Oldie but Goodie: Fr. Euteneuer calls out Hannity on birth control


This is a couple of years old now, but it’s a good one. Fr. Thomas Euteneuer calls out Sean Hannity on his inconsistent Catholicism. The very arguments that Sean Hannity makes clearly reveal his failure to grasp the theological depth of this issue (and the basic teachings of the Church). In the end, Hannity came off as a very uneducated Catholic whose public dissent of Church teaching clearly causes public scandal. Unfortunately, Hannity’s heretical views are all too common in the Church today.

Some may say Fr. Euteneuer should leave Hannity alone because there are “bigger fish to fry” when it comes to heretical Catholics in the public eye. That’s true.  Certainly there are many Catholic politicians who publicly support even abortion and lead many Catholics astray doing so. But I think Hannity’s dissent here is very serious as well precisely because so many Catholics think the moral issue of contraception is a small thing.  It’s not.

However, there was a subsequent controversy that sprang up over the above interview that involved Fr. Jonathan Morris and Fr. Euteneuer. Note that both of these men agree on the moral issue and teaching of the Church concerned here. But they have differing views as to how the situation should have been handled. There’s a lot to be learned from the dialogue – from beginning to end.

Please read Fr. Jonathan’s response to the interview posted here.

And here is Fr. Euteneuer’s letter responding to Fr. Jonathan’s criticism of him (copied below):

Dear Father Jonathan,

Your letter to Sean Hannity indicates that you did not know that I asked to speak to him in private about this matter in 2004 otherwise you may have tempered your remarks about my supposed lack of charity in dealing with a high profile Catholic who dissents from clearly-defined and reiterated Church teachings….You also seemed to be unaware of the fact that Sean was the one who invited me on his program and who then promptly “[threw] civility to the wind,” refused to display “cultivated intelligence” on the issues and jeopardized another person’s “reputation and dignity.” May I also point out that you did not employ with me the same standard of “fraternal correction” that you expected me to employ with Mr. Hannity. I at least made the attempt to speak to him about this issue in private without success; you, in contrast, went immediately to the internet to take me to task. I do not intend to understand your motives; I can only evaluate what I see in your actions.

The question that comes to mind is an obvious one: if you are a Fox analyst on Catholic matters, wouldn’t you have been the one to have had those “private conversations” on birth control with Mr. Hannity? How about discussions on his abortion exceptions? When you told Sean “in person” that you “disagreed with him,” was it on the issue of birth control? If you had done that, I applaud you, but your powers of persuasion may need a little honing—Sean has only gotten more vocal on this issue over time. If you did not speak to him about his public dissent, then I ask you, “Why?” While we are on the subject, have you also analyzed and disagreed with Bill O’Reilly’s perfectly horrible disdain for the Holy Father and the Church that you represent?

The church sex abuse scandal was not just about homosexual and predatory priests. It was about clerical negligence and silence on issues that not only affect people’s souls but also ruin people’s lives. It is highly unusual that you or anyone else would want a priest to be silent on issues that affect the salvation of souls. We used to recognize “admonishing the sinner” as one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, and I consider my admonishment of Mr. Hannity to have been done in that spirit. I might also add that in doing so I have fulfilled my duty as a priest which is a requirement for my salvation.

As a seminary rector, I would sincerely hope that you are not teaching by word or example the young men in your charge to be politically correct sissies who are afraid to roll up their sleeves and defend the Church in private and in public. We have tons of those types in the clergy already. I would advise you to drink deeply of the wisdom of the Number Two man at our Headquarters who has in no uncertain terms told all of us that high profile dissenters are a scourge and a danger to souls. [See item: “Bertone: Dissident Catholics More Worrying Than Atheists.” http://www.lifesite.net/ldn/2007/jan/07011003.html.]

I wish you fraternal blessings for your priestly work.

Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer
Human Life International

11 comments Add comment

Dave December 16, 2009 at 12:38 pm

It’s sad that they didn’t really debate the issue, which would have been much more interesting than five minutes of mudslinging.

