For Cults of Personality, Not! (Or My Brush with Fr. Thomas Euteneuer)

 

Late yesterday evening, after I asked for your prayers for Egypt, I clicked over to New Advent to see what was posted there on the situation on the ground. Many of you know that besides being the electronic host of the Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent also posts links to other Catholic websites and blogs for noteworthy news stories or posts. New Advent has graciously posted our blog posts from time to time as well.

But a different sort of story caught my eye instead.

As I glanced over the list there, I noticed a post entitled, Of Aquinas, Augustine, and Euteneuer: reflections on Fr. Tom on the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. It caught my eye because of the name “Euteneuer” and “Father Tom.” It is a pretty rare surname, so I figured this article was about the former president of the Pro-Life organization known as Human Life International. Fr. Euteneuer had resigned from HLI back in August of 2010, for reasons I couldn’t quite make out from the e-mail HLI sent me at the time.

The article was written by Tom O’Toole on a site named Renew America.  Tom, who also blogs at Fighting Irish Thomas, sheds some light on why Fr. Euteneuer resigned from HLI. The article had an interesting quote in the subtitle that went,

I thought he was a saint; but he turned out to be a bum. — an eyewitness to the damaging effects of several years of Fr. Thomas Euteneuer’s exorcisms

His resignation, and the subsequent revelations of the alleged misconduct he may have committed is causing quite a scandal, and possibly even a crisis of faith among some of the faithful.

I’m just a simple man, but I understand it’s a complex world out there. As readers of this space know, I’m a retired Marine and a fairly new Catholic. And as a brand new Catholic, one with the rank of mere seaman apprentice, with less than a year in the Church at the time, is when I stumbled across one of Father E.’s articles on Catholic Exchange. I liked what I was reading, and when he mentioned something about when he was training with the Marines, it caught my attention. I thought “Wow, a priest who was also a Marine? What’s his story? Was he a Chaplain, or what?”

So early in the year 2009, long before I had come aboard the good ship YIMCatholic, and long before Webster had even thought of starting this blog, I became a fan of Human Life International on Facebook. From there, I found a link to the HLI website and further found a link called “About Our President” and read the following biographical sketch on Father E.,

Euteneuer was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1962, the fourth of seven children born to Joseph and Mariann Euteneuer. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana as well as a Licentiate degree in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. He is fluent in Spanish.

Certified 100% Marine

So far, so good. A year older than me. What else is there? What about the Marines?

While in college, Euteneuer participated in the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Program, attended boot camp at Quantico, Virginia, and graduated at the top of his company. Believing that the Lord was calling him to the priesthood rather than the military, he entered the seminary. After his ordination in 1988, Euteneuer served as a parish priest in five parishes of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, secretary to the diocesan bishop, director of vocations, and spiritual moderator for the diocesan Respect Life Office.

Uh-oh. This is where my “integrity meter” started pegging. Everything in that statement above that is in bold, troubled me. I thought and prayed about what I should do about it. I prayed about it some more. I was reading St. Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection at the time and came across this passage in Chapter 3,

A fine thing it would be for soldiers if they lost their captains! These preachers and theologians have to live among men and associate with men and stay in palaces and sometimes even behave as people in palaces do in outward matters. Do you think, my daughters, that it is an easy matter to have to do business with the world, to live in the world, to engage in the affairs of the world, and, as I have said, to live as worldly men do, and yet inwardly to be strangers to the world, and enemies of the world, like persons who are in exile—to be, in short, not men but angels? Yet unless these persons act thus, they neither deserve to bear the title of captain nor to be allowed by the Lord to leave their cells, for they would do more harm than good. This is no time for imperfections in those whose duty it is to teach.

So I resolved to send Father E. an e-mail wherein I would state my concerns. There was no way to contact him directly, so I e-mailed a note early in March of 2009 to the HLI e-mail address that was provided. I figured he would reply, or someone would, and they would appreciate my concern and my helpful suggestions, etc. There was a crisis in world financial markets at the time, as you may recall, but I wasn’t too distracted by it to ask a question regarding his background.

I waited one day for an answer, then two. By the third day I thought, “that is odd.” They never replied. So I posted the e-mail on their Facebook page on their “Discussions Page.” It caused a bit of a dustup, and I was chastised for having the audacity to ask such questions about the Father, etc., and that post was promptly removed by their admin, one Teri Tolpa.

Giving Father E. the benefit of the doubt, and trusting that his biographical sketch had been written by a civilian who didn’t know any better, I was just trying to get him to clarify his record. From this point on, I’ll provide you with the following posts that I published on the HLI Facebook Page, with the links to the same. As HLI deleted the original thread, the new thread is one I called “Integrity Check.” Keep in mind, I was already on a heightened sense of alert with the folks at HLI.  Tom Petty’s song I Won’t Back Down was playing in my head. Follow along,

Displaying all 14 posts. Correspondents names are in bold.

