Updates: Bryan Fischer, James Arthur Ray, and Father Thomas Euteneuer

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 16, 2011 — 63 Comments

A few quick updates on previously reported stories.

Who’s the Victim? Talk radio host Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, came under public scrutiny last week for a hateful anti-Native editorial that claimed American Indians were “morally disqualified from sovereign control of American soil” because theycontinue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition”. After waves of criticism, the AFA took the editorial down, perhaps realizing that their star pundit had gone too far. However, rather than an apology, or even some sign of contrition from Fischer over his editorial, he has instead posted a new editorial claiming Americans aren’t “mature” enough to have the conversation he wants to have, and essentially stating that he is the true victim on his talk radio program.

The column generated an incredible amount, so much intense, vitriolic and profane reaction – in fact, we had the woman here that monitors comments, she had to say “look, you have to get somebody else to do this, the things that people are saying about Bryan are so vulgar, they are so vile, they are so profane, they are so blasphemous, I can’t take it any more.” That’s how much hate there was, and yet we’re the ones that are accused of being the hatemongers.

Nothing like playing the “we’re the real victims here” card, is there? But just to recap, here’s a video of Fischer reading from his controversial editorial, along with some bonus triumphalist rancor.

Does that sound like a victim? Someone who is trying to have a “mature” discussion? Or does it sound like someone speaking from a place of power and privilege about a people he most likely has little first-hand knowledge of? I guess his form of Christianity means never having to say you’re sorry.

James Arthur Ray’s Bad Business: With jury selection starting today, and trial slated to begin on March 1st in the matter of three deaths that resulted from a sweat lodge ceremony led by New Age guru James Arthur Ray, NPR’s Morning Edition looks at the “fading aura” of Arizona’s spiritual tourism market.

But business has dropped for many of them, including bookstore owner Luci Guadreau. A retired teacher, Guadreau has had to dip into savings to keep Golden Word, her store of spiritual and metaphysical books, afloat. “I literally see people walking around with their cell phones, adding up prices, and deciding which of the things they’re going to buy,” Guadreau said. “When we first got here I did not see [that] at all.”

The debate now is whether the drop-off in spiritual dollars comes from the recession, or from Ray’s “negative energy”. A question that was recently taken up by the New York Times as well. The NPR report also notes that Angel Valley Retreat Center, where the now infamous sweat ceremony was held, has been hit with 10 lawsuits from sweat participants, and family members of the victims. The facility has seen a 50% drop in business last year.

Some Bad Press For the Exorcism Business: It couldn’t have happened at a more inopportune time. Just when Catholic exorcisms were having their mainstreaming moment thanks to Anthony Hopkins vehicle “The Rite,” and the subsequent media outreach by real-live exorcist Father Gary Thomas, along comes a exorcist sex-scandal from one of the practice’s most outspoken proponents. Father Thomas Euteneuer, a star in the Catholic pro-life activist ranks, and vehement anti-Pagan exorcist, recently admitted to having sexual relations with at least one of his clients. Politics Daily religion reporter David Gibson looks at the fall-out of this scandal, and how it has shaken the Catholic right.

Some of Euteneuer’s avid disciples continue to praise him as a prophet who confessed to a single and very human failing, while others feel betrayed and say the priest and his organization are so hypocritical they have hurt the sacred cause of protecting the unborn. Critics also say that the full story of Euteneuer’s misdeeds has still not been told, and that policies on exorcism must be tightened to prevent further abuses.

“In my opinion, from now on, for the good of the faithful, all exorcisms should be done in the presence of at least one other person besides the priest,” Matt Abbott, a Catholic columnist for the conservative website RenewAmerica.com, wrote in an e-mail. “That person, or persons, should be vetted by the Church and law enforcement and should not be a personal friend of the priest performing the exorcism.”

Will the still-secretive Catholic exorcist community actually adopt anti-abuse reforms in the wake of the Euteneuer scandal? We’ve seen how slow-moving the Church has been with its sexual abuse crisis, will they learn their lesson this time and act swiftly to create an ethical guide towards Catholic exorcism? One that provides direct oversight to the ritual? As for Euteneuer, expect him to lay low for awhile, especially since there’s been wide talk of “additional allegations” against the priest. On a personal note, I can’t say I’m too sorry to see an anti-Pagan hater pulled to the sidelines. Between that and the revelation that Father Gary Thomas is a Satanic Ritual Abuse believer, one who thinks that being a Pagan or Witch “immediately disqualifies” you to run for public office, perhaps this latest exorcism boom will stay in the theaters.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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