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

Posts

  • Ali

    Regarding the Bryan Fischer story… This is something we're struggling to teach the kids at the moment: just because someone does something cruel, hateful or hurtful doesn't mean it's okay to do something hurtful back. I appreciate calling out Fischer for both his hypocrisy and his bigotry… but I also have no doubt that there was probably a lot of hateful language being hurled at him in response. Sorry, but I'm not comfortable pretending that that's okay because Fischer's a dick. It's not. So I have to agree with Fischer on this one: hate is hate, and it doesn't matter if you're on the ethical side of an issue or not. We in this country do lack the maturity to have real discussions about important issues. Fischer is one of those figures who contributes to that reality, but we also have to accept some of the responsibility for not knowing how to refrain from rising to the bait of trolls and hate-mongers with vitriol and anger of our own. I see so many activists on the Left trying to get people to act by telling them to be outraged. Can we please learn, instead, to be compassionate, dispassionate, reasonable and courageous in our discussions and our actions? Or is anger the only thing we have left that can move us to act ethically and justly in this country?

    I'm not arguing that Fischer hasn't been horrifically hateful and abusive in his rhetoric and accusations. But returning that vitriol with vitriol of our own just makes it easier for him and those like him to play the "victim" card indefinitely. The "he did it first" argument went out of style in first grade.

    • Neville Thunderbelly

      Well, it depends on one's definition of "hate." Evangelicals/Pentecostals/etc. use that word when other mature, reasonably intelligent adults mildly and respectfully disagree with them. And they use "love" while spewing venom and encouraging, for example, the murder of LGBTs in Uganda (or here for that matter). You are not allying yourself on that issue with someone who understands the terms being used.

      • Ali

        Neville,

        I am not using the terms "love" and "hate" the way "Evangelicals/Pentecoastals/etc." use them, and I would point out that not all of these people use them in the same way, either. I do not in any way sympathize with Fischer – I merely point out that he may have a point about the immaturity of American culture, especially when it comes to blog commenting. This was not about the reasoned arguments against his idiocy (for instance, Hrafenkell's posts recently on Pagan+Politics were excellent and well-informed). I was not speaking of those responses, but of the kinds of comments wishing harm and death on Fischer out of some spiteful need for revenge. Such comments are not mature, and can hardly fall under any conception of kindness, courage or honor.

        The fallacy we make again and again is that if we are on the side of "right" any behavior is excusable and if we are on the side of "wrong," we cannot possibly be right about anything. But this is so obviously overly-simplistic, exclusionary thinking that would reduce the world into Us versus Them. Psychologically, this is itself one of the signs of immaturity.

        So do I agree with Fischer that American culture is immature, even though I don't agree with his reasons for saying it or his other bigoted nonsense? Yes. Only a fool would deny the truth simply to spite his enemy.

        • Robin Artisson

          Such comments aren't mature from your understanding of maturity. And as for denying the "truth" to spite an enemy, what "truth"? You still don't get it, do you? You aren't automatically "starting" from the universally-agreed upon position of "truth". Just because you're talking completely sweetly about being nice, honorable, kind, whatever… doesn't mean that your judgments on this matter are beyond contestation. If the Gods understand, accept, and support righteous mortal Agon, then what?

          • Ali

            Since I didn't present an argument for there being a single Truth, I appreciate your concern but think it's mislaid.

            The issue of whether or not "the immaturity of American culture, especially in blog comments" is a truth or not is certainly open to debate – in this debate, I happen to agree with Fischer and many others. You are free to disagree. But our disagreement hinges on our own arguments and evidence for whether or not we see and experience this immaturity – it has nothing to do with who else might hold this view. That is my point in the comment above: I do not feel compelled to reject an idea simply because it also happens to be held by someone whose other views I find repugnant. Fischer may believe that the earth circles the sun – I do not feel compelled to disagree with him on this point, either. I do not feel compelled to make him my enemy in every way possible, and to reject his ideas merely because he's the one who holds them.

