Hannity and Repentance

It was three years ago this week that I sat before the Secular Tribunal of Mr. Sean Hannity in a Fox News interview and inadvertently became the whipping boy for the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception. In times past, the enemies of the Church would whip and hang a faithful Catholic from a platform with a piece of cord before an angry mob. Nowadays, the whiplashing is more like a tongue-lashing and is carried out on an electronic stage with an audience of millions. I am so happy to prove my love for the Church, though, by getting whipped for the Faith – and I would do it again without hesitation!

Despite the overwhelming attention that I received as a result, this was never about me, nor Mr. Hannity. It was and is about the basic honesty of Catholics with regard to their own Faith and the responsibility of priests (every last one of us!) to teach, uphold, and defend that Faith until our dying breath! Fidelity to the teachings of the Church is nothing less than fidelity to Christ. We are not free as Catholics to just pick and choose what parts of Christ’s teaching we want to adhere to and which ones we want to ignore, cast aside, or – as in the case of Mr. Hannity – to mock and dismiss as outdated and impractical. We are free to leave the Church, though, if we disagree with its teachings. That would be the honest thing to do. What is intolerable to faithful Catholics is the disingenuousness of those who enjoy all the privileges of being Catholic, but who feel no obligation to embrace the responsibilities of our Faith. This was what the Hannity interview highlighted, and it is an endemic problem in our Church.

Generations of martyrs made a much greater sacrifice for their beliefs than those who are inconvenienced by the prohibition on contraception. As the English martyr, St. John Noughton, stood at the gallows with the rope around his neck, he said, “I am bound in conscience and am ready and willing to suffer every kind of torture rather than deny a doctrine of the Church.” Wow! That is Catholic fidelity and integrity to the limit.

Perhaps better known is the story of his fellow martyr, St. Thomas More, who died essentially because the pope wouldn’t issue an annulment to the murderous Henry VIII. The issue of who exactly would control the Church in England was based on Henry’s adamant rejection of the Church’s – that is, Christ’s – teaching on marriage. Less than five hundred years later, Henry’s Anglican church is in utter disarray on all the issues of marriage and human sexuality precisely because of the original dishonesty upon which it was founded. Such chaos is the inevitable result of any church’s betrayal of Christ’s teaching.

This same rejection of centuries-old, well-articulated, infallible teaching is what we are faced with in modern America. We have to admit that the failure of millions of Catholics to uphold and live according to the truths of our Faith has led us down the heinous path of rampant promiscuity and institutionalized child-killing. “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” said the Lord and added, rhetorically, “but what if salt goes flat?” That’s a good question! If Catholics alone would have been strictly faithful to our own doctrine in the last half century, we would have preserved our society from the degraded culture of promiscuity and death that we lament today. Alas, Catholics who preserve themselves from childbearing rather than preserve the moral integrity of our society have betrayed Christ in His deepest agony since the Garden. Because we let the pagans break down the walls of faith and morality, all families in our country, our own included, are rendered vulnerable to the pernicious culture of death. We did it to ourselves.

Perhaps the most disappointing part of that Hannity interview was the way in which Fr. Jonathan Morris, Fox News priest advisor, defended Mr. Hannity in his dissent against a Catholic priest who was actually defending the orthodox teaching of the Church. The priestly sell-out on contraception and church discipline is a painful corollary to Hannity’s lay dissent. The shameful silence of the clergy on the issue of Catholic morality in the era when it has been most needed is an insufferable failure of those responsible for being its guardians. We will be for generations digging ourselves out of this clerical mess, and although the tides are indeed turning toward greater orthodoxy in the clergy, the damage has been done, and priests bear the lion’s share of the blame for the degradation of the moral fabric of our world.

As the years go on, and especially during this Lenten season, I hope that the Hannity interview will be a clarion call to Catholics urging them on to greater fidelity to Christ. And, no, Mr. Hannity did not respond to my request to meet after the interview, nor has he revisited the issue in any way since that time. I still pray for him and hope for his conversion. What I hope and pray for even more is a total return to fidelity of all Catholics to the Truth on the critical issues of life, marriage and family, and the sacrificial commitment that alone will bring America out of its moral decay.

