Archbishop Burke, Father Euteneuer, and Catholic Charity

And be it always remembered that the goodness of God is dynamic — it leads to action; it not only fills the soul but it makes the soul love and makes it manifest its love in deeds.
— M. Eugene Boylan, This Tremendous Lover
On January 21, Coach Rick Majerus of Saint Louis University told a pressing radio interviewer during a pro-Hillary Clinton rally, “I’m pro-choice personally.”
Predictably — no doubt as the interviewer hoped — the coach’s remarks set off a flurry of controversy, punctuated by Saint Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke’s immediate response: “It’s not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions . . . which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic church.”
Later, on February 1, during an interview with St. Louis Review, the archbishop used the incident as a springboard to discuss core Catholic teachings and public dissent. He emphasized his desire that Catholics not be scandalized or mislead by public misrepresentations of core Catholic teachings, and that, on the level of dissident persons like Majerus, the figure “first has to be dealt with pastorally.” The archbishop declined to pronounce dramatic disciplinary consequences such as the denial of communion or excommunication, but rather encouraged confused, doubtful, or insolent Catholics “to seek the help of a spiritual director to clarify these things” and to “get the help to rectify your conscience.”
If the matter rested there, within the charitable, uncompromised, and educational contours of the archbishop’s remarks, there would be little to add. Archbishop Burke was, after all, addressing the personal political remarks of a member of the athletics faculty at a college whose president only recently “testified that the university is not owned or controlled by the Roman Catholic Church, the St. Louis archdiocese or any other church and . . . does not require its students or employees to aspire to [Jesuit] ideals or to have any specific religious affiliation.”
But the matter didn’t end there. For reasons both unclear and unfortunate, Coach Majerus’s remarks became fodder for a flurry of Catholic blogging activity — flamed by a quote attributed to Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International:
Rick Majerus is more of a basket case than a basketball coach. His sicknesses all fit so neatly together: He has a modern anti-Catholic “Jesuit” education; he embraces superficial, undigested rhetoric about the issues; he is a jock pretending to be a scientist; and he exhibits a defiant disobedience to religious authority. Dante would have a field day — no pun intended — putting this guy in the pit of hell. He should be excommunicated along with all the Jesuits who “educated” him.
A wide range of Catholic bloggers seized upon Father Euteneuer’s characterization of Coach Majerus and the Jesuits, commending Father for the “Quote of the Day“; for speaking “forcefully on key moral issues, unlike many of the clergy today;” saying “it so well” in a “compact, yet powerful paragraph.” Many other bloggers — including young orthodox Catholics no doubt weary of sharing pews and airwaves with communion-going Clintonian Catholics — picked up and linked to Father Euteneuer’s blast.
Each new blog spot deepened my distress. I nurtured hope that someone would temper the words attributed to Father Euteneuer, particularly calling a baptized member of the Body of Christ “a basket case” with “sicknesses,” “a jock pretending to be a scientist,” and advocating that he be put “in the pit of hell” and “excommunicated.” But the words spread and echoed through the Internet — like an ivy overtaking and choking Archbishop Burke’s tone and message, threatening to poison our theological concept of Catholic charity.
I contacted Father Euteneuer and his organization several times, requesting a confirmation or a clarification of the quote, but I received no response. I waited, hoping that the personal attack on Coach Majerus, attributed to a priest I so admire, was a mistake taken out of context, or mistyped by busy bloggers. But Father’s words continue to circulate, unchecked and unquestioned.
Father Euteneuer’s response to Coach Majerus’s remarks contrasts notably with Archbishop Burke’s own remarks. While both clerics object to Majerus’s public expression of heretical opinion, their responses model very different attitudes for lay people, like me, who live in daily contact with confused and defiant members of the Church. The archbishop’s reaction offers a model of charity to which we should aspire. Meanwhile, Father Euteneuer’s name-calling and public condemnation seem inconsistent with the behavior to which we are called as Christians, whether we are in face-to-face conversation, on the Internet, or in prayer.
Here is the concern: What is Father’s larger cyber-message to faithful Catholics — to stressed, often disheartened, even cranky Catholics like me who must daily commune with “pro-choice” Catholics, daily begging God for patience and sustenance to have The Discussion just one more time? Is Father saying, “You don’t have to do that, Marjorie — go ahead, in the name of admonition, you can name-call, tell your neighbor she is going to hell, demand her excommunication along with the parish priest who gives her communion each Sunday”? Is Father Euteneuer modeling evangelical behavior for me and other lay Catholics? 


