Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Exorcist 5: The Quickening

If, like me, you are not up on all the latest Catholic gossip and scandals, fear no more -- for, thanks to diligent Renew America columnists, you can knowledgeably join in the talk around the holy water cooler.

And this is quite a story -- while not the greatest story ever told, it is pretty interesting, being the tale of a charismatic priest who developed a cult of personality, fought bravely for embattled womb babies, exorcised a bunch of demons, and then fell from grace, so to speak. I hope to see it soon as a Renew America feature presentation.

Anyway, our Renew America saga begins with a mystery (and not one of those divine ones). Devout young Catholic columnist Matt C. Abbott had penned many columns quoting the dashing anti-abortion priest Thomas Euteneuer (see, for example "Courageous priest blasts Obama, Congress"), but he saved his true admiration for the Father's thrilling feats of exorcism. But a couple of months ago Matt noted that the priest had suddenly disappeared from view, and that even his tomes on demon expelling had vanished from the shelves.
Father Tom Euteneuer, former president of Human Life International and author of a book on exorcism that was pulled off the market not long after it was published and promoted (including in this column), has seemingly "disappeared."

As my regular readers will know, I've quoted Father Euteneuer often over the last few years. But in news that surprised even me, HLI announced in late August that Father was stepping down as HLI president.
In order to pursue other opportunities, spend more time with his family, and take over as Governor of Alaska.

In addition to his rather abrupt departure from HLI, Father's book Exorcism and the Church Militant, which was being promoted by HLI in July, was essentially pulled from circulation not long ago, a vague reason given for doing so.

Strange, if you ask me.
A little too strange!

I do know this: There's "more to the story," and whatever transpired is not the result of a bishop's persecution. There are at least a few individuals who know the whole story, but, right now, they're not willing, or able, to divulge the details. Perhaps they don't want me, or anyone else, to pursue the matter. Well, that doesn't sit well with me.
Way to go, Matt. The truth is out there! Keep watching the skies!

I hope to find out more in the coming weeks. Maybe I will, maybe I won't.
You can't ask for more than that.

Anyway, to me it just seemed like another case for Supernatural's Winchester brothers, so I didn't pay it much mind.

Until this week, when a broken, demoralized Matt wrote briefly about his difficult time. ("I'm either going through a difficult time (nothing new to me) — spiritually and emotionally — or I'm having a crisis of faith. A dark night of the soul, perhaps.") Somehow, fr. Euteneuer was involved in Matt losing his religion, but Matt was reticent on the subject.

Fortunately, Jenn Giroux (a past Wo'C Wingnut to Watch, and formerly Mel Gibson's biggest fan) also penned a piece about fr. Euteneuer this week. And by telling us all to mind our own business, she made the mystery so much more interesting.

Lately I have been reading many disturbing things about Fr. Tom Euteneuer's departure from Human Life International (HLI), speculation on where he is, and outrageous theories and accusations circulating on the internet. As I sort through the speculation, gossip and hearsay, I see clearly that Father Tom has been handed his cross and is carrying it in silence.
Just like Father Charlie Sheen.

Anyway, Jenn gives us a recap of Fr. Tom's great work in the meddling with women's reproductive rights -- not to mention his hand-to-hand combat with Satan. And apparently when you face the devil in the ring of the World Wrestling Federation, you just might get a little evil on your robe and collar.
In addition to helping thousands of people grow closer to God, Fr. Tom conducted an exorcism ministry that helped hundreds of troubled people and this required direct confrontation with the forces of darkness.
Surely most of us have no idea what that exorcism ministry really involved and how much Satan and his minions have targeted Fr. Tom Euteneuer for destruction.
No,I don't know what his exorcism ministry involved, and don't call me Shirley! But I do wonder about why the Pope never mentioned anything about hundreds of possessed people. But I can see that if the good Father really kicked out hundreds of demons from the bodies of the god-fearing, then they and their boss might be after some revenge on Father Tom.
Few priests have so publicly and willingly taken on such controversial and morally difficulty challenges. If we forever remain ignorant of why Fr. Tom has been temporarily removed from public life, we can probably still assume that he is suffering the most intense form of private spiritual warfare.

