Lawsuit against Human Life International seeks compensation for priest's sexual improprieties

Thomas Euteneur.

A lawsuit has been filed in Virginia against the Catholic diocese of Arlington and Bishop Paul Loverde, as well as Human Life Endowment and  Human Life International – pro-life organization – that is demanding $5.3 million in compensation for alleged damages. The June 19 suit was filed in the Arlington County Circuit Court by a Virginia woman who claims that Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, formerly of HLI, sexually abused her while conducting an exorcism.  Attorney Demetrios Pikrallidas, who is representing the plaintiff, said Euteneuer was not fingered as a defendant because he had already reached a private settlement with the woman.  Another lawyer, Robert T. Hall, is also of counsel.

The claimant in the suits that Euteneur sexually abused her between April 2008 and September 2010. The woman is seeking $5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. The accuser was once employed by HLI. According to the suit,  Euteneuer not only caused the plaintiff’s severe mental and emotional suffering, but also “the loss of her employment and the ability to obtain gainful employment.”


The lawsuit claims that “between September 11, 2008 through June, 2010, Euteneuer had numerous deliverance sessions with the Plaintiff during which he sexually abused her during working hours and in various rooms at HLI and HLIE headquarters.” Jane Doe also states that after two years, she “reached the conclusion that her treatment by Euteneuer was … contrary to the dictates of her understanding of Roman Catholic beliefs and practices.”  She also claims that a journal she kept of the encounters with the priest, which she entrusted to him, was subsequently destroyed.

Euteneur, who had been the widely known leader of Human Life International, resigned in August 2010. He had been transferred to Virginia from the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida to serve as HLI president in 2000. Well known to many Catholics for his appeals to morality and the sanctity of life,  Euteneuer acknowdged in January 2011 that he had committed sexual improprieties, saying  he had made “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.”

The woman who is identified in court documents as Jane Doe wrote that she had signed an "agreement for spiritual help" with Euteneuer in February 2008 because "she believed she was in desperate need of the rite of exorcism."  The filing alleges that Euteneur thereby became the accuser’s “deliverance minister.” According to the filing, Euteneuer repeatedly kissed, embraced and groped the woman in question while claiming that he was "blowing the Holy Spirit into her."  The suit claims that Euteneuer told the woman to strip on at least six occasion, while he also allegedly touched and kissed her body, and violated her with his finger. The suit also alleges that Bishop Loverde and the Diocese of Arlington were aware that the priest would conduct an exorcism on the woman.

According to media reports, the Diocese of Arlington has disavowed the embattled priest and argues that it had never employed him. According to a statement, Euteneur actually worked for HLI, an independent entity, but remained in the employ of his bishop in Florida. "Rev. Euteneuer was not authorized to perform an exorcism on the plaintiff," the Arlington diocese declared in a statement, contending that the diocese had its own exorcist.

According to a spokesperson for the Diocese of Palm Beach, Euteneuer was recalled when the allegations against him emerged. His faculties as a Catholic priest were rescinded so that he can no longer celebrate Mass or the sacraments.  In a statement, HLI spokesman Stephan Phelan said “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.” Phelan also said,  "We intend to vigorously defend HLI from the false accusations made against it."

While HLI is physically located in the Arlington VA diocese,  Euteneuer was under the authority of Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach during the time of the incidents.
 

Catholic blogger Tom O'Toole had been in touch with the plaintiff during the controversy following Euteneur's resignation and admission of improprieties.  O'Toole wrote on June 28 at his FightingIrishThomas blog, "Although I've never met "Jane," her conversations and e-mails with me struck me as coming from someone handling a difficult situation with immense courage; ... While it seems fair that Ms. Doe wins enough dough to live on until she is able to work, I mostly hope she gets the counselling and/or exorcism (the diocese has not, to date, provided Doe with this) she needs, and that Euteneuer (like Sandusky) is locked away (preferably in jail) so he can never abuse another vulnerable, trusting soul again."



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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