First, a word about charity: I’m not talking about a “let’s feel good” hand-holding Kumbaya, a prolonged Hug of Peace, or a Lenten Rice Bowl Box for hungry children you never have to look in the eye. Charity inspires such acts for the good, I’m sure. But as Boylan notes, real charity requires more, for “what we do to our fellow members is done to Him — for they are His Body.” Like it or not, the Coach Majeruses in my world are part of His Body, and I must treat them charitably, which “does not compel us to like people, but love them. And love is an act of the will wishing one well.” It is, as Archbishop Burke framed the challenge, speaking truth with love — even to (maybe mostly to) people living in grave error.
Second, practicing charity does not mean behaving like “politically correct sissies” — a term coined by Father Euteneuer — nor does it mean being dishonest about Church teachings, or failing to admonish. I doubt anyone would accuse Archbishop Burke of being a sissy, or soft-pedaling Church doctrine to spare the feelings of the rich and famous. Yet, in all of his political controversies, Archbishop Burke has focused on the celebrity’s “error,” its consequences, and its redeemable nature in his public statements. As the archbishop described his pastoral approach, “It’s not a matter of calling people on the carpet, but of calling Catholics to conscience.”
Finally, I imagine trying to incorporate Father Euteneuer’s comments on Majerus into my prayer life. Could I, with charity, pray to God during my weekly Adoration visit that He excommunicate and send to hell my “basket case,” “sick” Catholic neighbor who supports Hillary Clinton’s pro-choice platform? And if I could not utter this “prayer” for my neighbor, how could I pen it for consumption by the Catholic blogging world? Archbishop Burke’s model better comports with our call to charity. Again, Boylan: “Fraternal charity is necessary for living membership of Christ . . . . Such charity is necessary if we to pray in the name of Jesus. It is only when we are united to the rest of His members by charity that we truly can pray in His name.”
Perhaps we all are learning — Father Euteneuer, as well — that our Internet blogs and posts easily pass beyond our control and spread like a contagion. The practice of true charity starts in the heart — as the Little Flower urged, it “consists in bearing with all the defects of our neighbor, in not being surprised at his failings, and in being edified by his least virtues.” If we start there, then, we can follow Archbishop Burke’s example: that it should be us, above all, who speak truth with love and who model charity toward those gravely mistaken about core Catholic teachings.

Click here to read Human Life International’s response. 



Marjorie Campbell


Marjorie Campbell is an attorney and speaker on social issues from a Catholic perspective. She lives in San Francisco with her family and writes a regular column, "On the Way to the Kingdom," for Catholic Womanhood at CNA.

  • Jay Anderson

    “If the matter rested there, within the charitable, uncompromised, and educational contours of the archbishop’s remarks, there would be little to add… But the matter didn’t end there. For reasons both unclear and unfortunate, Coach Majerus’s remarks became fodder for a flurry of Catholic blogging activity …”

    I agree that charity should reign on the blogosphere when commenting about these situations. And I agree that Fr. Euteneuer’s comments are quite unfortunate in this regard. But I’m a little confused by some aspects of your column.

    First is the timeline. You attribute Abp. Burke’s declining to “pronounce dramatic disciplinary consequences such as the denial of communion or excommunication” to his Feb. 1 interview with the St. Louis Review, and then go on to say that the matter should have ended there, but didn’t. But, in fact, most of the blogging activity on this story (including the posts to which you link) took place BEFORE the Archbishop’s Feb. 1 interview.

    Second, you left out a key part of the story to which most bloggers were responding: Majerus’ defiant rejoinder to Abp. Burke’s immediate response that “It’s not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions . . . which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic church.” Majerus’ rejoinder, which, among other things, demonized the Archbishop for upsetting Majerus’ “elderly mother” who was afraid her son would be excommunicated or denied Communion, was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Jan. 23. THAT’S what many if not most bloggers were responding to.

    Third, the vast majority of blogging I saw on the subject was completely without reference to Fr. Euteneuer’s comments (I didn’t even know of them until now). Your column gives the impression that it is unfortunate that ANYONE blogged on this story for ANY reason, and implies that all the bloggers who did so are tainted by association with Fr. Euteneuer’s intemperate remarks. In fact, there was much responsible blogging that focused on (1) defending the Archbishop’s perogatives in this situation rather than on telling the Archbishop what he “ought” to do, and/or (2) the political aspects of a prominent Catholic voting for a candidate precisely BECAUSE that candidate is pro-abortion and pro-ESCR. Surely that is fair game for Catholic blogs.

    The fact is, when a Catholic with a public persona uses his or her celebrity and/or position at a Catholic institution to call into question the Church’s teaching or to publicly defy his Bishop, that is going to draw fire from the blogosphere. One would hope, however, that your call for charitable commentary would prevail and that bloggers wouldn’t act as combox pontiffs pronouncing excommunication upon the offending party.

