A woman who claimed she was sexually molested by an exorcist priest has filed a lawsuit against the priest's former employer and church officials in Virginia, where the alleged molestation occurred.
Thomas Euteneuer, 50, was officially supervised by the Diocese of Palm Beach during the time the incidents are alleged to have occurred. The Palm Beach Diocese settled with the woman known as "Jane Doe" for an undisclosed amount. A spokeswoman referred questions about his whereabouts to his attorney, who did not respond to a request for an interview.
The Diocese of Arlington, Va., and Human Life International, the anti-abortion group that Euteneuer headed for 10 years, should have known that Euteneuer was abusing his position because some of the incidents occurred at HLI headquarters during working hours, said Demetry Pikrallidas, the woman's attorney. Pikrallidas said Wednesday that he was "very concerned" about the woman's current state of mind.
According to an assistant of Euteneuer who was present for Euteneuer's earlier exorcisms, the woman experienced classic symptoms of demonic possession. The witness claimed the woman had been speaking in different voices and languages and cursing religious objects. She said the woman's body contorted into unnatural positions and her eyes rolled back in her head.
Her lawsuit is seeking more than $5.3 million. Euteneuer's attorney did not return a call.
In 2008, while he was head of HLI, Euteneuer had the woman, then 24, sign a document called an "agreement for spiritual help" to help rid her of "demonic infestation." She was required to cooperate fully with Euteneuer, who was described as a "deliverance minister."
The woman said Euteneuer began almost immediately to touch her body in inappropriate ways. He brought her to HLI headquarters in Charlottesville, Va., because her home was some distance away and therefore inconvenient for the frequent exorcisms he performed.
"I wish I could go a lot further," Euteneuer told her in April, 2008, according to the lawsuit. Then he carried her to a guest residence bedroom at HLI, "laid her on the bed, embraced her, touched her under her bra, and attempted to touch her under her underclothes, which the plaintiff stopped."
He spent the rest of the night in bed with her, the lawsuit says.
Between April and June, 2008, Euteneuer conducted "regular and frequent exorcisms" while alone with the woman.
"The sessions created in the plaintiff a distorted and damaging belief that exorcism was tied to sexual activity."
In July, 2010, she told a priest in the Arlington Archdiocese what had happened.
She then told the Arlington Diocese victims office, which informed the Palm Beach Diocese within two days, a spokesman said. She also received spiritual and psychological counseling at the Arlington diocese, he said. The spokesman said the Arlington diocese had no responsibility for Euteneuer's behavior and that Euteneuer did not seek permission from the Arlington bishop to conduct an exorcism, as the woman's suit says Euteneuer told her.
In August, 2010, Euteneuer resigned his HLI post and was recalled to the Palm Beach Diocese.
He published a statement saying he "violated the boundaries of chastity with an adult female who was under my spiritual care."
Also early in 2011, HLI revealed that other women made similar accusations against Euteneuer, who was HLI president for 10 years before the Palm Beach Diocese recalled him. Palm Beach Bishop Gerald Barbarito wrote a memo to priests in the diocese that Euteneuer was undergoing "intensive evaluation and counseling."
Exorcism has deep roots in Christianity. The New Testament mentions that Jesus cast out devils from possessed people. Euteneuer was one of a small number of modern day priests trained in a specific Catholic exorcism ritual, in which the priest orders demons to leave a possessed person or place.