And we can probably assume that Jenn is here to tell everyone to mind their own business about what Fr. Tom and the demons are up to.
While few know the details underlying Fr. Tom's removal from public life — I certainly do not — ignorance has not deterred imprudent tongues and keyboards from casting dark innuendos toward Fr. Tom, his Bishop, and others. It apparently does not occur to such people that, whatever the facts, there will be unnecessary collateral damage in the form of innocent victims.
Yeah! Whenever priests are involved in scandals there will be innocent victims involved, and so we should just cover the whole thing up, in order to protect these victims.
Whether Fr. Tom is blameworthy or completely innocent, you can be certain that he would respect the reputations of others far more than others are respecting his.

Maybe, just maybe, we don't need to know the whole story.
Okay then, let's move along. Nothing to see here.

But wait, here's columnist Tom O'Toole with the whole story.
Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, former head of Human Life International and Notre Dame Class of '84 and once-bold critic of all public figures who supported abortion and sexual perversity, now also seems offended that his own sexual failings should find their way into print.
Uh oh, it's a sex scandal! I was hoping it was just another case of fraud, charlatanism, and fixed demon fights.
Let's start with what has already been made known about the fall of Fr. Tom. The Diocese of Palm Beach has acknowledged (privately) "at least one inappropriate relationship," while the HLI side said (off the record) that "Father [reportedly] admitted to having 'an inappropriate relationship' with an employee in his letter of resignation [and] a second woman [apparently] came forward to say that Father had engaged in sexual activity with her — not intercourse, but close to it — while he was performing some type of exorcism prayer(s)."
I think that getting to third base while performing an exorcism is not only reprehensible, it's also unprofessional. If only Father Tom had followed the rule of Father Peter Venkman: "I make it a rule, never get involved with possessed people." (Well, since Fr Venkman added, "Actually, it's more of a guideline than a rule," then maybe Fr Tom did.)

In addition, a culture of negligence (as far as Church authority goes) developed, in which Father Tom, apparently without the official blessing of either the diocese or HLI, flew around the country for years performing prayers and exorcisms on vulnerable women on his own, fueled by cash or checks made out to Fr. E rather than the diocese or HLI.
So fraud and chicanery are involved too.

After some initial success with healing, many of these relationships went on for years with minimal positive results; either because exorcism, unlike the Consecration at Mass, is not a sacrament and thus depends on the holiness of the priest for its success, or worse, because (according to another lady who knew him), Father was [sexually inappropriate] with "more than one woman...many women...targeting confused, vulnerable women, often under the guise of spiritual director."
Okay, that isn't funny. Taking advantage of the mentally ill for monetary gain is bad enough, but sexually abusing a vulnerable person while posing as their spiritual adviser is truly evil. In my opinion, Fr. Tom is going to be meeting a lot of demons where he is going.

Thus, while Fr. Tom might have a case for invoking CCC #2477 [apparently some secret Vatican Miranda right or Cone of Silence or something] if it was just the one or two women HLI acknowledges (since they apparently were paid off and their settlement involved silence) it is for these other women, other victims, that the Catechism allows us to speak out. And if that last scenario allows us to speak out, the following case nearly compels us to.

This week, the vicar general of the Palm Beach Diocese (Bishop Barbarito himself was out of town at the time) while expressing their sorrow for Father's victims, also stated Fr. Tom has been pulled from public ministry and "he will not be doing exorcisms ever again."
Now it's all up to Father Richard Burton.

Anyway, our thanks to Renew America for this faith-eroding story. We hope Jenn and Matt have learned something from it.


HMDK said...

Oh, so THIS is where you've been hiding your blog!
You're as elusive as Robert Denby!
But know I'm gonna nudge ya in the sweet spot and declare this a great article.

Bill S said...

"We hope Jenn and Matt have learned something from it."
I'm not optimistic.
Wingnuts never learn, and the certainly never admit they're wrong, even when the evidence they're wrong is directly in front of them under a flashing sign with letters the size of the Chrysler building.

