Thomas Euteneuer, a Catholic priest and exorcist who abruptly left a high-profile post in August, has confessed to "violations of chastity."
Euteneuer said his actions involved "one person only, an adult woman under my spiritual care" and "did not involve the sexual act."
In a memo to all priests of the Palm Beach Diocese, to which Euteneuer is assigned, Bishop Gerald Barbarito wrote Tuesday, "Father Euteneuer has been undergoing intensive evaluation and counseling to address admitted inappropriate crossing of adult heterosexual boundaries on the occasion of carrying out his priestly ministry I truly regret and apologize for the hurt and harm which his actions have caused."
Since 1999, when he fought a Fort Pierce abortion clinic, Euteneuer established himself as a fearless champion of the pro-life movement. In 2007, he famously told Fox News commentator Sean Hannity that he would refuse him communion because of his lax position on birth control.
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"I'm sure this is going to create a firestorm," said John Henry Westen, editor of LifeSiteNews, a pro-life news website that published Euteneuer's statement on Tuesday. "And I think Father Tom knows that too."
From 2000 until August of this past year, Euteneuer was president of Human Life International, a prominent anti-abortion group. More recently he began conducting exorcisms. Though he traveled throughout the world, he was officially assigned to the Palm Beach Diocese, where he was ordained in 1988.
"I take full responsibility for my own poor judgment, my weakness and my sinful conduct that resulted from it," Euteneuer wrote.
A Diocese spokeswoman said that Barbarito did not see Eutenuer's statement in advance or collaborate in writing it.
The head of a victims' organization expressed skepticism about Euteneuer's confession.
"We hope Father Euteneuer is telling the truth, but we suspect he's not," said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "Rarely do clerics who abuse their power do so only once."
In addressing rumors, which he described as "malicious falsehoods," Euteneuer raised as many questions as he answered.
He condemned "malicious efforts by supposedly faithful Catholics to destroy a priest who has served the Church faithfully for 22 years," including calling his family and soliciting accusations from co-workers and others.
"Some have even claimed falsely and maliciously that there is a possessed person living in my family's home," he wrote.
He denied that he "targeted vulnerable women." He said that he conducted exorcisms on women with witnesses, except for occasional emergency sessions . He denied soliciting money, other than to cover his travel.
He wrote two books in 2010, Exorcism and the Church Militant and Demonic Abortion. HLI published the exorcism book in June and Euteneuer was giving talks on exorcism during the summer. But by fall, the books were no longer available and Euteneuer's speaking engagements were canceled.
Earlier this year, Euteneuer wrote that in 10 years with HLI he traveled more than 1.1 million miles, visited 58 countries and made thousands of public appearances.
"I'm disappointed that HLI apparently didn't monitor the activities of Father Euteneuer very closely," said Matt Abbott, a blogger for RenewAmerica.com, a Catholic website. "Some of these so-called exorcisms reportedly occurred at HLI's headquarters, which is disturbing."
For Abbott and others who esteemed Euteneuer as a hero of the pro-life movement, his fall from grace has been a personal disappointment.
"While I've lost my trust in Father Euteneuer, HLI and Church officials, I haven't lost my faith in God and will remain a practicing Catholic," Abbott said.