Church Officials Talk to Parents about Priest in Child-Porn Inquiry

By Sandi Dolbee
San Diego Union-Tribune
May 14, 2004

In what was described as a supportive, orderly meeting, concerned parents gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Academy in Loma Portal last night to talk with school and church officials about their parish priest, who has been caught up in an Internet child pornography investigation.

One mother afterward described the closed-door meeting as "wonderful" and said the school was handling the situation well.

Others echoed that sentiment — and praised the Rev. Gary Holtey, the pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, who took a leave of absence May 6 after investigators seized at least one computer and files while serving a search warrant at the church.

"He's a wonderful priest," said Diane Silva-Martinez, who has two children at the school.

Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, estimated that about 200 people attended the meeting of parents, teachers, school officials and representatives from the diocese. The meeting lasted about 1 1/2 hours and included advice from a counselor about how to discuss the issue with their children.

One parent said she explained it to her seventh-grade son this way: "There's a pending investigation, and that doesn't mean anything."

Valdivia said some parents expressed concern "as to how much information we have provided, and we continued to assure them that we have provided as much information as we possibly can, that is available to us."

The diocese made public Holtey's leave of absence Wednesday as news of last week's search began to get out. Before the meeting started last night, Valdivia reiterated that there is "no indication that any children or young people at this school were harmed."

He said the meeting was closed to help provide privacy for parents of children at the 240-student school. Reporters also weren't allowed to interview parents in the parking lot.

"We feel they have a right to come here undisturbed on the parish site," said Valdivia, noting that it is private property.

Holtey, who has not been arrested or charged with any wrongdoing, was not at the meeting. Calls to him this week were referred to the diocese.

In a letter to parishioners, Monsignor Steven Callahan, the diocese's vicar general, said Holtey agreed to the voluntary leave and to not live at the parish, pending outcome of the investigation. "As far we know from our conversation with law enforcement officials, no other person at the parish or the school was the subject of the warrant or involved in the material collected," Callahan wrote.

Holtey was ordained in 1984 and has been St. Charles Borromeo's parish priest for about three years.

After the meeting, a grandfather of a first-grade student was among those who defended Holtey.

"I believe the priest is a good guy," Carlos Valderrama said. "He's being crucified in the media."


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