  • Carol McKinley

    Are you the same woman who did a blog about fat people and people with pimples disgusting you?

  • Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    I think we should take Fr. Euteneuer’s comments in the context of the horrible crime that Mr. Majerus is publicly defending. There is little civility and far more less charity in cutting a living, defenseless human being to pieces. It was John Paul II who publicly called the maffiosi assasins of a judge “maledetti” (accursed).
    I would call that and Fr. Euteneuer’s response, manly expressions of righteous ire.

    Mr. Majerus is a Catholic, an American and, a sportsman. None of those three professions seem to me compatible with the dismembering of live babies. If Mr. Majerus had praised lynching or wife-beating no one would have condemned a priest for calling him a ruffian. Coaches often scream in strong language to wake up a slacking or non-performing team member. In my view Fr. Euteneuer is entitled to use a little strong language to wake up the senses of any of us who could be hurting the team. Mr. Majerus is a big guy and he can take it without hiding behind Mom’s skirts.

  • Mike Smith

    You can run your mouth all you want to about “charity” and forget that in the end we are all either going to heaven or hell. There is no in between. There are no second chances. Once dead, the die is cast. The Archbishop is full aware of that, yet is trying to give the coach just “One more chance!” Perhaps his approach is the right one. Perhaps Fr. Euteneuer has run out of patience. The only thing that really matters is IF the coach– and the many others he and other cafeteria catholics scandalaize— will wake up before it is too late.

  • Tim Lang

    Well put Carlos.

  • Marjorie Campbell

    Carlos, I don’t doubt Coach Majerus is a big guy who can take it – given what he obviously can dish out and his apparent acceptance of women choosing to kill their in utero young. Maybe Father’s remarks are made in “tough coach” mode – but is the public forum the right place for such an exchange? Just as Archbishop Burke must respond to remarks like Coach Majerus’ so that faithful Catholics are not mislead doctrinally, so, too, shouldn’t our clerics engage dissidents in a manner and tone that does not mislead faithful Catholics? I interact on a daily basis with church-going Catholics who are gravely in error about more than one teaching. Can I follow Father’s example in my response to them?

  • Deacon Frank Osgood


    I sympathize with your concern. I know from your piece that you would agree that speaking with charity does not mean responding weakly or in a wishy-washy manner. While I would not respond with the language of Father Euteneuer, perhaps the distress caused the coach’s mother will work to God’s purposes. Perhaps her distress will work to penetrate the coach’s defenses. God’s ways are mysterious and often unexpected.

    The right response for the rest of us in the trenches in the pro-life struggle is somewhere in between that of the ArchBishop and that of Father Euteneuer.

    Recently I preached a homily that included: “Our families, and especially our children, are being threatened by the same evil forces that later threatened the life of the baby Jesus and forced the Holy Family to flee to Egypt, that eventually crucified Jesus. That evil force that is determined to eliminate Christ from the daily lives of our people and eliminate him from our nation

  • Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    Marjorie, I am sure Fr. Euteneuer has the same right to express his feelings as any of us. The public forum was chosen by Mr. Majerus and not by Father. Once on the field one can expect to be bruised. Lack of civility and manners during a discussion on religion and politics! I am shocked! (o:”

    This is a personal issue of mine: I wish the men in our Church would behave more like John Paul II and Fr. Euteneuer. For a troglodyte masculine mind such as mine, this is an exchange between two men that are in the business of forming young men.

    If someone like Father would have formed the mind of young Coach Majerus, he would have learned his faith well. He would also have trained his own wits to submit to–and trust–the wisdom of the Church instead of the passing fads promoted by the culture of death. Just like he expects his boys to trust his instructions in the heat of the game and not those shouted by someone in the bleachers.

    I think those young people listening to this public dialogue got a better sense of the issue by the urgency and forcefulness of Fr. Euteneuer’s words. Even if the tone was a bit too harsh for some ears.

  • Carol

    “but is the public forum the right place for such an exchange”

    Unless Christ was unChristlike when he commissioned St. John the Baptist and called him the greatest man who ever lived – the answer to that question is “yes”.

    In spiritual warfare – many vocations are needed, many ways of saying delivering the same message – from pablum to parables to “get away from me Satan” or “don’t give pearls to swine”.

    There is a general mistake attached to the sin of pride which tends to puff up it’s victim by counseling that they are the sole entity and vocation of the Mystical Body of Christ – and above the mission of witness of Christ Himself.

