Woman sues HLI, diocese for alleged abuse during exorcism

A Virginia woman who claims a priest sexually abused her while meeting with her to perform exorcisms has filed suit against the Virginia-based pro-life group he formerly headed and the Arlington Diocese.

The suit, filed June 19 in Arlington County Circuit Court on behalf of a woman identified only as Jane Doe, claims Father Thomas Euteneuer, former president of Human Life International, Inc., abused her between April 2008 and September 2010.

In a statement last week to Catholic News Service, Human Life International said Father Euteneuer "has already admitted to engaging in highly inappropriate and gravely sinful conduct with a young adult woman" but that "such behavior was never within the scope of his employment" with Human Life International.

"We intend to vigorously defend HLI from the false accusations made against it," the statement added.

Father Euteneuer is a priest of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla. He resigned from his position with Human Life International in August 2010, when the bishop of Palm Beach called him back to his home diocese in Florida.

In the suit, the woman said she signed an "agreement for spiritual help" with the priest in 2008 because she believed she was "in desperate need of the rite of exorcism," a ritual of evicting demons or other entities from a person or place believed to be possessed.

Father Euteneuer and the Diocese of Palm Beach were not named as defendants in the suit. The woman reportedly has previously reached settlements with them.

The suit names Human Life International and the HLI Endowment as defendants. It also lists the Arlington Diocese, claiming it was "responsible for the governance of the Roman Catholic priests practicing within its assigned geographical borders," and Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde.

Michael Donohue, director of communications for the Arlington Diocese, said in a June 29 statement to CNS that Father Euteneuer "is not and has never been a priest of the Diocese of Arlington."

Donohue added that the priest was subject to his bishop in the Diocese of Palm Beach and was not in regular ministry in the Diocese of Arlington. He also noted that Human Life International was not under the direction or control of the Arlington Diocese.

Donohue said Father Euteneuer was "not authorized to perform an exorcism on the plaintiff."

He said the plaintiff "contacted our diocesan victim assistance office in 2010 and the diocese informed the Diocese of Palm Beach of the allegations of abuse within a day.

"The plaintiff did receive psychological and spiritual assistance from the Diocese of Arlington subsequent to informing us about the abuse," added Donohue.

Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach said in a 2011 letter to priests of the diocese that Father Euteneuer "has been undergoing intensive evaluation and counseling to address admitted inappropriate crossing of adult heterosexual boundaries."

"While committed to Father Euteneuer's healing, I truly regret and apologize for the hurt and harm which his actions have caused," the bishop said, asking for prayers for the healing of the priest and those affected by his actions.

Bishop Barbarito said no determination had been made "as to when and under what circumstances he may return to ministry."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970