Suspended Priest Asks for Defrocking

By James Pilcher
Cincinnati Enquirer
July 10, 2002

A Northern Kentucky priest under suspension for allegedly abusing a minor in the early 1970s has asked to be defrocked, Diocese of Covington officials said Tuesday.

The Rev. Louis J. Holtz, 73, was suspended indefinitely in 1995 after Bernard "Bernie" Gerhardstein accused the priest of abusing him when he was 13 years old.

Mr. Gerhardstein, now 41 and living in Fort Thomas, settled with the diocese and with Father Holtz in 1997. He made his allegations public last month in the Enquirer.

Father Holtz, who is not allowed to perform any ministry or even refer to himself as a priest under his suspension, had agreed to undergo voluntary "laicization" -- the formal term for being defrocked -- in his separate settlement with Mr. Gerhardstein.

But Father Holtz never applied to undergo the complicated, lengthy process, which requires Vatican approval.

"We have every indication that Father Holtz will follow through on the process," Covington diocesan spokesman Tim Fitzgerald said. He said Rev. Gerald L. Reinersman, chancellor of the diocese, had confirmed that the process had begun.

Previously, diocesan officials have said they did not know Father Holtz had agreed to be defrocked.

Father Holtz did not return calls seeking comment. He has said he was told by diocesan officials that they were taking care of the laicization.

Mr. Gerhardstein had accused the priest of abusing him over 1+ years in the early 1970s in Melbourne in rural Campbell County. He came forward after learning that the diocese was still referring to Father Holtz as a "retired" priest in The Messenger, its weekly newspaper.

"I am thankful that the church is finally honoring its agreement," Mr. Gerhardstein said Tuesday. "But I think most courts would say that waiting five years to even start is not a good safe gesture.

"And if I had not gone public, things would not have changed, which shows the core of this problem -- the church won't act unless its back is against the wall."


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