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  • smillerone

    Fr. E.,

    I recall seeing the interview. Your overall point is well made. I truly appreciate your courage defending the proper doctrinal teaching of the Church, and I too mourn the fact that other Catholics publicly scandalize the faith. However, I must also say that I thought you handled the interview poorly. You are not alone. It seems that most of our faithful Catholic clergy get their bells rung in T.V. interviews and probably should locate/recommend faithful catholics who are more gifted in such a setting to provide a proper apologetic defense. T.V. interviews are not the same as writing articles or teaching in parishes or at conferences. One must understand the medium well and be prepared (anticipate) all the dynamics of liimited time, the type of interviewer, and the “key” synthesized points that will “speak” to persons who are the intended audience. Put simply, you entered a battle on a field and against an opponent you were not prepared to engage. You were simply out of your element. I say this not to hurt you, but it is the truth. I witnessed it. You were on defense rather than on offense and made to look foolish along with the Church. Finally, you needed to remain positive and even seek to get Mr. H. to invite you back again on the same or other subjects. Instead, the interview was a hostile meltdown looking like Custer’s Last Stand. I say all this in charity and utmost respect for all the good work you do in the Pro-Life movement. Given your important leadership and high profile in the pro-life movement, you should strongly consider having another person (priest, deacon, layperson) who is comfortable and well-versed with the medium of television handle such engagements. We all have different gifts and talents. This is why large organizations have spokespersons who specialize in handling media. This is also what the Second Vatican Council was speaking about regarding the Church’s response modern communications. We need to “get in the game” so to speak to so the Truth can be heard. I hope you are well. God bless you for your vocation to the Church and the defense of life you tirelessly promote.

  • fatherjo

    I saw the interview also. I think Fr. Euteneuer did great under the circumstances. Sean Hannity was bloviating and flaunting his ignorance of Church teaching. He very much forced Fr. E. into a corner. I think Fr. E. comported himself and spoke very well in comparison. If Hannity were really interested in Church teaching, he would invite Fr. Euteneuer back and stop talking long enough to let him speak.

  • My Jesus Mercy

    Right on as usual, Fr. Euteneur! I’m whistling loudly! Amen!

  • I have a confession to make. I listen to talk radio, and I enjoy it. I like it when Rush and Hannity play agent provacateur, say outrageous things, and deliberately sow a discord that jolts people out of their comfortable assumptions. I haven’t seen the Hannity interview in question but I have heard of it before. I am inclined to be unimpressed with Sean in the future. I do not like dissenting Catholics, especially dissenting Catholics who disrespect the priesthood.

    The problem as I see it is that Hannity, Rush, et al. have a political and not a sacramental view of reality. They see life as a maelstrom of conflicting opinions and forces with power being the final arbiter of all disagreement. Catholics are to see the deeper, sacramental reality, that Christ lived, died, and rose again to redeem humankind. The truth, as it has been said, is neither liberal nor conservative; it is a Person, a Man who is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.” When you start to see things this way, the whole picture changes, and talk radio becomes just for fun.

  • chelseaz

    No, smillerone, if anyone was defensive in that interview it was Sean Hannity who went on the attack, bringing up totally unrelated things like the priest sex-abuse scandal, to divert attention away from himself and the argument at hand. He conducted himself like a child and is the one who ended up looking foolish not Fr. Euteneuer.

  • goral

    Gold medal (crown) for Fr. Euteneuer. I don’t know how one can defend the counter-culture teachings of the Catholic Church and come off looking like a rock star in the nat’l media. In this Lenten season we can see that Jesus could not pull it off in the Roman theatre either. If we modern Catholics were there in person we would run away in fear and embarrassment. We would have enlisted Hannity or Hannibal to give us the upper hand.

    Not doable folks, the Church’s position is scandalous and stupid to the modern media in which Catholics play a major role. The majority of them are obligated to Caesar and must mouth – crucify Him!

  • mallys

    I heard the interview on the radio. Every time, since that interview, that Sean Hannity says (in any context) that he is a Catholic, I think:

    “You are a ‘Catholic’ that disrespected a priest who was teaching Catholic doctrine –in public. You obviously have not confessed it, because absolution would have depended on an equally public apology. You are the same as Martin Luther and every other Protestant that has put his own judgment above the Church’s teaching!”

