Priest at Holy Rosary Suspended

Evansville Courier & Press
October 13, 1999

A priest at Holy Rosary Catholic Church has been suspended from active ministry, following allegations of personal and professional misconduct.

The Rev. Brian Holtz, 30, was removed as administrator of the 4,000-member parish by Evansville Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger, who announced the decision at Masses on Sunday. Gettelfinger declined to reveal the nature of the allegations made against Holtz. In a statement read by Gettelfinger to parishioners and released by the Evansville Catholic Center, the accusations were described as "serious accusations" that Holtz admitted were true.

"I received allegations of serious accusations of both personal and professional misconduct leveled against Father Holtz," reads the statement written by Gettelfinger. "When I confronted Father Holtz, he admitted that the alleged accusations were true."

Paul Leingang, spokesman for the diocese, said the allegations were "not criminal" in nature.

"The allegations involved inappropriate conduct, not illegal conduct," said Leingang. "This is a personnel matter, not a criminal matter."

Holtz's suspension follows a series of problems that Holy Rosary parish has faced in recent years. In 1995, the then pastor, the Rev. Jean Vogler, was suspended by Gettelfinger after the bishop learned Vogler was a target of a federal criminal investigation into the distribution of child pornography. Vogler later pleaded guilty to a federal charge of receiving child pornography through the mail.

Earlier this year, Vogler's replacement as pastor, the Rev. James Sauer, requested a sabbatical after suffering what he told parishioners was "burn-out." Sauer is currently in therapy at a psychiatric facility in St. Louis.

Holtz, who was ordained in 1995, was named administrator of Holy Rosary, Evansville's largest parish, after Sauer began his sabbatical.

Until Sauer's return, the Rev. Ken Knapp, pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church, will be the acting administrator at Holy Rosary.

Rumors of Holtz's impending departure had spread through the parish last week, but the reasons were unknown.

"We'd heard he might be leaving," said Robert Thurgood, a deacon at Holy Rosary. "But I didn't know why then and still don't know why now."

Thurgood said Holtz was well-liked by parishioners and had been successful helping them rebuild a sense of security in the parish after Vogler's departure.

He said the news of Holtz's suspension has left parishioners stunned.

"It's painful," said Thurgood. "I can't begin to describe it."

In the short statement Gettelfinger read, he told parishioners that he followed diocesan procedures when he suspended Holtz from active ministry. Gettelfinger also told parishioners Holtz would be entering a rehabilitation program at St. Luke's Institute in Maryland, a private psychiatric hospital for Catholic clergy. The hospital treats a range of psychiatric illnesses and disorders.

"Father Brian will not be returning to Holy Rosary," Gettelfinger said in the statement read to parishioners.

Gettelfinger told parishioners he would not disclose the nature of the allegations. "Father Brian's story is his," Gettelfinger said. "It is not mine to tell. Do not ask me to tell it."

But he went on to tell parishioners that Holtz had to face the public scrutiny that came with his suspension.

"Father Brian as a priest is a public person and as such must be publicly accountable for his actions," Gettelfinger said in the statement. "I suffer pain for the damage caused by my brother and your priest. As your bishop, I am sorry for the pain he has caused."

Leingang said Gettelfinger left open the possibility that Holtz will return to active priesthood and to the Evansville diocese after he completes treatment at St. Luke's, although he would not be allowed to return to Holy Rosary.

Vogler had been suspended from active ministry by Gettelfinger in 1995, but was allowed to return to active ministry after he served a year in federal prison, and after more than 10 months of intensive psychiatric treatment. Vogler is now the associate pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Downtown Evansville. Photo Rev. Brian Holtz

Byline: MAUREEN HAYDEN, Courier & Press staff writer, 464-7433 or

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