Frank Weathers

Quote from Article entitled Politcs & Integrity, February 9th, 2009 by Fr. Thomas Euteneuer

“One of my most memorable experiences in Marine Corps boot camp was the lesson of integrity. Certain infractions of the strict code of discipline were considered “integrity violations” such as lying or undermining the chain of command, etc. We all implicitly understood that term to mean the breaking of rules of conduct or ethics that bind men together for the common mission. We did our best to avoid committing any violations of integrity, not merely to avoid penalties, but more so because we sought to form ourselves as honorable, trustworthy men deserving of our uniforms.”

Sir, your biography states you went to “boot camp” in Quantico VA and that is simply not possible because the Marine Corps doesn’t have Recruit Training at that location. In this article you relate your memory of “boot camp” and the lesson of integrity. Square this away.

Anne Lotierzo

Mr. Weathers,

I am praying you learn your own lesson of integrity and cease using a public forum to question the honesty and integrity of a priest, particularly one who is consistently in the forefront of defending Church teaching across the board. If you are so curious, why not send him a personal email and settle your questions that way.

Anne

Max Stimac

Anne,

This is a public forum and Frank is questioning the accuracy of the Father’s public biography, not his integrity. As a former Marine, I’m 100% in agreement with Frank. The Father needs to clarify his service with the Marine Corps. From the way I read it, he never actually accepted a commission and served in an active or reserve capacity.

I’m not attacking either’s credibility or integrity. I merely want to know the truth.

regards,

Max

Anne Lotierzo

Max,

Perhaps you did not read Frank’s previous posts. He was attacking his (Father E.’s) integrity, and questioning his honesty. It is absurd to think for a moment that Father would post information that is not true. To present doubt in a public forum, particularly in regards to a priest, is inappropriate.

If you have further questions, I would suggest an email to Father.

Anne

Frank Weathers

From today’s Gospel Reading

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

From this Mornings Liturgy of the Hours

“Lord, grant us this gift: to desire always to do what is right, and to be swift in doing it.
Without you we cannot exist: make us able to live according to your will.”

I’m asking for clarity and hoping to receive it

Semper Fidelis,

Frank

Max Stimac

Anne,

I had no inclination to present doubt about the priest. Having read both posts from you and Frank, I responded to you in defense of Frank’s right to question the Father’s public bio.

Forgive me if I seem blunt… But you attacked Frank’s integrity and questioned his honesty. Why? Does he have a history of posting inflammatory comments? Is it OK for you to question his honesty without knowing him or the good work he has or hasn’t done? I think not.

I’m sure Ft. Euteneuer and our faith is strong enough to weather a little blunt questioning every now and then. The Father has done wonderful work. And as you put it, “… one who is consistently in the forefront of defending Church teaching across the board.” He or someone he knows should jump at the chance to clarify his military service.

Regards,

Max

Anne Lotierzo

Max,

You may not have read his earlier posts, they were removed with good reason.
I am not questioning Frank’s good works, simply his lack of respect towards a priest. If he, or you, had a sincere interest in clarifying questions with Father, you would not post them in a public forum, but would instead email him.

Anne

Frank Weathers

“but would instead email him.”

Done prior to the postings…no answer

Frank Weathers  *where I share a few quotes from my favorite Old Testament book,

As dead flies spoil a jar of perfumed oil, a little folly weighs heavier than wisdom and honor.

-Ecclesiates 10:1

Frank Weathers

I have considered something else very grave under the sun. There was a small town with few inhabitants. A king set out to attack it, laid siege to it and built great siege-works around it. But a poverty-stricken wise man was found, who by his wisdom saved the town. No one however, remembered the poor man. So I said, “Better wisdom than heroism”, but the wisdom of the poor is despised and his words are not heeded. —Ecclesiastes 9:13-16

*at this point, I added a link to an article I thought was relevant to the discussion. You may agree or not.

Patterns of Scandal in New Ecclesial Movements: Part Two, Appearance vs. Reality

*next post was from Canon Law as follows, from which I understood this to be within my rights to ask these questions, from the section: The Obligations and Rights Of All The Christian Faithful (Cann. 208 – 223),

Frank Weathers

Can. 212 §1. Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church.

§2. The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PU.HTM

Teri Tolpa (Admin of HLI)

“It has come to HLI President, Fr. Tom Euteneuer’s attention that there is some concern about his claim to having gone through Marine Corps boot camp: Whatever the ‘boot camp’ terminology the rather fastidious commentators to this site wish to use, Fr. Euteneuer really attended basic training at Quantico during the months of June and July of 1982. This was all that was intended to communicate by the term ‘boot camp.’ It is somewhat of a surpise to him that more experienced Marines spend their time questioning terminology on Facebook with a false sense of indignation against one of their own instead of fighting real battles like the ones before our nation, both internally and externally.

