Editorial by John-Henry Westen Editor
NEW YORK, March 13, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Last Friday, the President of Human Life International, Fr. Tom Euteneuer used his weekly column to point out the hypocrisy of Catholic celebrity Sean Hannity, one of the stars of Fox News’ Hannity and Colmes show.
Hannity had, on a show the week before, made a big deal of apologizing for having inadvertently eaten a couple of bites of a meat sandwich on a Friday during Lent. In his column, Fr. Euteneuer pointed out that the meat incident was not sinful at all, and “If apologies are the order of the day, then the repentance I would like to hear out of Sean Hannity’s mouth is for his shameless-even scandalous-promotion of birth control. Yes, I have heard him personally say, ‘I have no problem with birth control. It’s a good thing.’”
Explaining the gravity of the situation, Fr. Euteneuer noted, “Given the size of his audience and the importance of his status in pop culture, Hannity’s anti-witness to a fundamental tenet of Catholic moral doctrine is just devastating for the faith of others who may be weak or vacillating in this area.” In his concluding remarks he stated: “The moral of the story is that Catholic men and women in the media need to be truly Catholic or at least stop being hypocrites.” (see the full column here: https://www.hli.org/sl_2007-03-09.html )
Hannity’s dissent from Church teaching on contraception is long-standing and very public. In fact, in 2004, his public stand in favor of contraception made it into a commentary in the oldest Catholic newspaper in the United States, the Wanderer.
On a show in 2004, Hannity was explaining his opposition to withholding Communion from Catholic politicians who support legal abortion. At the time he pointed out that should Communion be withheld from liberals it could also be withheld from conservatives such as he since, he said, he had no problem with contraception.
Hannity’s press handlers called the HLI leader the day his column was published to have him address Hannity live on the program. Fr. Euteneuer obliged and began a reasoned, calm presentation of his case. “One is simply obliged not to be a heretic in public. That’s the point,” said Fr. Euteneuer in response to an initial question from Colmes. “If (Hannity) doesn’t agree with his Church on that matter he should not be pronouncing on the matter as if he was the authority on that matter. He’s not.”
However rather than argue for his case on contraception or even address the points made in Fr. Euteneuer’s article Hannity immediately jumped to the offensive. “Reverend. Let me, let me just say… You call me a hypocrite. You question the depth of my faith. Do you know anything about me and my religious beliefs? And my background religion? do you know anything about me?”
“I only see the evidence Sean. I see the evidence of a superficial presentation of one aspect of the faith. I see the…,” replied Fr. Euteneuer just before he was cut off by Hannity’s attack on the Catholic Church via the sex abuse scandals. “Judge not lest you be judged, Reverend”, interrupted Hannity. “Maybe you ought to spend a little more time that our Church covered up one of the worst sex scandals and I wasn’t involved in it. And the fact that public people after that are willing to still be Catholic is something you should be applauding. Considering the levels of corruption at the highest levels of the Church was frankly embarrassing to every person.”
Many commenting on Hannity, have said that he ‘lost it’ with the priest. “Do you know that I went to a seminary? Do you know that I studied Latin? Do you know that I studied theology?,” said Hannity at one point just before repeating charges about corruption and sex scandals in the church.
The only time Hannity seemed especially affected by the priest came right at the end of the segment when Hannity demanded, “Wait, would you deny me communion?” Fr. Euteneuer replied, “I would.” Hannity, visibly moved, replied, “Wow, wow.” (See the segment on vido here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f50fD5elrcg )
Despite his courage and fidelity, Fr. Euteneuer has received criticism for his stand even from some Catholics who, despite decades of persistent, public and very damaging scandal to the faith by prominent individuals, still insist that behind-the-scenes, personal dialogue is the only acceptable response. It has been suggested that the HLI leader should have approached Hannity privately. However, in 2004, after Hannity ‘s scandalous remarks about contraception Fr. Euteneuer did attempt to personally contact Hannity with his concerns but to no avail.
The broadcast is being praised for having raised publicly that contraception leads to abortion and is contrary to the Catholic faith. It has also shown that the Catholic Church is impartial in its estimation of liberals and conservatives, and must correct equally all those who reject the Church’s authoritative teachings on faith and morals.
Probably the saddest chapter of the event was Fox News publishing an open letter to Sean Hannity by Father Jonathan Morris, a regular news contributor for the fox News Channel. Fr. Morris, vice rector for the Legionnaries of Christ seminary in Rome, wrote that when he saw the program, “I hung my head in shame and sadness.” Fr. Morris continued, “My colleague in religion (whom I’ve never met) used the public airways and Internet to call you a heretic and hypocrite. Because he chose to do this in a public forum, I want you and your viewers to know, publicly, that as an analyst of this television network, I believe this good priest, who does great work, exercised, on this occasion, shockingly poor judgment. I consider his willingness to give his personal opinion about your status within the Church inappropriate and ill-considered, to say the least.”
In an open letter responding to Fr. Morris, Fr. Euteneuer wrote: “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.”
“May I also point out,” added Fr. Euteneuer, “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.” (See both Fr. Morris’ letter and Fr. Euteneuer’s response: https://www.hli.org/article_open_letter_to_fr_morris.html )
As a man who has defended the Catholic position on the right to life for the unborn, on traditional marriage, and against the euthanasia of Terri Schiavo, Sean Hannity has come to grips with many of the hard teachings of the faith. Some observers are suggesting that his encounter with the Church’s position on contraception, was an eye-opener and may in fact lead Hannity to a fuller adherence to what he professes to believe. To this priest, who so perturbed him, Hannity may one day find himself grateful, perhaps eternally so.