D. Sidhe said...

Yeah, some of us do know what the deal is with "exorcism ministries". For starters, the reason the Pope doesn't mention it is that while Catholics believe possession is real, they also, nowadays, believe it's extremely rare. They mostly believe this because they used to do their chants on it a lot and it caused any number of scandals and a general sense that Catholics were quite silly indeed. Churches that didn't have some sort of well-publicized Inquisition in which people generally got very carried away and there ended up being bodies stacked like cordwood still think it's very common.

There are traveling conmen and self-deluded types who will perform, generally for a fee, an exorcism. They tend to be less well related to official sects of Christianity, and are basically the religious version of "hypnotherapists" who will uncover your repressed memories of alien abduction. In both cases, if they don't want money up front, you may assume they're going to dramatize the fuck out of you for books and lectures later.

Those are what we call your best-case scenarios. A certain subsection of these people are extremely creepy people who merely ask for unquestioned access to the mentally ill or otherwise troubled. Molestation is common. Rape is not significantly less so. Statutory rape and manipulated marginally consensual relationships are also extremely common. Cults of personality are for the highly ambitious, but do happen. Heaven's Gate, anyone?

Catholic priests are strongly discouraged from doing it, and it's not common or official, but the rituals are in their books and it does happen from time to time.

Generally, these people are not called in by the mentally ill person, but by their family. People are "exorcised" with elaborate ritual of schizophrenia, of autism, of dissociative disorders, as well as of promiscuity, drug abuse, rebellious behavior, and for random shit like D&D playing and homosexuality.

For especially ugly ironies, sometimes kids who tell people their religious leaders or their parents are molesting them, or who act out in the ways common to sexual abuse victims, will be treated to exorcism and associated additional victimization.

In my experience, the point of the ordeal is to torture the fuck out of some poor kid or crazy person so they'll be scared into knocking it off for however long they are able, which isn't very long since there's no actual treatment being offered and in some cases no actual problem to fucking solve in the first place.

The whole thing is horrible, and even the ones who are sincere and non-abusive need to be shunned. Because taking a mentally troubled person and not only denying them effective treatment but going on to tell them they're suffering because they are evil, is monstrously shitweasel behavior, even if you don't also grope them or bilk them.

And I am an ungrateful asshole for not even trying to be witty and for not keeping my sprained funnybone to myself, but I really, really, really loathe these people.

Bill S said...

What gets me is, in order to believe in demonic possession, don't you have to believe your God is an incompetent boob?
For starters, if God is the creater of ALL THINGS, that'd have to include demons. That seems wildly impractical: creating something whose only purpose is to sabotage your own plans. And you'd think an all-knowing, all-seeing deity would be better able to keep track of the little fucker and stop them in their tracks. There's no reason whatsoever why he shouldn't have just used his SUPER DUPER GOD POWERS to destroy them all eons ago. Especially when they serve absolutely no beneficial purpose whatsoever. Keeping them around is like working hard to preserve the flea population in an animal shelter. But on a broader scale, and with more horrible consequences.

D. Sidhe said...

Actually, no. All you have to believe is that your god is so loving towards humanity that he's willing to give them free will, and to do so knowing that by his own rules, he will send to eternal torment in hell some or most of them (depends on your position on the faith vs acts nature of salvation. Does god offer salvation to people who believe in him, or who do good works? Because the vast majority of humans will never, ever have heard of the Christian god, so even if they are the most wonderful people in the world, they may still be damned).

The basic argument behind possession by demons, and this actually isn't just a demon or a Christian thing, I was taught as a neopagan that some pretty nasty things can come to inhabit you if you're careless or unlucky, is that you leave yourself open to demon possession by doing things that Christians call sin. By lying, by blaspheming, by stealing or taking drugs or looking at pornography, by disobedience to your parents or your husband or your religious leader or your god. The list goes on, things like lust and listening to heavy metal music and reading Harry Potter books. I'm not kidding, they really are telling schizophrenics and gay kids that you not only are suffering because you are owned by evil, but that you brought it on yourself by being very, very bad.