            Do I think he uses this complaint of immaturity as a shield to hide behind his own cowardice and abusive, ignorant rhetoric? Yes. But, as we have seen on this very comment thread, it is very easy for people to use well-known facts and broadly accepted theories to hide behind while they fling abuse and violence towards others. This process of using reasoned argument supported by facts to justify abusive, dishonorable behavior is called "rationalization." And as I said before, it stems from the fallacy that if we are right, then we can justify any of our behavior as being "righteous" and just, while the very same behavior is condemned in those we disagree with.

            Also, one final note: not all of us are Hellenists. Just a reminder. 🙂

          • Robin Artisson

            And I'm not a Hellenist, either; I was bringing up a single point from their traditional, Pagan culture- a point you have gotten removed because of your inability to take criticism, and your desire to see other people's opinions suppressed. You couldn't answer my points, so, in the footsteps of your Christian forebears, you had my words removed.

            I'm not going to retract anything I said about you, because it is the truth about you. If what the Hellenes said is true- if, as all reason tells us, antagonism has a place in this world alongside hospitality or even love and compassion, you have no grounds to continue this white-flower-power juggernaut of peace, love and hairgrease that you are passing off here.

            The man that you are directly defending, no matter how much you claim you are not, deserves nothing but hatred and scorn for the evil he has worked. That will never change. The people who strike back at him, even those who hate him for what he has done, are not perpetrators of the same hate that he spewed; they are not in the same moral category as him. Nothing you will say will ever change this.

          • Ali

            I requested your comment be removed because it clearly violated the comment policy, not because I could not answer your arguments. Obviously, the administrator of this blog agreed with my assessment.

            I have invited you to post again without including the abusive language, and I have tried to respond thoughtfully to some of your comments below. I have pointed out that we are not in as much disagreement as you seem to think, and I would point out here that your assumptions of my philosophy are laughable when they aren't dead-wrong.

            Given these things, I find it hard to take seriously your raving against how terrible and ignorant a person I am. You are cursing at shadows and imaginary demons, Robin. If you want to have an actual conversation, let me know.

          • Robin Artisson

            I don't converse according to your personal rules. If you want to have a conversation with me, a real one, come do it somewhere where the adults aren't holding your hand. I never called you terrible and ignorant; I called your moral compass a thing shaped by Christianity, and your perspective on this issue naive, if anything. Your "philosophy" is something that I do find laughable, and you've not given me a reason to think otherwise (though I gladly would, if you demonstrated something different).

        • And there is no shortage of fools, of course, or of those who will rationalize using the same tools of violence and vitriol against those we dislike precisely because of their tendency toward violence and vitriol.

          It can be infinitely harder to stand up and be visibly and non-violently opposed to bigotry and violence than to hide behind a pseudonym and alternate between violent language and the rationalization of violence.

          I notice that some of your strongest critics do not use their own names, their own photographs, nor link to anyplace where someone could learn such information. And while I respect the right and in some cases the need of many of us not to be "out" as Pagans, I find it interesting how many of the most strident voices, of those most ready to self-identify as courageous, are firmly closeted.

          There is a lot of paper courage out there. But being a visible voice for peace, and attempting to live into that ideal in a way that our communities can witness and hold us accountable for… not so simple.

          Keep the faith. *grin*

          • Leea

            Childish, Robin. You do better to refute, point by point. When you can't, you resort to name calling. Childish.

          • Robin Artisson

            Maybe you haven't been paying attention here, but I made a substantial post- which was "liked" by a hell of a lot of people- which made a case, point for point. Ali and Cat had it deleted, instead of responding to it. I don't "refute, point by point" for people who can't return the courtesy. They have decided to make this conversation the way it is. They have ignored a call to genuine dialogue and enforced their new-age pro-censorship cotton candy morality onto everyone else here.

          • Jason Pitzl-Waters

            I removed the post because you swerve into personal insult, instead of simply refuting an argument. If you want to repost without the personal insults, it'll stay up.

          • Robin Artisson

            Magnanimous! Okay. I'll repost it then.

    • Robin Artisson

      Poorly played, Ali. Poorly played.

