The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, January 04, 2022 1:00 am

North-side priest pulled off duties

Church mostly mum but says violations involve adult

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

A priest has been removed from his duties at a parish on the city's north side following credible allegations of “serious boundary violations,” the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend said Monday.

Online court records showed no criminal charges have been filed against the Rev. Eric Burgener, who served as parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Parish since June 2019.

The diocese on Monday didn't provide details about the allegations against Burgener, only that the violations involved an adult.

“With this very difficult and painful news, we ask for prayer for one another, our church, our diocese, and most especially, all of those who are directly involved,” a statement said.

In a letter to parishioners Saturday, parish pastor Daniel Scheidt said he has invited two people – the vicar for clergy and the bishop's assistant in pastoral care and victim assistance coordinator – to lead a presentation about the diocese's outreach to and support of abuse victims and the process for investigating and adjudicating these claims. It is set for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Jan. 13 in the church's Kuzmich Life Center.

“For as heart-piercing as the abuse scandals in and beyond the church have been these many years, there are now structures of discernment in place for those who have suffered to share their experiences so that these sins and crimes do not continue to fester and that a measure of justice can prevail and healing begin,” Scheidt said.

A young woman accompanied by two friends came to him Dec. 5 about the allegations, Scheidt said, and he found her claims serious and credible. He commended her courage in sharing “such excruciatingly painful experiences.”

The diocese said it received the allegations about Burgener the next day.

“This necessitated that his faculties to perform public priestly ministry be removed,” the diocese said, noting Burgener was removed as hospital chaplain as well as parochial vicar.

Burgener, a Bishop Dwenger High School graduate, was ordained as a deacon in May 2016 and as a priest about a year later. He previously was at St. Pius X Parish in Granger in St. Joseph County.

He is the second area priest accused of wrongdoing in recent months. The Rev. David Huneck was charged in October in Whitley County with felony child solicitation and sexual battery and misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor, furnishing alcohol to a minor, and two counts of battery.

Huneck, who was ordained as a priest in 2018, entered a plea agreement last week.

Like Burgener, Huneck was suspended from all public priestly ministry following the allegations. Huneck also resigned as Bishop Dwenger's chaplain and as pastor at St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church in Columbia City.

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