Which is a horrible thing to say to a person with unbalanced brain chemistry, or who has been abused by someone they trusted, or who is just fucking gay. And it's even worse when you use it as an excuse to exploit them or abuse them, which of course you can then go on to blame them for.

But, hey, that's because god loves you just that much.

Let's face it, these arguments pretty much only work on people who have wrangled the whole Why Would A Loving, All-Powerful God Allow Bad Things To Happen To Good People conundrum, especially if they've managed to resolve it in favor of "He wouldn't: They must not really be good people!" But if that were a minority viewpoint, there'd be no Republican Party.

Seriously. This shit burns me up.

trashfire said...

One great Buddhist master, Milarepa, had a bit of bad karma to get through (how does mass murderer sound?) and said that demons used to come visit him in his cave from time to time. He would welcome them in, offer them tea, speak to them about philosophy etc. None of this "get thee hence" crap. He figured that the demons were no more or less real than anybody else he might run into, and he showed them the same respect. A very sane approach, really.

Stories like Father Tom's remind me of the old Flip Wilson "The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress" routine where the preacher's wife does crazy shit all day and blames the devil. The preacher finally asks his wife why the devil doesn't do anything good for him. She replies, "I asked the devil about that and he says he's already done something good for you. He says without him you wouldn't have a job."

heydave said...

I won't wade into deep waters (yeah, I'm shocked too!) but this line:
After some initial success with healing, many of these relationships went on for years with minimal positive results
...what can one say? Bitchez want a ring? Or is that a whole 'nuther level of doubletalk?

s.z. said...

heydave, what I think that line means is that while the women seemed better at first, they stopped paying the fees and so were reposessed. (Seriously, I think that's what it means.)

Bill S said...

D. Sidhe, there's a recent Jack Chick tract (I sent Scott a link to it last week) that goes a step further than that, saying that not only are gay people possessed by demons, but they entered them when they were victims of childhood molestation. In they tract, a Nurse working at an AIDS hospice spells it out for the patients in her care, saying that she herself became possessed by demons after being raped. The whole thing is truly insane. If I can find the link later I'll post it here (unless Scott beats me to it.)

scripto said...

Hey baby, looks like you could use a good exorcism.

Man, that old line predates the Reformation. I can't believe anyone falls for it.

melior said...

...ignorance has not deterred imprudent tongues and keyboards from casting dark innuendos...

Why yes, it's those long, hot, sweaty nights spent laying awake thinking and thinking about the *imprudent tongues* lashing that drives one over the edge.

Also too, "keyboards"... Coincidentally, I just netflixed a movie last night that used "keyboard" in exactly this way (if-you-know-what-I-mean-and-I-think-that-you-do). It's the indie film Dogtooth (which really ought to receive a Wo'C review btw!) in which the seriously twisted parents homeschool their kids in complete seclusion, filling their heads full of weird ideas about cats being ferocious monsters that want to tear them limb from limb, subversive words like "pussy" are replaced with less inflammatory ones like "keyboard", and "zombie" is explained to mean a "small yellow flower".

D. Sidhe said...

filling their heads full of weird ideas about cats being ferocious monsters that want to tear them limb from limb

Which part of that is weird again?

And the zombie thing? I am totally giving that a try. I don't, I admit, expect much since I couldn't turn them into Bigfoots (Bigfeet?), but I suspect trying to imagine them as little yellow flowers will seriously piss them off, which is basically what I live for these days, annoying the hell out of my hallucinations.

scripto said...

Well, well, well. With a rudimentary knowledge of Latin and years of training you can fuck the hell out of someone.

Chris Vosburg said...

...ignorance has not deterred imprudent tongues and keyboards from casting dark innuendos...

Am I to understand that my keyboard is alleged to have given careless tongue to the brickbats and catcalls of the braying yahoos of the dockyard?

I put it to your Grace that my keyboard is prudent, mindful of its place, and further, places no quarrel with either the church or his Grace's dalliance with innocents of his charge.

[wait for it]

Me, not so much.

Anonymous said...

My offer in the previous thread is still out there.
But, in view of the above, I am now also (and for a limited time only)adding to my offer free board and lodging (sketchy at best).