America's Worst Bishops

Which bishops have made the worst decisions about abusive priests?

Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger

Evansville, IN

In late March 2002, Bishop Gettelfinger told parishioners that priests who sexually abuse children are guilty of "grave sins" and that he would not tolerate them. A couple months later, news accounts detailed the backgrounds of six diocesan priests, including:

  • Father Mark Kurzendoerfer, who was transferred to a different teaching job in 1981 after being accused of abusing a 14-year-old student. Soon after coming to Evansville in 1989, Bishop Gettelfinger ordered Father Kurzendoerfer not to have a youth ministry--although he let him work at a parish with a school. In May, the bishop suspended the priest and sent him to counseling, saying that he had violated the order by having private counseling sessions with 11-year-old students. Parents and the school principal had not been told about the restriction. Bishop Gettelfinger acknowledged that he had also sent Father Kurzendoerfer into "extensive therapy" after he admitted soliciting a 17-year-old in 1998. The young man then identified himself to the Evansville Courier & Press as the priest's nephew.



  • Father Francis Schroering, who was assigned by Bishop Gettelfinger to supervise Father Kurzendoerfer and was himself accused of fondling two girls in the 1960s. Father Schoering has denied the allegations and said he could not remember either woman who made them. He was placed on administrative leave from his post as pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Haubstadt, Ind., in mid-June.


  • Father Kenneth Graehler, 64, has been put on administrative leave pending an investigation into an allegation of sexual abuse. Bishop Gettelfinger has declined to discuss details of the allegation, but said it had been turned over to law enforcement officials.


  • Father Jean Vogler, who spent 10 months in federal prison in 1996 on a child pornography conviction. Bishop Gettelfinger has decided to allow Vogler to remain as associate pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Evansville, despite his 1996 conviction for possession of child pornography. The bishop said Father Vogler's crime does not fit under the new policy on sexual abuse because the crime did not involve the direct abuse of a child. According to the New York Times, Volger's parishioners drew a distinction between pedophilia and possession of pornography. One parishioner was quoted as saying "The [church's members] opened their arms up with forgiveness."
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