    I also agree with those who have said that Hannity went in with a political agenda, and it wasn’t putting Catholic doctrine, in all its beauty, before the public. He is every bit as cafeteria as the Kennedys, just on different issues (and every bit as ready to proclaim himself Catholic). They all forget that Catholic is creed and practice, both essential, each upholding the other. Catholic practice without belief is superstition, Catholic belief without practice in prayer and works is dead, as St. James said.

  • teomatteo

    Fr. Euteneuer,
    Your witness to our faith cannot go unheard. “For i came into the world to judge the world, so that those who are blind may see, and those that see may be made blind.” I will pray for all of us that wish to remain blind. Father Euteneur, we need you to lead us in our darkness….amen

  • slashorn

    Interesting comments. However, I would be careful on the disingenuousness charge. Sts. John Houghton and Thomas More were not martyred because of the general “doctrines of the CHurch” but because they refused to swear to the oath of supremecy. Moreover, we should not confuse dogma with doctrine – one is a matter of faith, the other a matter of Church teaching that is to inform our faith.

    If we judge without wisdom, then we become the new pharisees. Which would be bad. As Christ warns: “The Pharisees have sitten in the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say and do not. For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them.” See Matthew, 23:1-8.

    I am just saying.

  • neiders

    I saw that interview and was yet again compelled to write Hannity about his one from column A, one from column B, form of Catholicism. He has taken this type of stand on other doctrinal issues and I have written him, that it is not a religion of convenience or flexible teachings.
    He needs conversion of heart in order for his faith to become more than just a tool he uses for his own purposes. What a powerful advocate he could really be, should this ever happen. Let’s pray!

  • liturgylover

    Wow! I did not hear nor see the interview in question. In the past, I have seen both Clergy and non-Clergy abused and embarrassed by other “Catholic” journalists who openly and wantonly seek only to discredit and make a mockery of the Church to which they purport to belong in order to push their personal agendas and viewpoints. My reply however is in response to smillerone. If you were truly sincere that your remarks were said “in charity and (with)utmost respect” for Fr E, you would have addressed them in private rather than in this public forum for God and all the world to see. Smillerone’s comments call to mind a passage from this past Saturday’s Gospel, Lk 18:11 “….O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity….” Simllerone’s comments are no better than Hannity’s attack of Fr E.

  • jkerekes

    I cringe when I think about that interview! Hannity didn’t want to listen at all–if I remember correctly. Sean Hannity does not agree with the teaching of the Church on contraception, period. He chose to air his views publicly, more than once. When Fr. E. went on Hannity’s show to explain the teaching, Hannity snapped back with: ” I was in the seminary”(or something like that). Hannity’s view is against Church teaching–and he is very public about it. Hannity was not confused about the teaching, he was very much against the teaching. I found Hannity’s treatment of Fr. E. completely shameful. I hope that Hannity’s pastor and/or bishop have met with him. Keep teaching Fr. E. You are in our prayers!

  • irenaeus

    I dont know what that smillerone poster is talking about. I thought Fr. Euteneuer did great. He composed himself, while Hannity looked positively unhinged.

    Fr E. – You are my hero! The courage you showed in defending the Church was truly inspiring!

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    Thomas More went to the scaffold because he refused to recognize the King of England as final arbiter in matters of faith and morals. The oath he refused was of that nature. Had the oath avoided matters of faith and morals – which always pertain to doctrine – Sir Thomas could have sworn to it without compromising his faith. The Church encourages patriotic loyalty. What his most interesting about More’s story is that most of the English bishops and clergy assumed that the difficulties with Henry would eventually blow over. They expected Henry to be reconciled with the Church. Whatever the difficulties with Henry’s marriage, they expected a near-term and amenable resolution. They even had good reason – as Henry did – to be deadly concerned about the lack of a male heir. At the time, a male heir represented the most clear-cut line to a political successor, and doubts about succession in the Tudor line had led to war in the living memory of some people of the time. Clement VII knew it, too. You can tell from Hillaire Belloc’s sketch in Characters of the Reformation that Clement only reluctantly denied Henry’s request. Initially the king had requested an annulment, and indeed, Clement, as pope, had the authority to grant one. Moreover, his decision was not arbitrary but considered, despite the rudeness and impatience of the English representatives who had been sent to make the request. Indeed, Clement’s official decision was not proclaimed until March, 1534, after Rome and England had broken off diplomatic relations (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04024a.htm).

