Priest Allegedly Sexually Assaulted Woman Undergoing Exorcisms
(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- A Virginia woman came to a priest to be purged of her "evil spirits" in 2008 but claims the priest repeatedly molested her during the two-year exorcism that followed.
The woman -- known only as Jane Doe -- filed a lawsuit on June 19 in Arlington County Circuit Court against Human Life International, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and one of its bishops, alleging they failed to stop the abusive sexual encounters. She seeks more than $5.3 million in damages.
The woman had already reached a private settlement with the exorcist, Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, who was the president of anti-abortion rights group Human Life International during the time of the exorcism, according to her lawyer.
In the lawsuit filed last week, she claims Euteneuer abused her in the Human Life International offices during working hours, and the employees knew the exorcism sessions were going on there. In addition, the suit claims the Diocese of Arlington should have been responsible for Euteneuer's conduct because he was working within its jurisdiction.
The lawsuit alleges that Euteneuer told the woman her "case" was "severe," and in April 2008, told her the Diocese had given him permission to perform the exorcism.
That month, Euteneuer hugged Jane Doe and told her "I wish I could go a lot further," according to the lawsuit, before carrying her to a guest residence at Human Life International, where he "laid her on the bed" and "touched her under her bra."
In the weeks that followed, Euteneuer explained "full, passionate kisses as 'blowing the Holy Spirit' into her," the lawsuit said.
For the next two years, he would direct the woman to undress and touch his penis, according to the lawsuit. He also "digitally" penetrated her, the court filing said.
The suit goes on to say that Human Life International hired the woman by circumventing its usual hiring policies, and that Euteneuer regularly gave her money. He later followed her to Hawaii, where she was vacationing with her family, and burned her journal to get rid of evidence of their encounters, the lawsuit alleges.
The woman complained to the Diocese about the abuse in July 2010, but Euteneuer stayed in office for another two months before he resigned and was recalled to the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., according to the document.
He sexually abused her two more times, becoming rough and making her bleed, the suit claims.
The suit alleges that Euteneuer knew his victim had dissociative disorder, which Mayo Clinic defines as "escap[ing] reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy."
In 2011, Euteneuer issued a statement in which he admitted to "violations of chastity" with an adult woman but that he never intended to leave the priesthood over the accusations.
Euteneuer was not named as a defendant in the current lawsuit, because he and the woman had already reached a private settlement, according to the victim's lawyer, Demetrios Pikrallidas.
Although the defendants have not yet been served and are therefore not required to respond to these allegations, Human Life International and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington have sent statements to ABC News.
Human Life International spokesman Stephan Phelan said the accusations concern Euteneuer -- who has not been an HLI employee for nearly two years -- not the anti-abortion rights organization.
"We intend to vigorously defend HLI from the false accusations made against it, and we are undeterred in pursuing HLI's mission to build a culture of life and protect the unborn," Phelan said.
The Catholic Diocese of Arlington emphasized that Euteneuer was not one of its priests, but a priest with the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., which was not named as a defendant in the suit.
Diocese of Arlington spokesman Michael Donohue told ABC News that Euteneuer was never authorized to perform an exorcism. Although the Diocese does have an exorcist, Donohue said the exorcist's name is not public.
Donohue said that once the woman complained to the Diocese of Arlington, it reported the allegations to the Diocese in Palm Beach within two days.
Pikrallidas told ABC News that it took her "a lot of courage" to file the charges against the organization, and that she remains "distraught."
"A person that reached a point in their life turns to the church to seek guidance and is led down the wrong path for personal gratification," Pikrallidas said. "This was not easy by any stretch of the imagination for her."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio