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Suspended Covington Priest Under Investigation

Jan 23, 2003 | AP

Investigators are looking into allegations of sexual abuse against a suspended Roman Catholic priest, who is also the subject of a lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Covington.

Campbell County Commonwealth's Attorney Jack Porter said an investigation of the Rev. Louis J. Holtz has been under way for at least two months.

A lawsuit in Boone County Circuit Court said the diocese should have known that Holtz was a potential abuser.

The lawsuit alleges that the diocese acted "in a grossly negligent, reckless and careless fashion (and failed) to report such conduct to the appropriate authorities and to the parents or guardians of the victims."

Neither the diocese nor Holtz had any comment Wednesday on either the investigation or the suit.

The diocese suspended Holtz indefinitely in 1995 after Bernard Gerhardstein first informed local church officials of the alleged abuse.

Holtz agreed to undergo "laicization" the formal term for being defrocked at the time, but applied to be defrocked by the Vatican only last July.

According to diocese officials, the Vatican has not yet officially defrocked Holtz. But he is no longer being referred to as "father" by the church, cannot present himself as a priest or perform priestly duties in public.

Gerhardstein, of Fort Thomas, claimed Holtz abused him over a period of more than a year beginning in 1974 in rural Campbell County, when he was 13.

Gerhardstein disclosed that he settled out of court in August 1997 with the diocese for an undisclosed sum and with Holtz for $10,000 in a separate agreement. He violated a confidentiality agreement to tell his story, but the diocese has not taken any action against him.

The lawsuit against the diocese was filed Dec. 20. Mark Fischer of Billings, Mont., said Holtz sexually abused him when he was attending Newport Central Catholic High School, where the priest was a teacher.

His lawyer, Bob Steinberg, would not comment beyond what was in the lawsuit. The suit claims the abuse took place when Fischer was 13, beginning about 1970 and ending in 1973.

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