    Clement faced very difficult circumstances. The English representatives initially could not talk to him because he was held prisoner after the armies of Charles V sacked Rome. The Newadvent.org article cited above has a good overview of most of this history, and any decent biography of St. Peter Neri will include some details of Charles V’s campaigns against Florence and Rome (Peter Neri was born in Florence and left shortly after it was sacked; he entered Rome for the first time while it was still in disarray from the siege).

    The larger point is that Henry and his supporters had real reasons for pressing their case. That is why Thomas More was so isolated. The English thought him a traitor, if only because they feared the civil wars that might occur if succession were ever in doubt. But Thomas held firm, not against divorce but in affirming the authority of the Pope to judge the details of this important matter of faith and morals. In the historical context, this affirmation also implied affirming the authority of the Magisterium, whose representative the Pope has always been (even before the very limited Papal infallibility decree of Vatican I) in practical dealings when the Magisterium as a whole could not meet to decide on a particular issue.

    More was therefore isolated in his own country because he held firm to the teachings of the Church on faith and morals, including the necessity of submission to Church (and not secular) authority on such matters. He didn’t quibble over the naming convention of doctrine vs. dogma. He only knew that the Church is either competent to decide matters of faith and morals or it isn’t. And he knew that if the Church were not competent on this point, then it was a complete fraud. That is the real scandal of the Church: it is either the proper arbiter of faith and of morals in all cases, or else it is a charlatan in all of its claims. One cannot pick and choose. There is no middle ground to be sought. In this, the Church is no different from her Founder, who was either a madman claiming divine affinity – or else he was (and is) the Son of God. That is the ultimate question here: “Who do you say that I am?” Madman or divine Son? Charlatan or spouse of Christ? In both cases, rejection of one alternative necessarily implies acceptance of the other.

    There is no middle ground.

  • slashorn

    We have seen the Church make mistakes of morals and matters of faith in its history. No one is infallible in terms of morals. However the Church is infallible in matters of faith (which the doctrine ex cathedra has been invoked at least once, but no more than three times).

    Thus, in morality, there is a middle ground (lest we would still put Jews to the rack for denial of Christ.

    The comments here represent the tragedy of the Conservative Catholics. They are the new Pharisees because they are the vocal and rabid (and capricious) arbiters of what it means to be Catholic (and in doing so, stop being Christian).

    The invitation to come home to Catholics, then, becomes a false one. We will not be greeted like the prodigal son by a loving father. We will be greeted by the other son, chastised and found wanting.

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    I ought to whack myself for assuming that people who participate in this forum understand the difference between what the Church teaches, on the one hand, and the actions of her members, on the other. What the Church teaches, in matters of faith and morals, bears no middle ground. The actions of her members, however, is often marred by sin. To affirm the Church’s authority over faith and morals does not negate the mercy of God. Indeed, we can only know that God is merciful because the Church teaches this authoritatively. What’s the alternate authority by means of which we understand that God is merciful? It cannot be the secular authorities because they have no direct access to divine Revelation. We might say that the Bible teaches this (and it does), but then again, we cannot understand the authoritative description of the Bible unless the Church affirms the books contained therein and those not contained therein. We could have recourse to the teachings of the Prophets (and we do), but then again, the Church teaches that these are reliable. In the end, there are only two sources: divine revelation and natural law. We can either know that something is faithful and moral because God says so or because He allows it to be seen in the way he has created the world. But it is difficult to know what divine revelation is unless there is an arbiter that can ratify it, and it is difficult to see God in the natural world at times because our own prejudices can get in the way. Either way, we need an interpreter. St. Peter says that the reliable interpreter is the Church.

    So teaching bears no quarter for a middle ground on matters of faith and morals. Incidentally, part of that teaching as it pertains to Jewish people can be taken verbatim from the Second Vatican Council: “God holds the Jews most dear for the sake of their Fathers; He does not repent of the gifts He makes or of the calls He issues-such is the witness of the Apostle…. the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures. All should see to it, then, that in catechetical work or in the preaching of the word of God they do not teach anything that does not conform to the truth of the Gospel and the spirit of Christ.” (Nostra Aetate No. 4, http://tinyurl.com/k4dj). Unfortunately, it is impossible to know that this is the teaching of the Church unless the Church actually teaches it, and it is impossible for the Church to bind her members to this teaching unless she truly enjoys a God-given authority to teach and preach on all matters of faith and morals. Absent this authority, anyone could dissent from this teaching; with this binding authority, we can at least point out that anyone who dissents is wrong.

