Yesterday, LifeSite News published a statement by Father Tom Euteneuer, the former head of Human Life International, explaining the circumstances surrounding his departure last summer. The link to the statement also includes updates and a memo from Father Euteneuer’s bishop.
In his statement, Father Euteneuer answered the many wild speculations and allegations ricocheting around the pro-life and Catholic blogospheres. The statement says that it has received the approval of Father Euteneuer’s bishop, and I am sure that LifeSite has done their due diligence in authenticating that claim. Therefore, I proceed under the assumption that the statement has received ecclesiastical approval and is accurate.
According to the statement, Father Euteneuer admits to an inappropriate relationship with an adult woman under his care; one that did not involve, “the sexual act,” as Father stated it. So we are led to believe that something emotional and/or physical leading up to but not including intercourse occurred.
In other words, we’re not dealing with the criminal assault and rape of a child. Praise God.
What we are dealing with is something that has become a frightening occasion of sin for many self-righteous pro-lifers and Catholics. There is a blog, whose name and link I shall not publish, where a woman is alleging that Father’s statement is a lie, that there is more to the story. She has been making these allegations, sniping from the shadows by not giving specifics, but rather the most vague generalities.
To such people I say, put up or shut up. Make your claim public. Hire an attorney and take him to court. Otherwise, the blog simply fuels the fires that are consuming people’s souls.
It is understandable that people would feel a certain sense of betrayal when a priest of Father Euteneuer’s stature should sin as he has. Mixed in with that betrayal is an understandable and natural anxiety as pro-lifers watch a General Patton go down in the line of fire. Father Euteneuer was a blood and guts warrior, and that’s part of the problem.
For too many, he was larger than life: Priest. Exorcist. Head of HLI.
A pro-life superhuman.
But as Hebrews 5:1 tells us, priests are chosen from among men, not angels. Father Euteneuer proved to be as human and fallible as the rest of us, and so the question is, “Now what?”
Since the sex scandals broke in 2003, the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. We regard all sex among priests as being the same, when clearly it is not. Priests having sex with adults is simply not the same as sex with children. They are different in every way, and need to be treated as such. But the howling mob calls for Father Euteneuer’s head. It’s always that way with the sin we would never commit.
To my fellow Catholics I say, “Drop the stones”. The men who sit in the confessional, who hear and absolve our sin which separates us from God, who stand at the altar and offer the Sacrifice of the Mass for our sins do so having dedicated their lives to us and to God. Are we so callous and self-righteous that we would deny Father Euteneuer the same charitable restoration that he has given to others countless times in his 22 years of priestly ministry? Is this how we respond to the humanity of the men who bind our wounds, restore our hope, and renew our lives?
One day, when I was a seminarian, Father Groseschel told us that the sins against sex are without a doubt the most humiliating, but the sins against charity are the most damning.
I don’t know the details of Father Euteneuer’s sins, and quite frankly, I don’t think they should be fodder for public consumption. I also don’t think that adult sex is reason for throwing away a whole life of priestly ministry, unless we’re willing to say the same for every marriage where couples have practiced contraception, abortion, indulged pornography, adultery, masturbation, wife-beating, etc.
Are these not grave sins against the sacrament of marriage? Are we not restored in confession (under the seal, I might add), nourished back to spiritual health by the Eucharist thanks to our priests? Yet Father Euteneuer has been dragged through the mud, and for what? A sin no worse than gets confessed with tragic frequency every day by the laity.
Jesus warns us that we will be judged by the same standard that we judge others. In Brooklyn, we call that a clue.
Father Euteneuer has my sincerest prayers for his emotional and spiritual healing, as well as his full restoration to priestly ministry. And as for the self-righteous mob, if the words of Father Groeschel and Jesus fail to move you, then perhaps you are not what you think you are.
Perhaps you never were.
2. We’re having a Novena of Divine Mercy for Fr. E and all those affected by his actions. See details here.