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Woman's lawsuit claims sexual abuse during exorcism

A Virginia woman who asked a Catholic priest to rid her of the devil is suing his former employer, alleging he sexually assaulted her over a two-year period, The Associated Press reported

The suit seeks $5.3 million in damages from Human Life International, an anti-abortion ministry, as well as the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and its bishop, Paul S. Loverde.  

Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer served as president of HLI when he told the woman in 2008 he would rid her body of "unclean spirits," The Washington Post reported.

Euteneuer is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit because he reached a settlement with the woman out of court, the paper reported.  

The AP reported that he told the woman he believed her case was "severe" and needed an exorcism.

The woman, identified in court papers as Jane Doe, signed a document pledging complete cooperation in spiritual work with Euteneuer, according to the lawsuit. 

The suit, filed on June 19 in Virginia's Arlington County Circuit Court, alleges Euteneuer sexually molested the woman during exorcism sessions conducted mostly in HLI offices. 

According to the suit, she claims he kissed her on the mouth and touched her in inappropriate places on her body. 

"To the extent Father Euteneuer has already admitted to engaging in highly inappropriate conduct with a young adult woman, we can only emphasize that such behavior was never within the scope of his employment with HLI," HLI director of communications Stephen Phelan said in a statement. 

The woman's attorney, Demetrios C. Pikrallidas, told the Post she suffered emotional distress from the abuse she endured.

"She placed her trust in a man of faith," he said. 

Arlington Diocese spokesman Michael J. Donohue told The Post that Euteneuer has never been a priest for the diocese.

"He was not authorized to perform an exorcism on this woman. He may have lied to her and said he was, but he was not," he said.

According to the lawsuit, the Arlington Diocese was named in the lawsuit because it "was responsible for the governance of the Roman Catholic priests practicing within its assigned geographical borders,' the AP reported. 

Euteneuer performed the exorcism independently from his job at HLI. He resigned from the organization in 2010. 

The AP reported the woman contacted the Arlington Diocese after realizing his conduct was inappropriate. 

Officials at the Diocese of Palm Beach recalled the priest to Florida to undergo counseling after the Arlington Diocese made them aware of the allegations. 

In an official statement last year, Euteneuer issued an apology for his actions and acknowledged overstepping his boundaries. 

"I take full responsibility for my own poor judgment, my weakness and my sinful conduct that resulted from it, the statement read. 

Pikrallidas commended his client for coming forward under strenuous circumstances.

"When someone gets to a point where they believe they are in need of an exorcism, that is very difficult," he told the station. "To come forward is more difficult."

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