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Posted June 27, 2012 | 24 Comments
Warren County woman claims exorcisms turned to sexual abuse
By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
An international Catholic organization based in Front Royal is being sued by a woman who claims its former president repeatedly sexually molested her while performing exorcisms.
Fairfax attorney Demetrios C. Pikrallidas filed the complaint on behalf of an unidentified woman on June 19 in Arlington County Circuit Court. "Jane Doe" is seeking $5.35 million against the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, its bishop, the Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde, and Human Life International Inc. and Human Life International Endowment Inc., both of 4 Family Life Lane, Front Royal.
The complaint accuses HLI's former president, the Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, of abusing Doe during the course of more than two years. It also says he snuck visits to her on a family vacation to Hawaii, burned her diary and brought her to work at HLI.
Euteneuer worked for HLI from 2000 until August 2010, the organization's communications director, Stephen Phelan, said Wednesday afternoon. HLI and the Diocese of Arlington on Wednesday distanced themselves from the priest.
The complaint says Euteneuer went to the pro-life organization in part to continue "his ministry in 'Spiritual Deliverance'" and exorcism rites. The rite is to only be practiced with a prepared support team, something all of the defendants knew, it states.
The plaintiff signed a spiritual help agreement that "defines 'deliverance' as 'the application of the spiritual resources of the Church to persons with demonic infestation in order to liberate them from the influence of unclean spirits,'" on Feb. 28, 2008, according to the complaint. It required her to completely cooperate with the priest and to go to his HLI offices, it states.
Euteneuer told Doe that her possession was "severe," according to the complaint, "and he promised that he would never abandon her and would always be her friend."
"Between April 2008 and June 2010, Euteneuer conducted regular and frequent exorcisms and delivery ministry sessions with the Plaintiff and without any support team," the suit states.
Most of the pair's meetings were in the HLI corporate offices, it states.
The alleged molestation started early on with "prolonged and tight hugs" and Euteneuer stroking her back and legs, the complaint states. In April 2008, while hugging the woman after a difficult meeting, the priest said, "I wish I could go a lot further," according to the complaint.
He then carried her to a guest bedroom at HLI, laid her on a bed, reached under her bra and tried to touch her further, but was stopped by her, although he spent the night in the bed with her, according to the suit.
The sexual advances progressed, with Euteneuer kissing her mouth, stroking her face, legs and breasts, lying on top of her and giving her "passionate kisses" under the guise of "blowing the Holy Spirit into" her, according to the complaint.
On about six occasions between April 2008 and June 2010, the complaint states, Euteneuer told Doe to take off her clothes, touched and kissed her, digitally penetrated her, and told her to touch his penis.
Throughout this timeframe, the exorcist knew the woman had a dissociative disorder, and was dependent on him physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and knew the acts weren't consensual, according to the complaint.
"The sexual abuse by Euteneuer was always paired with deliverance or exorcism sessions which created in the Plaintiff a distorted and damaging belief that exorcism was tied to sexual activity, and sexual activity was necessary to keep her spiritual adviser," the complaint states.
Euteneuer arranged for the woman to be hired by HLI, although "the circumstances surrounding the hiring...were contrary to HLI corporate policy but were ratified and approved by HLI and HLIE," the complaint states.
It accuses the priest of sexually abusing her at work, as well as giving her money. The suit says Euteneuer spent thousands of dollars to have her treated by a man said to free people from witchcraft and satanism, and to visit a Kentucky psychologist.
When Euteneuer learned the woman and her family were going to Hawaii three years ago, he urged her not to go, and convinced her to hand over her diary for "safekeeping," according to the petition. It states he secretly met with her in Hawaii every morning she was there, and later told her he'd burned the journal because it would cause a scandal.
The next year, Euteneuer prayed over the plaintiff in a hotel room while attending a conference in Michigan, and again molested her, according to the suit. Realizing that Euteneuer's behavior was "illegal, inappropriate, outrageous, harmful and completely contrary to the dictates of her understanding of Roman Catholic beliefs and practices," she met with a diocese priest the next month, and told him what had been happening.
Later that summer, Euteneuer again penetrated her digitally on two occasions, according to the suit, and one instance resulted in a bloody discharge and pain for three days, according to the suit.
The suit accuses all of the defendants of negligence, as well as assault, since Euteneuer was overseen by the diocese and Loverde, and while employed by HLI and HLIE. It also alleges battery against all of them, and says the final incident -- which came after Euteneuer was recalled to the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla. -- was done "in a rude and angry way."
It alleges the diocese and HLI and HLIE waited two months before dismissing Euteneuer.
Diocese of Arlington communications director Michael Donohue said in a Wednesday afternoon phone interview that Euteneuer never worked for the diocese, but instead for the Diocese of Palm Beach, where he'd been ordained.
"Father Euteneuer is not and never has been a priest of the Diocese of Arlington," he said. "However he came to be hired by HLI, they brought him on to head their organization, and his diocese, his bishop in Palm Beach, had to approve of him taking that position.
"Human Life International was not under the direction or control of the Arlington diocese."
The victim in the case contacted the Diocese of Arlington's victim assistance office, which in turn informed the Diocese of Palm Beach within two days, Donohue said. He said the priest was then recalled to Florida.
"The plaintiff did receive psychological and spiritual assistance from the Diocese of Arlington subsequent [to her report]," Donohue said.
While Doe's complaint says Loverde and the diocese gave Euteneuer permission to perform exorcisms within the diocese, Donohue said that wasn't the case.
"Bishop Loverde did not give him permission to perform exorcism on the plaintiff," he said. "The Diocese of Arlington does have an exorcist."
HLI on Wednesday referred to a prior statement from Euteneur admitting his departure from the organization was caused by his own actions, and the Church wasn't at fault.
"I must acknowledge...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," Euteneuer said in a January 2011 statement.
His statement says his "violations" didn't involve "the sexual act."
In a statement from HLI Wedneday, the organization claims Euteneur's "highly inappropriate" actions were "never within the scope of his employment with HLI."
The exorcism ministry was Euteneur's own doing, Phelan said in a phone interview.
"It's not a part of our ministry," he said. "It was something that Father Euteneuer did."
The Diocese of Palm Beach's communications director, Dianne Laubert, said that when it learned of the allegations, Euteneuer was restricted in his ministerial work.
"He currently remains without priestly faculties," she said. "I don't know of his whereabouts."
Laubert referred further questions to Euteneuer's attorney, Tom Condit.
The Cincinnati attorney said he hadn't spoken to Euteneuer in a while.
"At this point, he's not looking to be, or stay in the news over any of this," Condit said. "I don't even know where he is, quite frankly."
He said inaccuracies had been published about the priest.
"He simply decided to stand on his statement and suffer all of the indignities of the inaccurate information that started flowing," Condit said.
Pikrallidas said in a Wednesday interview there had been a "private settlement with other parties" in relation to Euteneuer's alleged abuse.
"If she was paid any money for any settlement, Father Tom Euteneuer had nothing to do with it," Condit said.
Pikrallidas said he believes there are other victims.
As for the $5.3 million figure, "our client's life has been ruined," he said.
The attorney described his client's state as "traumatized, terrible."
He described the exorcisms as a "last resort.
"She went through the proper channels of the Catholic Church to determine whether it was mental or not," Pikrallidas said. "They determined it was not. As a Catholic she exercised every single avenue of assistance."