  • Marjorie Campbell

    Carlos, I’ve heard before this defense of the “masculine tone”. A very mellow priest in my parish suddenly stopped his homily at the packed Mass for the 8th grade confirmation candidates, went dead silent and then barked, “Are you done? Are you going to listen now?” I nearly crawled under the pew, I was so mortified. After the Mass, all the Dads were delighted because, it turned out, a few of the boys were playing grab-butt in the pew and Father got pissed. Fair enough. I get this entirely – and I know the boys got it! But I think we are all called to practice charity – even Christ’s verbal lashings of the Pharisees focused on their refusal to “see” and their preoccupation with their own righteousness, right? After all, the point is to keep people moving along their potential path for conversion, not blast them out of the forum with verbal attacks on their person, even if we don’t like them personally. Thank you for your comments.

  • Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    Marjorie, you are right: ‘the point is to keep people moving along their path for conversion’. Attacks on the person at fault are out of the question. I think John Mallon’s response puts it much better than I could. Blunt and imperfect as we are we have been trusted with the task of helping each other to reach Heaven. Thankfully salvation does not depend completely on our efforts. Coach will reflect on his words and Father will polish his delivery for the next time. I for one hope to play a game in Heaven–with both of them–one day. I hope also to see those babies that were never born cheering on from the bleachers, full of the radiant energy of the abundant life.

    Thank you for your engaging article. God Bless.

  • Steve Skojec

    I’d have left my comments on this issue here, but they were too lengthy. I’ve posted them on the Inside Blog.

  • Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    Typos galore: I meant to write “harsh”. My fingers decided to butcher the English language one more time.

  • Dave

    “even Christ’s verbal lashings of the Pharisees focused on their refusal to “see” and their preoccupation with their own righteousness, right?”

    Christ had a lot more verbal lashings than the one you mention. Maybe in your view, Christ was a sinner?

  • Tito of Custos Fidei

    I would have to agree with the facts presented by Jay here. This is the first time I heard of Fr. Eteneur’s remarks and the Catholic blogosphere was all over coach Majerus prior to the statement released by the good Archbishop Burke.

    This ‘sounds’ like a disguised attack on the ‘orthodox’ side of the blogosphere by trying to tie Father E’s remarks to the reaction by the blogosphere- which would be poor journalism to say the least.

    I almost felt like I was reading the National Catholic Reporter, not Inside Catholic which I literally link to daily on almost all of there wonderful articles.

    I hope you (Marjorie) aren’t trying to drive your ‘liberal(?)’ agenda by portraying us orthodox as reactionary neanderthals.

    Tito, a faithful reader of Inside Catholic

  • Marjorie Campbell

    To Jay of “Your column gives the impression that it is unfortunate that ANYONE blogged on this story for ANY reason” and Tito of “This ‘sounds’ like a disguised attack on the ‘orthodox’ side of the blogosphere” – I am so often attacked for my orthodoxy your comments surprised me. I regret any impression my article makes (1) that orthodox Catholics should not be blogging on public controversies, (2) that any orthodox blogging on Coach Majerus associates itself with Father’s comments and (3) that I am a liberal – none of these are true, which my posts at http://www.dealwhudson.typepad and my personal Bloglines menu demonstrate. Faithful Catholic blogging is one of the most powerful tools for re-evangelizing the world – and civility toward each other allows us to most thoughfully and productively engage. I hope that clarifies and I can go back to my – as Steve put it over at the blog – “hand-wringing”, over how to most effectively evangelize my many fellow Catholics here in San Francisco who live in grave error on abortion and other core teachings. Thank you for your comments. I would also appreciate your prayers.

  • Carlos Caso-Rosendi

    I can attest to Marjorie’s impeccable non-liberal credentials and I must add that my defense of Fr. Euteneuer is by no means in disagreement with the careful and precise exposition made by Monsignor Burke in this case. I am also grateful that I finally learned to spell Fr. Euteneuer’s last name correctly after writing it several times. Sometimes we must have exchanges like this to learn to listen (or rather read) carefully and to learn the dynamics of a charitable exchange. God Bless.

  • Virgil

    I must admit to being a little puzzled. There seems to be a lot of uncharitable high strung drama in Marjorie’s writings against many people.

    So, when it’s time to be charitable, take the words of a priest and elevate them to the level of hysteria, mischaracterize them, attribute malice from them and incite ill will against him in a public forum?

    Yes, how nicely Steve’s words are exaggerated and ever so gently, the knife goes in the back, publicly.

    Sorry, but the whole thing seems duplicitous.

  • Jay Anderson

    For the record, I never thought you to be a “liberal”. I was more interested in clarifying that most of the blogging on the Majerus matter didn’t even touch on Fr. Euteneuer’s comments. Hope there was no misunderstanding.

