The Network Gone Wrong
Goes Wrong… Again
by Christopher A. Ferrara
September 12, 2012
One of the realities that prompted me to write EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong six years ago is that EWTN’s roster of celebrities is curiously prone to scandal. Here is a list of major EWTN celebrities who have bitten the dust since 1998, which I have discussed elsewhere:
In 1998, Father Ken Roberts, a hugely popular EWTN celebrity and an avid promoter of the phony apparitions at Medjugorje — misleading countless souls — was removed from the network and all material related to him was expunged from EWTN’s website after his suspension from the priesthood on account of allegations involving the sexual molestation of minors.
In 2002, Father John Bertolucci, another EWTN superstar and proponent of the pan-Christian “Catholic Charismatic Renewal” — a clear threat to the integrity of the Faith — was expunged from the network without comment after he was identified by the infamous Bishop Hubbard as one of twenty child-molester priests in the Diocese of Albany.
In 2007, Father Francis Mary Stone, the immensely popular host of EWTN’s crass and often morally offensive, rock-and-roll-themed youth show, “Life on the Rock” (discussed extensively in Chapter 15 of my book), left the network in disgrace and then the priesthood after announcing his love affair with a widow. When last seen on the Internet, he was peddling a nutrition drink called Zrii under the name Dave Stone, shamelessly using the slogan “living life on the rock.”
In 2009, the aptly named Father Alberto Cutié, EWTN’s telegenic Hispanic heartthrob who “reach[ed] millions of households throughout the United States, Canada, Spain and Latin America on EWTN Español,” left EWTN and then the Catholic Church after photos of him groping a married, bikini-clad woman on a beach surfaced in a Spanish-language tabloid. He married the woman and became an Episcopalian priest.
In 2010, Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, former head of Human Life International and a fixture in EWTN’s video and audio programming, left the network and resigned from HLI after he admitted to “violating the boundaries of chastity with an adult female who was under my spiritual care” — meaning his “exorcism ministry.” Euteneuer maintained that the “vast majority” of his decisions and conduct had been “morally sound and consistent with all standards of pastoral care of persons.” The parents of the young woman Euteneuer admitted to violating, however, say they are aware of two other victims.
Then, in 2011, Fr. John Corapi, perhaps the single biggest celebrity in EWTN’s history, was removed from the network after an investigative panel appointed by his order alleged continuing sexual improprieties, drug abuse, and a lavish lifestyle contrary to his vow of poverty (to which the order, it must be said, had previously failed to object). As I noted in a column for The Remnant, in response to the report Corapi “issued an evasive non-denial and purported to ‘resign’ from the priesthood rather than contest the charges against him. ‘That era of my life is sadly ended,’ he said, speaking of his sacred priesthood as if it were a job opportunity that had reached an unfortunate dead end.” I further noted that “Shortly thereafter Corapi appeared in a video on his [now defunct] website wearing a leather Harley Davidson jacket, his head shaven and his gray beard dyed black, to announce that he would pursue an Internet career under the bizarre moniker ‘Black SheepDog.’”
Now, as John Vennari has put it, “another one bites the dust.” As Catholic News Agency (CNA) has reported, Franciscan friar Father Benedict Groeschel — whose heterodox ramblings before EWTN cameras were the subject of Chapter 8 of my book on the “Network Gone Wrong” — has “stepped down as host of EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime television show following his apology for making comments about the sexual abuse of minors.” Groeschel was sacked after he declared during an interview in the neo-Catholic newspaper National Catholic Register (published Aug. 27) that “a minor is ‘the seducer’ in ‘a lot’ of sexual abuse cases” and that “he was inclined to think that abusers on their first offense should not go to jail ‘because their intention was not committing a crime.’”
EWTN president Michael P. Warsaw told CNA that “It should have been obvious to the editor [of the National Catholic Register] that Father Benedict’s physical condition and mental clarity have deteriorated and that the comments were completely inconsistent with his life’s work and witness.”
Well, we are all subject to the frailties of advancing age, and it is certainly true that Father Groeschel’s performance on EWTN has been declining since my book appeared. But there is nothing to indicate that what Fr. Groeschel said did not reflect what he actually believed at the time he said it. A lack of mental clarity is not the same as a loss of reason. Unless EWTN is going to claim that Fr. Grosechel has lost his mind and does not even know what he is saying at this point in his life, what is their explanation for the scandal he has caused? Indeed, if this was merely an inadvertent misstatement, why was Fr. Groeschel sacked?
This is not the end of the line of EWTN celebrities who are prone to fall from scandal. Consider, for example, EWTN celebrity Father Robert Sirico, who managed to be ordained a priest in the 1980s despite his openly acknowledged and publicly reported past as a “gay Protestant minister,” following his apostasy from the Catholic faith of his youth. On April 21, 1975, Sirico “made the annals of ‘gay’ history as a pioneer ‘gay rights’ activist when he performed the first same-sex ‘marriage’ in the United States of two male homosexuals with a civil marriage license at the First Unitarian Church of Denver, Colo.”
Fr. Sirico’s militant homosexual past is meticulously documented here, and is essentially admitted entirely by Sirico himself here, yet today he is a regular political commentator on Catholic social issues for EWTN. With supreme irony, Sirico’s commentary was solicited by EWTN talking head Raymond Arroyo during the same episode of The World Over — EWTN’s pretentious, simulated “big time” news show — during which Arroyo announced the removal of Father Corapi from the network.
Has EWTN lost its collective mind? Sirico may have repented for his sins, but how could those responsible for EWTN’s content think that a network that holds itself out as the gold standard of conservative Catholicism can simply overlook his utterly abominable past? No one whose résumé includes a career as a militant homosexual activist and “gay man” should have been ordained to the priesthood in the first place. Of all the intelligent priests available for commentary on affairs of the day, this is the man they choose? What is going on here?
Since my book was published, I have had communications from EWTN insiders who warned me that I don’t know the half of what has gone wrong at the network. I suspect that they are right, and that my book only scratched the surface of the problem. Yet the propagandists of the neo-Catholic establishment, led by EWTN, cluck their tongues at Father Nicholas Gruner, who has honored his vows and kept the Faith unswervingly. Such is the “diabolical disorientation” that afflicts the human element of the Church today, to quote Sister Lucia of Fatima once again.