Virginia Woman Claims Exorcism Turned To Sexual Abuse

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File photo of a religious exorcism (Photo Credit: LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a religious exorcism (Photo Credit: LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A woman who claims a priest repeatedly molested her during a more than two-year exorcism has filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, its bishop and an anti-abortion ministry that employed the exorcist.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month in Arlington County Circuit Court, seeks more than $5.3 million in damages.

According to the complaint, the Warren County woman went to the Rev. Thomas Euteneur, then president of Front Royal-based Human Life International Inc., for spiritual help in February 2008. The lawsuit says Euteneur knew that the woman, identified in court papers by the pseudonym Jane Doe, believed she needed exorcism. He told her that her case was “severe” and had her sign an agreement promising full cooperation, the complaint says.

The plaintiff alleges that Euteneur’s sessions with her frequently involved inappropriate touching, including digital penetration, and directing her to undress. The complaint says Euteneur explained passionate kisses as “blowing the Holy Spirit” into her.

The woman eventually realized the conduct was inappropriate and complained to the diocese, the complaint says. Euteneur, who performed exorcisms independently of his job at HLI, resigned as president of the organization and was recalled to the Diocese of Palm Beach.

The Arlington Diocese, which said it had not been served with the complaint, said Euteneur had never been a priest of the diocese, but it had been informed of the accusations.

“When the Diocese of Arlington learned of these allegations in 2010, they were reported promptly to the Diocese of Palm Beach, which then took action to recall him to Florida,” Michael J. Donohue, a spokesman for the Arlington Diocese said in a statement.

The lawsuit says, however, that the Catholic Diocese of Arlington “was responsible for the governance of the Roman Catholic priests practicing within its assigned geographical borders” and that Bishop Paul S. Loverde had an obligation to oversee all priests practicing within those borders.

Stephen Phelan, spokesman for HLI, said the woman’s accusations focus entirely on actions by Euteneur, and “we can only emphasize that such behavior was never within the scope of his employment with HLI.”

He added: “HLI intends to vigorously defend itself against these false accusations.”

Robert T. Hall, an attorney for the plaintiff, said Euteneur was not named in the lawsuit because he and the woman previously reached a financial settlement. However, he said that settlement did not release the diocese or HLI from claims.

In a statement released a few months after his resignation, Euteneur acknowledged “violating the boundaries of chastity with an adult female who was under my spiritual care” but said his transgressions “did not involve the sexual act.”

Euteneur’s attorney, Tom Condit, did not immediately return a phone message.

The plaintiff’s attorneys declined to reveal any details about her but praised her for taking the matter to court.

“When someone gets to a point in life where they believe they are in need of an exorcism, that is very difficult,” said attorney Demetrios C. Pikrallidas. “To come forward is even more difficult.”

Hall said the case was highly unusual.

“It was clearly molestation, and yes, we’ve been involved in a few of those. In the field of exorcism, no, this is probably one of a kind,” he said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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