    Action is another matter entirely: the Church teaches that proper action is virtuous but understands that improper action is inevitable. Improper action can always be amended in the confessional. And the amendment of improper action in the confessional cannot be understood as reliable unless the Church’s teaching is reliable in this matter. In other words, unless the Church is authoritative on matters of faith and morals, it is impossible to know without doubt that forgiveness of sin is a reality. We might rail against the need for confession; we might look to the Bible as the source of our understanding of God’s mercy; we might do a lot of quite understandable things. But we’ll never be able to know without doubt that forgiveness is real unless sin is real first (for without sin, why bother?). And we’ll never be able to understand that forgiveness is real unless we can rely on whatever authority makes this claim. Better people than I have demonstrated that the Church is the reliable authority for this claim. I simply trust in this claim.

    Improper teaching, on the other hand, presents a literal falsehood: it claims that the Church cannot teach what is her proper area of competence, namely faith and morals. Moreover, improper teaching must of necessity have recourse to another authority that is not the Church. So if the Church lacks authority to teach on faith and morals, then which authority properly makes this claim so that we can all follow it instead? There cannot be a non-authoritative teaching, or rather there cannot be a trustworthy teaching that is non-authoritative. For if it is non-authoritative, why cannot anyone change it as whim might dictate? And if anyone is so foolish as to rely on what they call an authoritative teaching (that is not really authoritative), what is to stop anyone from doing anything they like to quash that teaching? In the past, lots of “anyones” have resorted to prison, murder, war, forced starvation, torture and the like to stop the authoritative teaching of the Church from being spread. Absent miraculous intervention, the Church has generally been powerless to stop this sort of behavior (with some exception). But because she is authoritative, she also has had the power to condemn it when it occurs.

    Put another way, the invitation to come home can only be genuine (as opposed to a false and therefore easily rescinded) if the Church has the authority that she claims for herself. She constantly invites people home because this is part of her teaching, and if she cannot teach, then she cannot do anything. That is the real reason why public opposition to Church teaching is so problematic: it undermines the mission of the Church in a way that mere action cannot.

  • cmyk

    “Generations of martyrs made a much greater sacrifice for their beliefs than those who are inconvenienced by the prohibition on contraception.”

    I would say that some married couples are more than inconvenienced. When the dishwasher breaks, that’s an inconvenience. When a married couple can’t have sexual relations because they can’t physically, psychologically or financially afford another child, that’s more than an inconvenience. That’s harmful to their marriage.

    I know about natural family planning, but for many people, it’s not effective enough. They’re not comfortable with a 97% success rate in avoiding conception. If they don’t use NFP and want to abide by the Church’s teaching, they have no option but abstinence.

    Pope Paul VI’s commission on contraception concluded that it was acceptable for married couples. I know that the Pope overruled them, but I don’t see this teaching coming from Christ. I don’t know the exact chapter and verse, but Christ said His yoke was easy and His burden light. Not so the Church’s teaching on contraception for married couples.

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  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    “I don’t know the exact chapter and verse, but Christ said His yoke was easy and His burden light. Not so the Church’s teaching on contraception for married couples.”

    This is, quite simply, not true. I lived both ways. I cannot imagine anything so difficult as contraception. It’s a day-to-day lie within marriage. Horrible. Inconceivable. That anyone could promote it boggles my mind. Compare that to the truly light burden of abundant family, where there is always someone nearby to remind you of why you got married in the first place.

  • cdyke

    Ironically, when confronted with the Church’s teaching on fruitfulness, Sean Hannity defaulted to the uber-liberal debate technique that employs heightened emotionalism & a “might is right” attitude. Hannity knew, either consciously or subconsciously, that reason was not on his side, and that in order to appear the victor, he would have to distract his viewers from the real argument by making you and the Church look unreasonable and unrealstic. I can still hear him shouting the liberal battle cry and get out of jail free card from their misinformed understanding of Scripture, “Judge not [Fr.] lest you be judged.” Meanwhile, you, Fr. E., remianed steady in the objective truth.
    Thank you and may God give you the opportunity to stand before Ceaser again!