"the boundaries of chastity"

By now, most attentive Catholics have probably read Fr. Euteneuer's statement clarifying the circumstances of his removal as president of HLI. Add me to the number of faithful who were very disappointed, once again, by a trusted shepherd. You can also count me among those who were expressly relieved. Relieved? At sin?

In light of the recent scandals in the Church, I do have to say that I was relieved that his public confession at least in no way indicated a criminal act. Sin is sin... I'm not downplaying that.  When he was first removed, I thought of a dozen terrible possible scenarios that might be behind it. We have seen a lot of truly horrific things happen through the hands of our clergy in the last few years. So, yes, I was at least partially relieved. A sacramental Confession was made. And God is a God of mercy.

Father's actions have cast a shadow on all of the good work he has done for the pro-life movement and the Church. It is terribly sad. I can't fathom the evil he faced on a daily basis between his work fighting the murder of innocent babies and exorcisms. I'm sure the demons he spent his time fighting are rejoicing. But one thing the forces of evil cannot contend with is God's MERCY. And in that, they have surely been defeated. Unlike some other high profile priests who have fallen, Father Euteneuer offered a humble and public apology and intends to remain a Catholic priest and continue to serve Christ in obedience to his bishop. Repentance. Forgiveness. Obedience. Mercy. Thank God.

This unfortunate incident can do us all a service in highlighting the great need for prudence in our dealings with members of the opposite sex, particularly our priests. For women, spiritual direction does not justify excessive, isolated time alone with a priest. Even if we do not see a danger for ourselves, in charity, we aught to take precautions in defense of his purity. His collar is a sign of his vocation; it does not mean that he is not tempted. What can we do to help our priests stay pure? Even simple things like moving a meeting location to a more visible area can be done while still having the benefit of guidance. Or making meeting time brief to force focus. Or recognizing that our emotional attachments are stronger than they should be... and backing off. Let us not be a hinderance to priests but fight for them like they are one of our own children.

There is a current thought in some Catholic circles that a sign of true spiritual progress is when we can be in the presence of temptation and feel nothing but gratitude to God; that continence is not the same (or as elevated) as virtue;  that we aught to be able to intentionally look upon the flesh without danger; that "custody of the eyes" is fine for some but not best for any.  Some very popular speakers teach these ideas. I may be considered old-fashioned, but I prefer the maxim of St. Josemaria Escriva regarding preserving holy purity in the face of temptation...

"Don't be such a coward as to be 'brave'. Flee!"

No one is above the kind of fall that Fr. E. just publicly confessed. If I think I am, then I am already halfway in the clutches of the enemy who would love to catch me off guard. How easy it is to get in the door if the watchman is asleep, convinced that no evil will come. Beware of placing so much trust in yourself that you forget to RUN when you need to. Even St. Thomas Aquinas did not look gratefully upon his temptress and marvel in the goodness of God's creation, or even politely offer her the door... but chased her off threatening with a burning brand!

Have I ever experienced a strong temptation to break my vows. No. Do I think I will ever fall in this way? No, I don't. Did Father? I seriously doubt it. I intend to remain faithful to my marriage vows to my dying day. In order to make sure that happens, I need to consciously stay out of unsafe situations and get out of the ones I may find myself in.

There's a similar principle in self-defense classes. Before teaching you how to karate chop your way out of an abduction, the experts will teach you the two primary weapons of self-defense:

#1 -- Don't put yourself in unsafe situations.

#2 -- RUN! Get Away!

Once the criminal has you in his clutches, he doesn't easily let go. Only in movies do the svelt, skinny chicks beat the stuffing out of gigantic career bad guys with guns.

Perhaps many of us have imagined ourselves joyfully wearing a martyr's crown (angelic tough chicks who kick the stuffing out of sin!)... only to be defeated by a chocolate chip cookie, or laziness, or gossip. And we imagine that we would never, ever fall in such a way as Father...

Let us be vigilant for ourselves. For our children. For the Church. For our holy priests... 

...And give thanks to God for his mercy and for granting Father E. the humility to repent and begin again in obedience. Father's work saving little lives through HLI may be over, but God has allowed for the salvation of his soul.  Jesus went to the Cross just for that reason. Blessed be the Lord!

Posted on February 2, 2011 and filed under "Fr. Euteneuer", "purity".