      • Ali

        Robin,

        You have some interesting points – but I see no real reason to engage with someone who begins his comment by assuming I am too unthinking and blind to understand him. If you're wondering if I picked up on the "essence" of your attempt to "reach" me – you have your answer. 🙂 Unlike you, I respect the letter and spirit of the comment policy on this blog. Please feel free to repost your comment without the abusive language.

        • Robin Artisson

          I see you deleted your open request to have my words censored, on account of your inability to take criticism or see other viewpoints. Poorly played again, Ali.

          • Jason Pitzl-Waters

            Consider this a reiteration of my private e-mail to you Robin, refrain from personal attacks, or I'll temporarily ban you from commenting while I'm out-of-town.

          • Robin Artisson

            I have not made personal attacks here. My own personal opinions about what strength of character may be, who has more, and who has less, is hardly a "personal attack". It's a personal opinion. Are those banned from here now, too?

          • Jason Pitzl-Waters

            If you can't acknowledge that your "personal opinion" could wade into the waters of "personal attack," then I don't know what I can do for you. I have been more than fair and lenient with your posts at this site, and have refrained from banning you despite several complaint e-mails, and not simply from your usual critics. Gain some perspective, or take some time to cool off, or your participation here in the future will be severely limited.

          • Robin Artisson

            Personal opinions should be allowed to wade into the waters of criticism of others. Else, they aren't honest opinions. Look, I understand that Ali is one of your favorites here, but she's totally over-reacted to what I posted, in a manner that's not out of character for her. And it's not like this really matters; you'll make new posts tomorrow or the next day, and this conversation will be washed away like all the others, in the digital tide. Why be so protective of her feelings specifically?

            You may say that you'd do the same for me, if someone were to come here and launch into some bizarre personal attack on me, but the difference here is that I wouldn't ask you to. I'm not so soft and sensitive, and it is just the internet. Nothing anyone here says about me either picks my pocket or breaks my leg.

          • Ali

            I deleted it because my request to Jason was answered and I didn't want to leave up your quote, as it was a public embarrassment to you. I can put it back up, if you like, so that everyone can see the kind of insults you would like to justify as civil dialogue.

          • Robin Artisson

            My quote wasn't an embarrassment to me; you weren't doing anything for me. You were angered by the quote, offended by it, and that's why you wanted to see it removed. I wouldn't post something that was an embarrassment to me. I had the quote up because I believed in it, and would have been comfortable with anyone reading it.

          • What I believe you have failed to understand, Robin, is that when you behave badly, you discourage contributions by other, more thoughtful posters who may, because of your comments, see this forum as just another place where loud voices and insults crowd out discussion and ideas. Not everyone has flame-proof undies to spare. (Don't worry, I've stocked up.)

            The comments policy at TWH is not about you, Robin. And it's not about me, or Ali, or any other individual. It's about Jason's demonstrated wish to have interesting discussions that are not dominated by one (or several!) vituperative regulars. When you stoop to personal abuse, you may silence interesting new voices not inclined to linger where bullies are permitted to rule unchecked.

            (To everyone besides Robin: My apologies for taking up so much time and bandwidth on this matter. I know it has become tedious. I will not be responding again to Robin on this thread, and if he feels a need to engage with me further, I'm easy enough to find outside this forum.)

          • buggerit, v121. whatever.

          • There are other choices for rabid humans. It's a "least harm" ethic, that way.

          • Cat C-B wrote:
            It's a "least harm" ethic, that way.

            As is putting a rabid animal out of its misery – It causes the least harm to the least people.

            Though honestly its far better to let bigots and fools speak their minds and let everyone know exactly what they are, rather than silence them, and make their lies and twisted words into whispers of poison.

          • The response was to the question, in fact – the tone of it, from where I sit, reminds me of armchair warriors and coffee shop academics – people who make sweeping statements on subjects they may not know very much about. I think that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are being idiots, and that the surrounding countries aren't interested in any sort of peace deal (the Palestinians are far too useful as angry, desperate people and as targets).

