Paul Leingang, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Evansville sent Beliefnet the following statement:

I believe that your listing of Bishop Gettelfinger as a member of the "worst bishops" is an unjust and unsubstantiated conclusion.

Bishop Gettelfinger removed a priest from public ministry in 1990. He followed a policy far in advance of many other bishops in such a situation--but more importantly he did what he did to protect children and young people.

In more recent years, two other priests were returned to ministry with restrictions, following assurances from behavior experts that there was no danger. In both of those cases, the incidents were reported to a previous bishop. In each case, when Bishop Gettelfinger learned of the incident, he immediately put the priest on leave. The priests were returned to ministry only after what experts then considered to be appropriate and successful treatment. As we know today, behavior experts now have differing views of what is appropriate or even possible. Judging past decisions by today's standards may be part of today's common emotion, but it is unreasonable.

Your text seems to make no distinction between two priests who have been accused, and the two who have acknowledged wrong-doing. Isn't that unfair? Investigations are under way in regard to the two who are accused, and please note that the allegations were made only in recent weeks about events that are alleged to have happened many years ago. The current investigations are being accomplished with a layperson as "assistance coordinator" and a diocesan review panel.

Your text also cites the bishop's decision in regard to Father Jean Vogler, who was convicted of receiving child pornography in the mail. While you and others may disagree with that decision, you should respect the fact that it was made publically--and that the people in the parish to which he was assigned were and are fully aware of his sinfulness.

You say you based your information on major newspapers. If you used the Dallas Morning News, you may well be repeating some of the errors that were published there. The Dallas Morning News listed an incorrect year and omitted the fact that a priest was removed from our diocese.

I respectfully suggest that you read two articles about Father Vogler. One was written by Maureen Hayden and published in the Evansville Courier & Press, describing the reconciliation that had taken place. The other was written by Jodi Wilgoren in the New York Times, and quite beautifully described the ministry of a priest who attracted sinners toward conversion because they knew that the priest was a sinner just like they were.

Every person who has made an allegation has been offered counseling. Confidentiality has been respected. No payment has been made in any case--except for priests' treatment programs and to cover the costs of the counseling services chosen by victims.

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