Evansville Priest's Criminal Past Gets National Exposure

By Rob Schneider
Indianapolis Star
April 4, 2002

He's spent the past three years focusing on the present and the future, helping to lead a small congregation in downtown Evansville.

But the Rev. Jean Vogler's past resurfaced Wednesday night in a national broadcast exploring the growing scandal within the Roman Catholic Church.

Vogler was convicted in 1996 of possession of child pornography after federal investigators recovered videotapes he had ordered.

The priest spent a year and a day in a federal corrections facility. He then was reassigned in 1999 to Holy Trinity Church, a congregation catering to Evansville businesses and its downtown.

It's that continued work in the Catholic Church that drew the attention of ABC News.

Local church leaders call the broadcast an unfortunate turn for a man who has tried to turn his life around.

"He's doing marvelous work," said the Rev. Gregory Chamberlin, head administrator of Holy Trinity. "I have heard a lot of praise for the way he moved in and did a lot of good work for the parish.''

Chamberlin described Vogler, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, as a "respected man in the community.''

Prior to his arrest, Vogler, who was 51 at the time, had been a priest for more than 25 years and a pastor at Holy Rosary Catholic Church for five years. He resigned his post in December 1995.

After his release from prison, Vogler was scheduled to serve as a chaplain at an Evansville hospital, but the appointment was withdrawn after concerns were raised that children were among the hospital's patients, according to Paul Leingang, a spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Evansville. Vogler, who continues to receive therapy, was later assigned to Holy Trinity, where parishioners know of his background.

"They are quite well-aware of Vogler's history," said Leingang. "It has been a public matter.''

Wednesday night, ABC News viewers became equally aware of his past.

The segment, which aired from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m., featured the results of a yearlong investigation into priests still performing church duties despite criminal convictions or civil settlements regarding child sex abuse.

Although 30 such cases in 18 states were uncovered, three -- Vogler's and two in which priests were accused of molesting teen-agers in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Toronto -- were featured prominently.

Vogler, who was required to register as a sex offender with the Evansville Police Department, has denied ever touching any children and never was charged with molestation. But Ira D. Rosen, an ABC News senior producer, said Vogler's case warranted closer examination because the priest was found guilty and served prison time.

"Seventy-five priests have been removed from duty on accusations alone, while Vogler was convicted and was seen conducting Mass as recently as this past Easter Sunday,'' Rosen explained.

Leingang, who talked to Vogler earlier this week, said the priest was not surprised that the old case has resurfaced.

"He knew this was something he would face for the rest of his life."


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