Judge rejects 3 claims in exorcism sex abuse lawsuit
By Joe Beck
FRONT ROYAL — Warren County Circuit Court Judge Dennis L. Hupp has dismissed three of four claims of legal wrongdoing against a Front Royal-based international Catholic organization in a lawsuit involving accusations of sexual molestation by a priest while performing exorcisms.
Hupp’s opinion issued Sept. 30 states that the plaintiff, an anonymous victim identified in court documents only as Jane Doe, failed to show that the priest, Thomas J. Euteneuer, was acting within his role as an employee of the organization during the moments of alleged sexual misconduct.
Euteneuer worked as president of Human Life International Endowment, Inc. and as president of Human Life International, Inc., which are listed as co-defendants in the suit.
The plaintiff’s accusations – formally called causes of action — against Human Life include assault, battery, intentional affliction of emotional distress and negligent retention of Euteneuer for weeks or months after Jane Doe accused him of sexual abuse.
Hupp’s ruling scrapped the claims of assault, battery and emotional distress but left intact the accusation of negligent retention against Human Life International, Inc. Hupp agreed to dismiss the claim of negligent retention against Human Life International Endowment, Inc.
Hupp issued his ruling on a motion for demurrer, a common tactic used by lawsuit defendants seeking dismissal of the causes of action against them.
Hupp’s opinion stated that the lawsuit lacked an explanation of how the exorcisms cited by the plaintiff related to Euteneuer’s regular job duties.
“Indeed, there is no description whatsoever of the business or purpose of either corporation except for a brief reference to the ‘pro-life corporate agenda of HLI and HLIE,'” Hupp wrote. “There is an allegation that one of the incidents of sexual abuse occurred while the plaintiff and Euteneuer were attending a conference on behalf of the defendants, but there is no indication that Euteneuer was acting within the scope of his employment when he invited the plaintiff to his room and then took advantage of the opportunity to touch her in a sexual manner.”
Euteneuer left both Human Life International organizations in August 2010, and admitted six months later to transgressions “violating the boundaries of chastity with an adult female who was under my spiritual care.”
The lawsuit, originally filed in Arlington County Circuit Court, was transferred to Warren County in May. The suit initially included the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and its bishop, Paul S. Loverde, as defendants. The initial version of the suit stated that the diocese and Loverde were responsible for overseeing Euteneuer.
Jane Doe’s complaint states that she met with a priest from the Arlington diocese on July 7, 2010, and “gave him a detailed description of the history of her relationship with Euteneuer, including Euteneuer’s sexual advances while performing exorcism rites.”
Jane Doe also met shortly afterward with a member of the board of directors of Human Life International and reported Euteneuer’s alleged sexual advances.
The suit also states that Euteneuer “again sexually violated the plaintiff,” on Aug. 10, 2010 and Sept. 5, 2010. Euteneuer submitted his resignation sometime during those same two months, according to the suit.
Hupp cited Jane Doe’s report of sexual misconduct by Euteneuer “soon after July 7, 2010” in explaining why the accusation of negligent retention of Euteneuer by Human Life International, Inc. remains viable.
“There is certainly a factual question as to whether the plaintiff consented to the sexual contact, but that issue cannot be resolved on demurrer,” Hupp wrote.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org