Spokesmen for St. Thomas and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Wednesday they will not investigate former St. John Vianney Seminary Rector the Rev. William Baer, who was mentioned in a Facebook note posted by a former seminarian who fatally shot himself last week.
David Jarboe killed himself outside a Catholic church Feb. 3 in Owensboro, Ky. Jarboe attended St. John Vianney Seminary from fall 2006 to spring 2007 and in spring 2008, when he left the seminary and transferred to Western Kentucky University. In a lengthy Facebook note before his death, he wrote about the “pain and torment” he endured because of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, according to The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
Jarboe mentioned three priests in his note, including Baer. But Jarboe did not specifically accuse any of the three priests of abusing him. To Baer, Jarboe wrote, “You get no thanks. You are an evil man. Period.”
Baer worked as seminary rector from fall 1999 to spring 2010. He now works as pastor at Transfiguration Catholic Church in Oakdale, Minn. Calls to Baer were not returned Wednesday.
The archdiocese reviewed the case and will not investigate it further, archdiocesan spokesman Dennis McGrath said.
“There have been no allegations against Father Baer,” he said. “It’s out of left field. And all of us know that. … There are no grounds for an investigation.”
The archdiocesan vicar general spoke with the Owensboro Diocese about its investigation Wednesday, McGrath said, and he was informed there is “absolutely no connection in any way” to Baer.
“If, in fact, this poor, troubled young man was anguished for something that happened in Owensboro, that is unfortunate, but this had no connection with his time at SJV and his relationship with Father Baer,” McGrath said. “Just because Father Baer’s name was used in a different context in the Facebook page doesn’t mean he’s involved.”
St. Thomas will not be investigating and is working closely with the archdiocese to move forward, university spokesman Jim Winterer said.
“We don’t know why he (Jarboe) wrote that,” he said. “There were no specific allegations on the Facebook page. He criticized Father Baer, but there were no specific things.”
The university did talk with Baer about his relationship with Jarboe, Winterer said.
“After David left here, Father Baer had positive conversations with David, and he doesn’t know what motivated the criticism,” Winterer said. “It’s like a mystery.”
In the Facebook post, Jarboe wrote that sexual abuse in the church is real.
“Religion is not a bad thing,” he wrote. “But destroying free thought is. However, never once will I agree with the molestation of children. And never once will I agree with an institution that chooses to not acknowledge it.”
He also wrote that he hoped “that this message will save at least one child from the pain and torment that I had to go through. … Let this be hope to all those out there that have been abused by a Catholic Priest in any capacity. Perhaps your parents don’t see, perhaps those you know don’t see, know that God sees. And God never forgets.”
Jarboe also mentioned St. Thomas in his Facebook post, writing, “Thanks to all the wonderful professors who did not allow me to live inside the box. Thanks for taking a biased, angry, uneducated Ky boy and teaching him how to effectively think, act and feel.”
The university currently is not planning any on-campus memorial services for Jarboe, Winterer said.
“We feel really bad for the family,” he said. “It’s such a sad thing. But it’s a difficult thing for Father Baer too. He’s really saddened by it. For those who know Father Baer, we are kind of mystified.”
Mary Kenkel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.