Renee Schafer Horton December 16, 2009 at 12:52 pm

When the priest says that Sean doesn’t believe what the Church teaches, he’s off based. Because, and you ask any priest, even the “traditional” ones, what does someone need to do/believe to be Catholic, and the answer is “The Creed.” birth control is not dogma.

David Brady December 22, 2010 at 10:31 am

In the creed it is stated that I believe in the holy catholic church

Dawn Farias December 16, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Yes, but the Creed includes “And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church,” as something we believe in. “Apostolic” would oblige us to believe in the teachings the church hands down, no? Family planning teachings would be included in that.

I think it’s too hard to argue with someone that gives a false dichotomy on an issue. It’s not fair to force someone into a corner and say “isn’t birth control better than abortion?” As if those are the only two choices we have. We also have the self-control that the priest pointed out and then there’s Taking Care of the Baby!!!!!!! Adoption, too.

I agree about the mudslinging. This wasn’t really a debate. I haven’t followed the link to the interview between the two priests but I think the copied letter was still a little too defensive, not very gracious. Too close to bickering, KWIM?

Thanks for the post.

Matthew Warner December 16, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Renee – Nobody was saying Hannity wasn’t Catholic. It is precisely because he is a publicly professed Catholic that he has a responsibility not to lead other Catholics astray. And your comment, unfortunately, is a case in point. Catholics have been told incorrectly that they can believe whatever they want about contraception. This is not true at all.

Fr. Euteneuer is entirely correct in his position. Fr. Jonathan Morris agrees with this position. Any honest teacher in the Church (including our bishops and Pope) will agree with his position. The Catholic Church authentically and consistently teaches that contraception is gravely immoral. There is no way to reconcile using contraception with being Catholic.

Hannity’s comparison of Natural Family Planning to contraception was just further evidence of his lack of education and embarrassing for him.

This debate was not about whether Hannity is perfect or if Fr. Euteneuer was “judging” him. It’s about Hannity misrepresenting the teaching of the Church and how he has implied or asserted that it is “ok” (and not gravely immoral) to support contraception as a Catholic. He is absolutely wrong about that. If Sean Hannity or any Catholic struggles with this teaching, that doesn’t mean they aren’t Catholic, but it does mean they need to search deeper and make an effort to reconcile themselves with this teaching of the Church. And it is serious sin for sure if they are going to promote contraception or say that it is ever OK. And because it is a public and grave sin that causes public scandal the priest may have an obligation to refuse communion…as Fr. Euteneuer stated.

And the question of whether using contraception is “better” than having an abortion is just an idiotic question by Hannity that further revealed his lack of knowledge on the subject. That’s like saying “wouldn’t you rather people just look at pornography if it keeps them from committing adultery?” Well….I don’t know…but that’s a false hypothetical. The problem is that the acceptance and use of pornography is one of the major contributors to the sexual perversion that leads to adultery. So you are fooling yourself if you think that embracing pornography is going to lead to less adultery. It hasn’t and it won’t.

In the same way, it’s foolish to think that embracing contraception will lead to less abortion. It hasn’t. And it won’t. The more contraception we’ve used the more abortions we’ve had. They are both symptoms of the same problem…disrespect for both the creation of human life and the dignity of the human person.

If you are a Catholic struggling with the Church’s teaching on contraception I would urge you to read more on the subject about why the Church holds, has always held, and will always hold this teaching about contraception. Read what JPII said about it. Read JPII’s Theology of the Body. It is awesome stuff!

And the reason the letter posted by Fr. Euteneuer is “defensive” is because he was criticized harshly by Fr. Morris (in that other link I provided) for the way he handled the situation.