“Just for the record, Fr. Euteneuer actually did go through all the rigors of Marine Corps Officer basic training for those six weeks and really did graduate at the top of his 208-man class in the Lima Company of that year. He was third or fourth in the battalion of 600+ men that same summer. He makes no claim or pretense to having been commissioned as a Marine Corps officer because, and perhaps even on account of his Marine experience, he felt the deeper calling to join the the Catholic priesthood and soon after that entered the seminary to purse his life’s mission. Again for the record, soon after leaving the Platoon Leaders Class program, Fr. Euteneuer was issued a valid “Honorable Discharge” certificate from the US Marine Corps making him ‘officially’ a US Marine as well as one in mind and spirit.”

Frank Weathers (note, I’m still trying to help him out by suggesting a clearer biography for him)

Suggested edit of Fr. Euteneuers’ biography:

“While in college, Fr. Euteneuer participated in the U.S. Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class Program and attended the first six weeks of Officer Candidates School at Quantico, Virginia. After discerning that the Lord was calling him to the priesthood rather than the military, he left the PLC Program and soon after entered the seminary instead to fulfill his life’s vocation.”

These changes would clear up all of the problems with the military portion of the Fathers biographical sketch while eliminating the risk of “pretense to having been commissioned as a Marine Corps officer.” This is not mere fastidiousness but rather attention to detail, a hallmark trait of Marines.

Peace of the Lord be with you,

Frank

Final Post of this thread:

Frank Weathers (for the sake of clarification)

As a follow-up, I’ll add this link regarding the PLC Program and leave it to those of you who care to explore it, to contemplate how anyone who left the program at the half-way point could even remotely assert that they “graduated”. The use of the word “graduate” connotates completion of a program or course of instruction.

As for the discharge certificate, everyone who leaves the program prior to completion receives one of these. Some are found physically incapable of completing the training due to injury, for example. Most who drop out realize that they haven’t earned the title of Marine….

Semper Fidelis,

Frank

Platoon Leaders Class.

****

Next I posted a topic I called “The query-redux” where I simply posted the unanswered e-mails I had sent to Father E. earlier. Perhaps you will find the directness of my language problematic. Keep in mind that the sexual abuse scandals had erupted back in 2002, and guys like me who converted don’t wish to see the likes of those times come around again. One year after these messages and e-mails went up, more sexual abuse scandals surfaced. I commented on those events as well. The laity can no longer remain silent like it once did. Like all Marines are rifleman, all Catholics are responsible for what goes on in our ranks. If something smells funny, we must act (see the Canon Law citation above). Back to the thread,

Frank Weathers

Fw: Military Service of Father Tom Euteneuer, President of HLI Sunday, March 8, 2009 8:39 PM
From: “Frank Weathers” To: hli@hli.org

Father Euteneuer:

Sir, below is a note I sent to you last week. Since that time, I posted this on the HLI “Facebook” page and it was promptly deleted. As my earlier letter makes clear, there are inconsistencies in your biographical sketch that may lead the general public to believe that you served your country as a Marine. You may have or you may have not. The point is, it is not clear and only you can clear it up.

True Grit

What is the point of hyping the fact the you “participated in the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Program” anyway? If you didn’t accept a commission and lead Marines, then you weren’t a Marine. In what way does the fact that you “participated” matter one iota to the mission of your organization or for that matter, the mission of our Mother Church? The general public comes away from your bio thinking that you had been a Marine. They don’t know any better. Do you believe that this helps establish your “bona fides” as a tough priest? Maybe it does that for the clueless, but not for those of us who know better.

You once wrote “All of us make mistakes and all of us sin, but He gives us all a chance to be reconciled with Him and turn our sorrow into joy.” Now, more than ever, the Pro-Life stance of the Church is under scrutiny and attack. And now, more than ever, our leaders must be unimpeachable. “This is no time for imperfections in those whose duty it is to teach.”-St. Teresa of Avila (The Way of Perfection).

You must address your biographical sketch and clarify that you did, or did not serve in the Marine Corps. Make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt! And then stop dipping into your personal “near miss” with the Marine Corps to enhance your “street credibility.” I’ll leave you with this passage from the Letter of James, Chapter 3: 14-18.

But if at heart you have the bitterness of jealousy, or selfish ambition, do not be boastful or hide the truth with lies; this is not the wisdom that comes from above, but earthly, human and devilish. Wherever there are jealousy and ambition, there are also disharmony and wickedness of every kind; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it is also peaceable, kindly and considerate; it is full of mercy and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. The peace sown by peacemakers brings a harvest of justice.

