Former Union County priest suspended after abuse allegation
By Tom Lovett
May 18, 2016
|Rev. Gerald Baker. |
A Catholic priest who once served in Union County has been suspended by the Diocese of Owensboro after an allegation of improper conduct with a minor.
An allegation against Father Gerald Baker, pastor of St. Mary of the Wood Catholic Church in Whitesville, Kentucky, and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Fordsville, Kentucky, was filed with the diocese on May 3, according to Bishop William Medley.
Baker served at St. Ann Catholic Church in Morganfield from June 2003 until June 2012, when he was appointed at St. Mary of the Wood.
"We got a call that a young person had made an accusation that Father Gerald Baker had acted in an inappropriate manner with him — of a sexual nature," Medley said. "So our first response was to report that to authorities and then move to assure that the person making that accusation is getting whatever support that they might need."
Medley said the allegation came from a young person in the St. Mary of the Wood parish. He was uncertain when the alleged incident might have taken place.
Trooper Corey King, spokesman for Kentucky State Police Post 16 in Henderson, confirmed the KSP is investigating, but also said no charges have been filed.
Medley said he spoke with Baker on May 6. While he declined to discuss what Baker said, Medley said he "asked (Baker) to absent himself from the parish over the weekend pending counsel from the Diocesan Review Board. So he left Whitesville on Friday afternoon."
Baker fell ill on May 7, and has been hospitalized ever since. Medley declined to discuss the nature of Baker's illness or where he is being treated other than to say that he is "very ill."
The Diocesan Review Board was formed in 2002 in response to the church abuse scandal in Boston. The 13-member board is made up of lay members of the church who advise the bishop when allegations are made again church officials.
Medley said the Diocesan Review Board recommended that Baker be suspended. Medley signed the suspension on May 13.
Medley said Baker has served at many parishes across Western Kentucky and to his knowledge, and according to church records, there have been no prior allegations against him. But, he said, the diocese is reaching out to every parish where Baker has served.
"We have asked every parish where he has been assigned to publish a notice in their church bulletin as a soon as possible acknowledging that an accusation has been made and articulating what years he served there and repeating the statement that the church stands ready to help anyone who has ever been a victim of any type of mistreatment of abuse within the embrace of the church," Medley said.
A letter explaining the situation was read at every Mass Saturday and Sunday at St. Mary of the Wood and St. John the Baptist, Medley said, and a copy was sent to every home in both parishes.
Medley said he was at St. Mary of the Wood for a confirmation service Sunday and that parishioners were shocked by the allegation.
"People were expressing their concern and their affection and respect for Father Baker but also thanking me that the church was assuring that the young person who brought this allegation forward would be treated justly and pastorally," he said.
Medley said that while the church is cooperating with police, it is conducting its own investigation.
"Civic authorities will investigate as to whether anything criminal has happened," Medley said. "... We will cooperate fully but will keep hands off to assure there's no perception that we're trying to influence things one way or another.
"The church's investigation will take a different path and it's conceivable that civic authorities might not find that anything criminal has happened but that our own standards have not been observed and we might be required to take action independent of the state police."
Medley said such Baker's suspension could be extended or made permanent, depending on the church's findings.