            Civility is the cornerstone of civilization – I'm not angry, just surprised at the statement.

          • Thanks for the clarification.

            I realize that speaking briefly on any subject as complex as this one runs the risk of sounding simplistic. I didn't mean it that way, and I'm sorry that's how it sounded.

            I do understand that for the Palestinians and those Israelis really interested in peace and justice–and they certainly exist–this is not an abstract or an easy question. And, in fact, while non-violence may be simple, it's not simplistic… nor easy or without sacrifice. And it is quite true that the sacrifices involved are, in this case, not my own. (I admire deeply those who are living into peaceful resistance in places like Ramallah. But I admire them at a distance, and that does make quite a difference.)

          • After thinking about this a little, I think that my statement above needs to be clarified.

            The condescending manner in which the rhetorical statement was made is likely the reason people are pissed off about it, Cat, not the statement itself.

          • Understood.

            Please know that my writing may have been clumsy. My heart, as I understand it, does not hold condescension on this subject. (I will freely plead guilty to being an arrogant SOB in many areas, however; I'm aware I'm not a paragon.)

            Peace.

      • Lori F – MN

        As ye reap, so ye shall sow.

        It's in the bible somewhere

    • Robin Artisson

      "Hate is hate, and it doesn't matter if you're on the ethical side of an issue or not."

      Ali, I'm not going to belabor this message board with yet another rant against what I feel is the painful species of idealistic psychology that undergirds such arguments. I'm going to try a new tactic. I hope that someone here possesses the subtle intelligence to pick up on the true essence of this attempt to present another angle.

      Have you ever considered just how deeply manipulated your moral and ethical thinking is, due to the forces that conditioned you up to this point? By "Forces", I mean the multitude of social and religious forces that have shaped you in their image.

      In our society, we are programed to love love and to hate hate, pretty much generally. Sure, in some places, you have varying opinions on what's right to love or right to hate, or what's wrong to love, or wrong to hate, but overall, when you chop it down, we love love and we hate hate.

      Maybe we're wrong about this. I know for a fact that not all human societies have felt this way. Why is ours automatically correct or the most ideal? When I say "not all societies have felt this way", I mean to refer to the ancient pre-Christian Hellenic notion of "Agon"- of antagonism, and the place that it occupied in their moral and ethical thinking.

      The Hellenes weren't the only people who reserved a place in their cosmological thinking and in their worldview for Antagonism- for those times when it is right and even moral to hate others, and do things like make war on them, or kill them for the good of your own family or people.

      These wise ancients didn't have the rose-colored Christian lenses that get foisted onto all of us; they understood that, in the Fateful, sacred, precise body of nature- which included human society- there was an element- yes, an element- of antagonism, of Agon- and it had a rightful place in this world like Xenia, or Hospitality, or the force of oaths, or family and kin bonds, or anything else.

      I disagree strongly with your point that "hate is hate" and "it doesn't matter if you're on the ethical side or not". Anyone who accepts such a statement, I think, is a victim of a tragic idealism that loves love and hates hate, and has no flexibility, no acceptance of what Fate has woven into this universe. Such a person would become an unthinking, stumbling enemy of this world, and almost without meaning to, they would despise the human spirit and nature, becoming just another sort of judge, standing in the way of what is Right on the Divine level- Righteous Retribution or Nemesis, is, after all, a Goddess, a divine being. This isn't an evil being, not a devil, but a divine spirit that informs all that we experience.

      With your argument, you would have us ignore our duty to tear into this Fischer idiot, to use whatever invective is summoned from our souls in righteous response to his egregious violations of decency and truth, all in the name of what? A modern "good guy badge"? A hippy "don't hate, man" attitude? A crypto-christianity, with all its "love thy neighbor" nonsense? The Homeric Heroes would have laughed rightly at such people and rolled their eyes. Such persons would have struck them as a weak, foolish-minded child, because the heroes and wise people of old knew what it meant to live this life with ferocious honor, honesty, and lucidity.