  • Mary Alexander

    And I object even to the euphemism “in utero young”. Too abstract.

    You have a coach employed by a Catholic high school who chooses to publicly promote babykilling.

    If it were killing the jews would there be the same plea for misguided civility?

    If it were killing black people would there be restraint exercised in admonishing Majerus?

    Our Lord called the Pharisees you whited sepulchres. And yes that was charity.Because it was the truth.

  • Ed

    What if Father Euteneuer’s comments effected the coaches conversion of heart and led him to repentence…would Father’s words be perceived differently. I seem to recall a certian Jesus Christ using very caustic words…calling people vipers…Satan…So what if Fr. Euteneuer called the coach “Satan” would that be alright? The problem with the Church is that for 40 years it has led to the feminization of men. But I wouldn’t expect a woman to get it.

  • Marjorie Campbell

    I share your despair and outrage over the daily slaughter of the unborn, which Mother Teresa called “the greatest destroyer of love and peace” – and I often lack charity in my thoughts towards those who participate in this death industry. Father Drinan comes to mind, so, too, Francis Kissling. As Virgil noted, I do sometimes write of my own struggle with such feelings that can lead me toward bitterness and blame and away from conforming myself to God. But I have no struggle of any nature toward Father Euteneuer; as I stated in the article, I admire him. In fact, I admire him quite a lot and learned a great deal from him about exorcisms and his bravery in confronting demons to free a possessed soul to serve God. Maybe, as Ed suggests, I can’t understand men and don’t recognize Father’s public words as an effective call to repentance. This may be true, as I noted in my post above. Having heard Father speak, I can certainly understand calling forth the demon from possession of a person as Church ritual provides. But calling the person “Satan” himself (as Ed posits) or giving up on a soul and publicly calling for his excommunication (the most dire of canonical penalties which is always to be avoided until pastoral methods fail) – these seem severe and, notably, not in line with Coach Majerus’ own bishop – to whom the enforcement of canonical penalties would fall. This said, my own question was directed not at Father’s motives or even effectiveness, but at whether we, as laity, can derive guidance in our own daily dealings with Catholics in grave error. It is perhaps my own struggles with charity that make Archbishop Burke’s example the more challenging – and I think better – one to follow.

  • Joe

    Two main threads that jump out to me from Mrs. Campbell’s article and the ensuing reactions:

    1) Abortion, and
    2) Charity

    I honestly believe that the author’s main point is about charity, and not abortion. If you pull out all of the emotionally charged dialogue on abortion, you will hear a wonderful message about charity. And the message is “When someone preaches or practices evil, don’t respond with evil; respond with charity.” And yes, there are many instances in scripture that you can quote where an “eye for an eye” is demonstrated. But there are even more instances, with greater impact in scripture that teach “turn the other cheek” and “treat others as you would treat me”.

    So my two pennies are that the REAL message is has NOTHING to do with abortion, but rather is charity is love… respond with love, even to those that do the evil of abortion…. and that is VERY hard to do when the evil is so terrible…

  • Ed

    I agree with Joe; the issue is one of charity. But the real problem I have is that charity…love… have since the the 60’s been confused with having a soft, ‘feeling’ approach to matters (especially those moral) with a tug at the heart strings. This gets translated as something we tell our children…”Be nice to Johnny.” Note that mothers are more like to tell this to their children than fathers. While mother’s message is important, we have in our cultural world left no room for what father has to say to Johnny which is “Get with it, boy..get back on track…you need to straighten out.” Mother then pipes up, “George, be gentle with the boy.”
    No, charity sometimes means saying exactly what the truth calls for; it ‘calls a spade a spade.’ You get the unvarnished truth. The Church for the past forty years has had plenty of ‘pussy-footing’ around and we need to end it. People’s salvation is at stake. Let’s not forget it unless we believe that everyone’s salvation is already assured.

  • TwoCentsWorth

    Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Lincoln, Nebraska, publicly gave pro baby killing politicians and their supporters, and all those who were against the Church’s teachings, 30 days to retract, repent and convert from their “liberal” ways or be excommunicated. Was he being uncharitable to them, or was he imposing this extreme, last-resort penalty to wake them up, make them aware their souls’ salvation was in jeopardy of eternal damnation? Excommunication is not a condemnation, not a sentence to hell, but for a wake-up call to repentence and conversion to God. If the bishops had used the great power of their office, the holocaust of millions of God’s innocent unborn children would have been saved and abortion, homosexual unions, embryonic stem cell research and all the attending evils, would be a mere footnote in history rather than a call for the Arm of God’s Justice to chastise the world.