Father Barrett on leave while ‘past misconduct’ is reviewed

Father David Barrett, associate pastor at the Church of St. Wenceslaus in New Prague, has taken a voluntary leave of absence, the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis a n n o u n c e d Sunday. A statement by the Archdiocese said the decision is a result of "prior misconduct which occurred many years ago and did not involve members of any parish in which Barrett has served. The misconduct did not involve a violation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

The Archdiocese has been aware of the misconduct and Barrett has been through counseling and has been under supervision since that incident. Due to recent cases involving priest misconduct in the news, past cases are being reviewed by a special Ministry Standards board.

Barrett has served St. Wenceslaus since 2009, and has primarily served the western portion of the parish, at St. John the Evangelist in Union Hill and St. Scholastica in Heidelberg. Prior to that he was associate pastor at Most Holy Redeemer in Montgomery and also served at St. Canice in Kilkenny.

The statement said that while on his leave, Barrett "Will not be performing any public ministry and will cooperate with the Ministerial Standards Board of the Archdiocese which will make recommendations as a result of a review of Barrett's actions."

Father Kevin Clinton, pastor at St. Wenceslaus, said there was no timetable on the leave. "This is now being deferred to the Ministry Standard's Board, which will do a thorough, independent review of what happened 12 years ago," he said. "They'll go through his work, the recovery and the counseling process Father Dave has been involved with, and he won't return to the ministry or to the parish until after the Ministry Standards makes its determination."

The board was set up recently by the Archdiocese as an independent body to review past cases of priest misconduct. Clinton said, "They have professional people with what appears to me to be plenty of experience in this area of evaluation."

He calls the board a "significant improvement in addressing the very serious and complex problems that show up in the church… something the Archbishop has clearly recognized as being needed."

Father Clinton said that over time, things will become a lot clearer with more accurate information available. Speaking of the general issue of abuse by the clergy that has led to greater scrutiny of the way the Archdiocese has handled abuse cases, he agreed that "A terrible mistake was made with some of these cases, and a priest rightly ended up going to prison."

He went on to say that with Barrett’s mistakes, "The ministry standards board will need to make the best objective decision on what happens here. Clergy sexual misconduct is very different than misconduct by an average person. Clergy need to be held to a higher standard… Other institutions, public schools, colleges, Boy Scouts, all of the professions have had to address the standards that are expected of their professions. The church is no different. We've got to do our work too. We've made progress; we need to make more progress.”

Clinton said that he would be offering Mass at St. John's and St. Scholastica this weekend, and will address the situation with parishioners there. He is looking to find a priest to cover the Sunday Masses at St. Wenceslaus this weekend. Beginning the following weekend, Father Jerry Berger, a retired priest from the New Ulm diocese, will offer the weekly Masses that Barrett would normally handle.

Clinton said that Barrett is handling these matters very well. “When the Ministry Standards Board was formed, he recognized that the incident in his past would likely be reviewed, and he volunteered to go on leave,” he said.

"All of us are accountable to someone. Dave recognizes the Ministry Standards Board is who he needs to work with,” Clinton said.