Priest removed from Fort Wayne church after inappropriate behavior spent time at St. Pius

South Bend Tribune [South Bend IN]

January 5, 2022

By Marek Mazurek

A Fort Wayne priest, who was previously at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Granger, has been removed from public ministry after allegations of inappropriate conduct with an adult woman.  

The priest, Fr. Eric Burgener, committed a “serious boundary violation,” while assigned to St. Vincent De Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, according to a release from the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Burgener has been removed from St. Vincent De Paul and is no longer a hospital chaplain, the diocese announced. 

The diocese was made aware of the allegations against Burgener on Dec. 5, though it is unclear when he was removed from the parish.  

Burgener was ordained in June 2017 and was assigned to St. Pius shortly after, according to a social media post by the church. The post listed Burgener’s role at St. Pius as parochial vicar, or a priest who assists a pastor. It is unclear when Burgener moved to St. Vincent De Paul, but a St. Anthony De Padua advent program from Dec. 2018 still lists him as being a priest at St. Pius. 

The Rev. Bill Schooler, St. Pius’ pastor, declined to answer questions about Burgener’s time at the Granger church. 

Nicole Hahn, a spokeswoman for the diocese, also declined to answer questions from reporters, and instead sent a statement.  

“On December 6, 2021, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend received credible allegations against Father Eric Burgener of serious boundary violations with an adult,” the statement read in part. “This necessitated that his faculties to perform public priestly ministry be removed. He has also been removed as parochial vicar of Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, and as hospital chaplain.” urn:uuid:2e89e1d2-a38c-0bc5-ea1d-0bc5a38c2e89

A letter from the Rev. Daniel Scheidt, the pastor of St. Vincent De Paul, to parishioners, also does not detail the allegations, but states a young woman came forward to him regarding Burgener in early December.  

“I was the one who first received on behalf of the Church these allegations, which I immediately shared with proper authority so that a formal investigation could begin. … Through this whole process, I have consistently found her claims to be both serious and credible,” the letter reads in part.  Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

Boundary violations 

It is unclear what Burgener is accused of, as diocesan representatives did not specify what constitutes a “serious boundary violation.” 

The term is often used by Catholic dioceses in statements to describe behavior church officials determine does not rise to the level of sexual abuse or criminal wrongdoing, though it is not officially defined by the Catholic Church, according to Michael McDonnell, a spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP has seen the term “boundary violations” used to describe an unwanted hug or kiss, but it could also “run the gamut of potential criminal behavior,” McDonnell said. 

“When we ask for transparency and accountability, we need it in laymen’s terminology to understand it,” McDonnell said. “A ‘boundary violation’ is not laymen’s terminology. No one can understand what is really going on.” 

Fort Wayne police Sgt. Jeremy Webb told The Tribune the department is not currently investigating Burgener for any criminal offenses and that his name does not appear as a suspect in any police reports on file.  

Email Marek Mazurek at Follow him on Twitter: @marek_mazurek