      Wisdom is not so one sided. Wisdom doesn't simply love love and hate hate. Wisdom embraces love and hate, because it is Wise to deal with what is real and pervasive and Fateful. You can't claim to love this universe, or this world, or these Gods, or these fellow humans of yours while looking down your nose at them and the natural realities that are a part of everything.

      Hate is not just hate. You can't reduce all values and situations down to one flat, absolutist rule. Hate, in its various degrees, is either pursued rightly or wrongly, just as love may be pursued rightly or wrongly, depending on the situation.

    • Ali wrote:
      an we please learn, instead, to be compassionate, dispassionate, reasonable and courageous in our discussions and our actions? Or is anger the only thing we have left that can move us to act ethically and justly in this country?

      I do treat nithings like Fischer compassionately and dispassionately – one does not hate a rabid dog for biting, one puts it down swiftly and without causing it any more pain, if possible. "Never in speech with a foolish knave
      shouldst thou waste a single word." (Havamal, v118)

    • HergerSeamus

      Hate breeds hate. His hateful rhetoric birthed a hateful response. Such is the way of human nature. It's about time people stand up and call christians on their hate speech. I agree the dialogue should be civil, however civility needs to be mutual. Fundamentalists aren't interested in civil discussions if the conversation is contrary to their world view.

  • Dennis Nock

    oh goody, now along w/ the radical right evangelists , we pagans have to look out for the catholics too.seems w/ our buddy the natzi pope in control ,the current german pope was part of the natzi youth as a young person, the catholic church is becoming more" traditionalist "another term for radical and noticablely anti pagan .are any of the catholics talking about rechristianising europe and the US. gods i hope not , but this seems to be the next logical step for these types of nutballs . i am more than willing to work w/ anyone w/ an open mind and heart, but unfortunatly it seems theres no logical way of dealing w/ these people . so much for the catholic churches earlier stance of asking forgivness for abusing indiginous religions , we the pagans , are the rebirth of the indiginous religions of europe . i myself am celtic druid .more folks we have to keep a close eye on . kilm

    • Though to be fair, The nazi youth thing may not have been completely "voluntary" as There were great social pressures to conform with the party while it was in power and horrendous consequences if you went against it. I'm not excusing the pope, but it is easy to stand in judgment now, when you never had to stand before a totalitarian government that demanded obedience and conscripted its youth to war.

  • chuck_cosimano

    Look, it is very simple. Fischer is not going to apologize for the very simple reason that he has no reason to. His market does not care what you think. On the contrary, they are going to cheer him on. And the more he is attacked, the more right he appears to that market. It is in his interests to hit back even harder, to make his line harder, more extreme. He's become a shark who has tasted blood.

    And his people bless him for it. He could not pay for the free PR this has given him. Congratulations. You have made him a hero to his supporters.

    • Robin Artisson

      Let's hope he becomes a martyr! I think he and his followers both deserve that great, blissful honor and excitement.

  • Danie;

    It's enough that in the history of America lands were wrongly taken and occupied, genocide repeatedly was enacted by our supposedly "Christian" government against First Nation peoples, and the policy cultural obliteration with the institution of "schools," etc. I could go on and on. But Indigenous Peoples have more a right to Sovereignty and and a redress to endless grievances committed in the name of Manifest Destiny and Christian providence. Ths Stupidity of people like Fischer makes light of hundreds of years of the untold suffering of innocent blood spilled by people of his ilk. There is a day when his bigoted, false, triumphant, dominionism will be his as well as his sect's undoing.

    • Daniel

      I suppose I am a bit close to the situation being Blackfeet and and Anishinabe (with a strong stamp of Black Irish). I have been though the, "your damned if you do, damned if you don't gonna go to hell anyway's" air-brained ideology. Being gay, I have seen and experienced it on so many levels with people like him trying to beat me, my heritage, my orientation, and my Blessed Ancestors down. Some would have me be a part of the "I am sorry" epidemic with what I say. Frankly, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I can't, won't let people like Fischer attempt to make me feel ashamed of who I am anymore. I am sorry no longer. *starts thinking of the song by Tori Amos, "Why do we crucify ourselves?"