Officials clear former SJV rector after suicide note mention

Former St. John Vianney seminarian David Jarboe. (Photo courtesy of Jarboe's personal website)

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

12 Replies to “Officials clear former SJV rector after suicide note mention”

  1. As a member of the Transfiguration school board, I fully support Father Baer. I would never characterize him as an “evil man.” In the short time he has been at our parish, he has accomplished much for it and our school. I am sorry Mr. Jarboe chose to end his life, and that he apparently was abused as a child. However, it would be grossly unfair of anyone to read too much into his comments about a well-respected priest such as Father Baer.

  2. So Mr. Humsey, I would assume that your support for Fr. Baer has come as a result of a detailed investigation? Right? If this young man’s comments are so grossly unfair then I am to assume that Fr. Baer will surely address the Parish this weekend? Right? He will not hide behind the Altar like the other Catholic Priests in the past..Right?  I pray and hope that Fr. Baer is innocent as he does seem like a nice man……………but don’t they all?
    Transfiguration needs to address this situation with ALL parents ASAP……

  3. How can a man be cleared of something if it wasnt even investigated. Doesnt ur university owe this young man and his family the respect they deserve by doing an investigation into why he would call Father Baer “an evil man”? If after an investigation by hopefully an entity not associated with the church proves no merit to the young man description then let this go but not after every question is asked and every fellow student is interviewed. How can the life of a former St Thomas student mean so little to ur institution that u wouldnt even take the time to question why his discription of one of ur own as being “evil”. Its insulting to his family and those who knew David. Shame on you.

  4. Hope–there is an ongoing investigation in Kentucky.
    Adam–I said it would be unfair to jump to conclusions. I think we all agree the whole incident is a terrible tragedy.

  5. Jay – So it would be unfair to jump to conclusions, but unreasonable to investigate? Seems like the double standard that has hurt the Catholic Church in the past is still alive and well…

  6. Jay, I really wish that I didn’t have to jump to conclusions BUT the Catholic Church has brought this upon themselves. It’s only an investigation to rule out any wrong doing…to get defensive over an investigation only leads me to believe that there is something to hide. Considering it is Fr. Baer’s job to provide guidance to hundreds of children I think an investigation is warranted and owed to the parents in the parish.

  7. I personally think we should investigate every individual who has ever been called ‘evil’ on the internet. Of course, if they are evil, they’d just deny it. So, why don’t we skip the whole investigation bit and go strait to the burning at the stake?

    I suppose I should be clear and state that I do not intend to mock David or his family and friends. To them, I send my sincerest condolences. Unfortunately, traumatic events tend to bring out the stupid in people, which is something we should avoid.  

  8. This situation is tragic, but I agree that immediately relegating Fr. Baer’s reputation to the popular trash bin of “Catholic priests who hurt the vulnerable” is unjust and foolish, especially given a circumstance when so little information is available to the public. My family is close to Fr. Baer, and I grew up in his parish before he came to SJV. He has dramatically changed the lives of countless people, especially the young. Please, before making accusations or insinuations about him, know more about him and perhaps realize that the Archdiocese and those involved know far more than we do at this time about the situation and what would be an appropriate response.
    As to the University’s decision not to investigate: that does not mean Saint Thomas does not mourn the loss of someone who was one of our own. It just means that no viable accusations about anything concrete were made and therefore an investigation would be imprudent at this time. We care for our own and we care about David’s circumstances and death.

  9. I hope that you never have tragic event in your life paul to “bring out the stupid” in you but when one loses someone in their life in a shocking and unexpected manner its natural to want to look for answers. For some reason david called Father Baer an “evil man”. Do you really think its unreasonable to want that accusation investigated? David did not use those words to describe any other professor or priest he had been in contact with. No one wants everyone that has been described on the internet as evil investigated, but when a man is described that way in a young man’s suicide note dont you think its deserves more than a dismissal by the archdiosese and St Thomas. If david had been your brother, son or friend wouldnt you want to have his accusation at least considered.

  10. I am saddened and troubled by this young man’s death, just as I am saddened and troubled by the lightening-quick response from Minnesota authorities saying that they will not investigate further. Until our Church authorities understand the gravity of this whole scandal which has rocked the world, and deals with it in a transparent way, we will not be able to move past it.

  11. How could a charge of being an “evil man” *be* investigated? There’s literally nothing to look for. It’d be like investigating someone on the charge of having a nasty look to him. Paul’s right. Had Fr. Baer been denounced as an abuser, that would be different, and if the investigation in Kentucky (which is ongoing!) turns up any concrete link to Fr. Baer I’m certain it will be thoroughly looked into… but all indications are that Mr. Jarboe was simply angry with him about any of a hundred things that happen in the course of a young man exiting the seminary. That happens all the time, and it isn’t fair — especially to Fr. Baer, who did wonderful things for UST while he was here, and for Nativity before that — but it is incredibly commonplace.

    Bottom line, we can’t “investigate” name-calling. There has to be something that at least *resembles* an actual accusation first.

    I’m sure, however, that Mr. Jarboe and Fr. Baer will be in all our prayers.

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