Dan Lower December 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I find it interesting that, on right and left, the immediate response to all correction is just “how dare you judge me?”

bill bannon December 28, 2009 at 10:25 am

Abortion is infallibly condemned in a brief version of the IC ex cathedra formula in section 62 of Evangelium Vitae (though it was not ex cathedra therein but resulted from a polling of all bishops worldwide)…. but birth control has no similar clear and manifest example of being denounced infallibly so as to hold up in an ecclesiastical court on heresy and thus it has never been brought to that arena. That is why no Pope denounces theologians who publically dissented on it in particular whereas they would prosecute a well known theologian who supported abortion publically. What makes Father Enteneuer exaggerate in this area is a consideration that is valid: that some forms of birth control are or might be abortifacient but others like sterilization and condoms are not. The Father is probably borrowing the infallibility of abortion being wrong and he is kind of dragging it over to some forms of birth control being abortive. But there are problems there in that theological journals have raised the problem of the 14 days till twinning wherein the cell can still divide into two persons and we know that one soul cannot divide into two according to Aquinas.
As Ladislaw Orsy has pointed out, John Paul II’s regime and CDF began using the word “definitive” in a new way that made some even in the Church clerical think that birth control fell under infallibility but John Paul’s actions or rather lack of them signalled the opposite. He did not punish any of the very well known theologians (Rahner and Haring) who maintained publically that it was not infallible in the universal ordinary magisterium. Humane Vitae was introduced at its press conference twice as non infallible which conservative writer Fr. Brian Harrison then explained was due to the Monseignor in question speaking on his own and with his comments being later left out of Osservatore Romano…but that paper is now criticized as being liberal by the pro life movement rather than as the source of dogma that Harrison was implying it was. It is rather more credible to believe the obvious…Pope Paul VI who never criticized the Monseignor outside the imaginations of Ermenigildo Lio and Harrison most likely told the Monseignor to say what he said. Overstating the infallible is a habit that goes back centuries in the Church with saints denouncing at one time whole towns for the sin of taking interest on loans. Now when VISA and others are raising slow payers to near 30%….we can’t find a Bishop when we need one to denounce actual usury rather than mistaken usury. In 1520 Pope Leo X denounced in Ex Surge Domine as “against the Catholic Faith” Luther’s statement that burning heretics was against the Holy Spirit. And faithful Catholics at that time sided with Pope Leo X against Luther. And now section 80 of Splendor of the Truth calls torture an intrinsic evil and thus sides with Luther against both Leo X and against the faithful Catholics who followed him. That is just one of many reasons why theologians are not quick to call something infallible even if diocesan priests are quick to do so.

Lucy March 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Mother Theresa said that between abortion and contraception, contraception is the greater evil. This is because it denies the soul it’s creation rather than just denying the souls temporary life here on earth. At least with abortion the soul can spend eternity in bliss with it’s Creator.
In Christ,

Fr. John Primich March 13, 2010 at 9:29 am

Hey Bill,
Just because the prohibition to contraception hasn’t been defined as “Infallible” from the Chair, doesn’t mean that Church’s teaching in this regard isn’t to be held definitively and absolutely (Lumen Gentium 25). The Church’s teaching against contraception is clear and unambiguous. Always has been. Can you offer an official teaching that would call its prohibition into question? No. Therefore, all Catholics must adhere to the Church’s teaching on contraception with the loyal and obedient assent of faith. To publicly speak otherwise would be heretical, that is, against the official teaching of the Catholic Church.

Catholic debating pro-life April 24, 2010 at 11:34 am

That last line of Fr. Euteneur’s made the entire debate. Good for him. Public Catholics have no right to be preaching heresies, not to mention Hannity was being incredibly rude and dominating by not allowing Fr. Euteneur to speak.

Robb June 24, 2010 at 5:47 am

Father was absolutely right and very polite in dealing with the onslaught that is Hannity. Hannity is a creature of the media, and adept @ throwing questions out defensively in machine gun fashion. If you think about that, it is not polite, does not support constructive debate, and it is born from guilt that refuses to listen.
Hannity illustrated an extreme lack of knowledge in our/his church when he mistakenly cited the church with supporting a form of birth control. In truth, I think he realised his mistake because when Father was going to point out his glaring misunderstanding he filled the air with defensive babbling. An ole political trick from a pro.
I’m so tired of public Catholic figures that fill our congress, universities, medical halls, and air waves with their own form of heretic secular humanistic beliefs.
Being a good Catholic ain’t for sissies, stand up and stand for something. Stand up and be a good Catholic!

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