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Minnesota Church Won’t Investigate Priest

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OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — The Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is not planning to investigate a priest from the state who was named in a Facebook posting by a man before he shot himself to death in a Kentucky church parking lot. But a Kentucky diocese plans to continue with its investigation of the man’s allegations.

Archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath told The Messenger-Inquirer newspaper there was no justification for an investigation into the Rev. William Baer, former rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, where David M. Jarboe had once been a student.

The 23-year-old Jarboe shot himself in the parking lot of Blessed Mother Catholic Church in Owensboro, Ky. on Feb. 3.

His Facebook posting mentioned Baer and two other priests, one of whom he praises, as well as pain as a result of sexual abuse in the church. The Kentucky man didn’t accuse a specific priest or other individual of abuse in the note.

“I mean, because he was critical of Father Baer in his Facebook post does not make the giant leap that he was responsible for whatever happened to him,” McGrath told the newspaper. “… Father Baer is one of our finest, most popular priests.”

McGrath said Baer was well-respected and was instrumental in St. John Vianney College Seminary’s growth when he was there.

The “poor bedeviled young man, for him to mention (Father Baer) in the same context with whatever may have happened to him is so unfortunate and so unfair,” the archdiocese spokesman said of Jarboe.

Jarboe mentioned three priests in the note. To the first one, whom he identified as Father Fedewa, Jarboe wrote: “Thanks for proving to me what dedicating your life to Christ can be like. Thanks for your service to the Church.”

To Baer, “you get no thanks. You are an evil man. Period.”

To the third, the Rev. Freddie Byrd, “I forgive you.”

Baer, now at Transfiguration Catholic Church in Oakdale, Minn., did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment.

Byrd was pastor of Blessed Mother from 1998-2008. According to the diocese’s website, he is pastor of St. Peter of Antioch and Sacred Heart parishes in Waverly, Ky.

He declined to comment when reached by the newspaper at the St. Peter of Antioch church rectory Wednesday.

The Diocese of Owensboro announced Monday it is utilizing an independent investigator to examine the allegations made by Jarboe. The Daviess County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office has asked the Owensboro Police Department to investigate as well.

The Diocese of Owensboro has been in contact with the Rev. Peter A. Laird, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, McGrath said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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