his spiritual care. He was called back to his diocese (Palm Beach, Florida) by his bishop in August 2010 and has been out of the public eye ever since.
[Recently] we were greeted by new headlines about Fr. Tom Euteneuer when “the woman” filed a lawsuit against HLI and the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. The complaint is unnecessarily salacious but notable for one thing: Neither Fr. Tom Euteneuer nor the bishop of Palm Beach are named as defendants. One of the woman’s lawyers was quoted as saying that Fr. Tom had entered into a financial agreement with her—something that I know to be false. (Why does the truth always suffer as soon as a lawyer opens his mouth?) It is easy to surmise what really happened: The Diocese of Palm Beach most likely settled with the woman and included Fr. Tom in the settlement without his knowledge or consent. That’s how these things work. And now the woman and her lawyers (who will likely receive 40 percent of any settlement) have turned their guns elsewhere, seeking another large payoff.
Reading the many stories in the news, and considering them in conjunction with other statements made by the woman and her family, one must ask the questions: Can we believe anything this woman says? What is her reality? How strong are the demonic influences at any given time? Wherever the lawyers take this one, let us not lose sight of the fact that this woman sought Fr. Tom’s assistance because she was already deeply disturbed. Fr. Tom has already taken full responsibility for his own fall from grace and for his indiscretions in a truly diabolical situation. However, I think it is fair to assume that his apology, written over a year ago, does not mean that he agrees or admits to everything this woman is now claiming in her new lawsuit. That is part of the deception that comes across in the media and statements from other entities involved. It will be interesting to follow the efforts of the woman and her lawyers as they try to blame Fr. Tom and everyone else for the totality of her current state. I will be watching with great skepticism.
I recognize that the following will be controversial. Nonetheless, it needs to be said (especially in this situation). As a society we have grown to believe that a priest is guilty until proven innocent. This is not right. Priests should be entitled to the same rights as anyone else. Who protects our priests from sexually aggressive women? When will there ever be a legal finding of a priest being the victim of a persistent, abusive, and stalking woman? My guess is “never.” Priests, by their very nature, are expected to help people who come to them. They are sitting ducks for manipulative women.
I accept Fr. Euteneuer’s explanation and apology. One error in judgment cannot wipe away all of the good he has done for the Church and countless souls around the world. The picture that is being painted by this lawsuit and spread across the media is just plain wrong.
I am reminded of the dialogue from the movie The Exorcist, when Fr. Merrin warned the younger Fr. Karras about what they were about to encounter:
[Especially important is the warning] to avoid conversations with the demon. . . . He’s a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will [also] mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien. And powerful. So don’t listen. Remember that. Do not listen!
Through it all, Fr. Tom Euteneuer, a good and holy priest who was entrapped by the demon, will continue to suffer in silent obedience to his bishop.
I ask readers to once again pray for Father Euteneuer, this troubled woman, and those around her who seek to further harm the Church, Fr. Tom’s priesthood, and [his] reputation. In the age that we live, there is never enough restitution for these people.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/giroux/120701.
Jenn Giroux is the former executive director of HLI America, a program of Human Life International. She has been active in the pro-life movement for over 30 years. A registered nurse for 27 years, Jenn witnessed firsthand the physical and spiritual fallout of birth control and abortion and its effect on women and families. She is also a national speaker, columnist, and regular guest on Catholic radio and other religious and secular media outlets. Jenn and her husband, Dan, have nine children and live in Cincinnati, Ohio.