Your brother in Christ,

Frank

*What follows is the original e-mail I had sent, the one that HLI deleted from the Discussion thread.

— On Tue, 3/3/09, Frank Weathers wrote:

From: Frank Weathers
Subject: Military Service of Father Tom Eutenauer, President of HLI
To: hli@hli.org
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 10:31 AM

I have read several of Fr. Euteneuers postings on Catholic Exchange and was intrigued about his claim to have been a former Marine. I looked at the biography of Father Euteneuer on your website and came away perplexed.

The Backbone of the Corps

As a retired Marine, I can safely say that the biographical information contained on your website regarding Father Euteneurs’ service is not credible. No real Marine would write that they attended “boot camp” in Quantico. Nor would any Marine that wanted to share information about themselves allow inaccurate information like that to be included in their “bio” if they were concerned about it being perceived as credible.

“Boot Camp” is slang for Recruit Training for enlisted Marines. It is not slang for Officer Candidate School. Recruit Training Regiments are located either at Parris Island SC or San Diego CA. Officer Candidate School is located at Quantico Virginia.

The veracity of the statement from the biography is questionable given the facts outlined above:

“While in college, Fr. Euteneuer participated in the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Program, attended boot camp at Quantico, Virginia and graduated at the top of his Company. After discerning that the Lord was calling him to the priesthood rather than the military, he entered the seminary.”

It is apparant to me that these contradictions needs to be rectified, especially in this time when many of our Marines are being killed and wounded in active service to our country. If the above statements are true, then the inaccuracies need to be addressed in order for doubt regarding their truthfulness to be put to rest. And “graduated at the top of his Company”—according to what records?

The mission of HLI is an important one. For the sake of credibility, these statements need to be clarified.

Respectfully submitted,

Frank Weathers, USMC Retired

To which this stock reply was posted again,

Teri Tolpa (HLI Admin)

“It has come to HLI President, Fr. Tom Euteneuer’s attention that there is some concern about his claim to having gone through Marine Corps boot camp: Whatever the ‘boot camp’ terminology the rather fastidious commentators to this site wish to use, Fr. Euteneuer really attended basic training at Quantico during the months of June and July of 1982. This was all that was intended to communicate by the term ‘boot camp.’ It is somewhat of a surpise to him that more experienced Marines spend their time questioning terminology on Facebook with a false sense of indignation against one of their own instead of fighting real battles like the ones before our nation, both internally and externally.

“Just for the record, Fr. Euteneuer actually did go through all the rigors of Marine Corps Officer basic training for those six weeks and really did graduate at the top of his 208-man class in the Lima Company of that year. He was third or fourth in the battalion of 600+ men that same summer. He makes no claim or pretense to having been commissioned as a Marine Corps officer because, and perhaps even on account of his Marine experience, he felt the deeper calling to join the the Catholic priesthood and soon after that entered the seminary to purse his life’s mission. Again for the record, soon after leaving the Platoon Leaders Class program, Fr. Euteneuer was issued a valid “Honorable Discharge” certificate from the US Marine Corps making him ‘officially’ a US Marine as well as one in mind and spirit.”

To which I posted the reply and links from the thread above.

****

The final thread was entitled “Fr. Euteneuer’s Military Service” and was started by Teri Tolpa, the HLI Admin. It was once again, the stock reply from the pervious two threads, to which I again included the links to the Platoon Leaders Class program. The last entry on that thread was mine and was from St. Pauls letter to the Colossians 3:2-6,

Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming (upon the disobedient). By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way. But now you must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language out of your mouths. Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.

And that pretty much is the extent of my brush with Fr. Euteneuer. I noted sometime later that his bio was cleaned up a little bit, but was still fishy. I consulted with two of my former Commanding Officers and ran it by them and it didn’t pass the smell test for either one of them either. As HLI wasn’t deleting my posts on their discussion board any longer, I let it lie, believing that I had done what I was called to do. Father E. never personally responded to any of my queries.

If there is a lesson in all of this it would be “beware the cult of personality,” I reckon. My parish priests and bishop are going to be reading this post probably, and I pray they understand that I hope and pray for nothing other than full reconciliation for Father E. And I hope, as Tom O’Toole writes, that “Father still can become an Augustine.” But in all charity, I won’t be impersonating a priest anytime soon either.  Nor will I be turning away from confrontation with one if ever something doesn’t smell right either. To do so would be dereliction of my duty to Our Lord and King and His Church.

Semper Fidelis

Updates: Breaking! A father’s (and mother’s) statement about Euteneuer and their gravely harmed daughter.

Adele’s view point.

Pray for Fr. Thomas Euteneuer

Fr. Euteneuer’s Mysterious Exodus

An actual interview with St. John Bosco.

 Statement of Father Euteneuer

Statement of Human Life International

The Penitent Priest and the Crackpot

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