The Fall of an American Idol

April 2011

The announcement was all too abrupt.

When Fr. Thomas J. Euteneuer declared — out of the blue — in his weekly e-letter “Spirit & Life” on August 27, 2010, that he was stepping down from his post as president of Human Life International (HLI), something seemed amiss. The reason for his unexpected departure, Fr. Euteneuer wrote, was that his bishop had called him back to his home diocese in Palm Beach, Florida, to return to parish work. “This is the right thing for me to do and at the right time,” wrote Fr. Euteneuer. “I have great peace about the road that lies ahead and about all that has been accomplished up to this point…. I am ready for a break!”

After recovering from the initial shock, those of us who had interacted with him or admired him from afar were left scratching our heads. Why would a man who lived, and seemed to thrive, in the public eye to an ever increasing extent over the decade of his tenure at HLI depart so suddenly, without warning, without any indication whatsoever that this was coming? The explanation was puzzling. He had just released a new book and was in the middle of a speaking tour — hardly the “right time” for an abrupt change of course. He didn’t even have a parish assignment to go to yet. No replacement was waiting to take the reins of HLI. Why the rush out the door?

Though the questions lingered, what else could we do but wish him well and offer prayers of thanksgiving for his years of outstanding work to advance the prolife cause? The very same day, August 27, the board of directors of HLI released a statement thanking Fr. Euteneuer for his “meritorious service,” saying that his “leadership at HLI and his influence on the pro-life movement around the world will be greatly missed.”

Could this really be the end of the illustrious career of the seemingly indefatigable Fr. Euteneuer — he who had led picket lines at abortuaries, held conferences the world over (logging over a million travel miles), written numerous articles, columns (including in the NOR), and books, and appeared in film documentaries and on TV talk shows (including a legendary 2007 face-off with Sean Hannity of Fox News)? It hardly seemed possible. Yet, just like that, Fr. Euteneuer disappeared from the scene altogether. He didn’t return phone calls, letters, or e-mails, or respond to requests for interviews. His parish assignment never materialized. Had he gone into seclusion? Or was he simply enjoying the “time of rest and renewal” he said he had been looking forward to, and which he surely deserved after a decade of demanding work?

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New Oxford Notes: April 2011

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Why can't we show resolve and courage by standing up for Fr. Euteneuer? So many people today are afraid to take a stand because they know they will be vilified by even their own if they make a mistake. We already know that the current ruling political calss, media elite and all manner of atheist/abortionists are beating the bushes to find scandals (or to invent them).

Fr. Euteneuer's actions were an ethical lapse. So what? We need to support our leaders rather than acting like mice scurring into our holes to hide, content to feel both cowardly and righteous. Your prose, ink and emotion would've been best directed reassuring those who take risks that at least in some quarters they will find help. Many people who have attacked Fr. Euteneuer over the years have very few morals themselves (likely all vigorously defended Bill Clinton's moral lapse while in office). Therefore, those adhering to principles and beliefs will always be easy targets due to our human frailities, and we deserve and must have a reliable support system. Failing that, more people will shirk from public view, and then our detractors will win, and we will lose.

I applaud Fr. Eute­neuer and forgive him for what he did -- and for what he might do again. Bottom line to me is that he is a hero, a great fighter for justice for the most vulnerable of victims -- the unborn.
Posted by: j17ghs
April 25, 2011 12:51 PM EDT
If he's prolife, then it doesn't really matter what ethical lapses he falls into? That's sounds like Legion reasoning when they "stood by" Maciel for so long. Posted by: jcc
May 06, 2011 05:30 PM EDT
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