Restraining order, but no charges for New Ulm priest

By Tom Lyden
Fox 9
August 27, 2017

[with video]

NEW ULM, Minn. (KMSP) - A New Ulm area Catholic priest will not face criminal charges after a six-month long criminal investigation into allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage girl. 

The girl’s mother, however, has taken matters into her own hands, taking out a restraining order against the priest--Father Sam Wagner, age 33. 

In a statement, the Diocese of New Ulm said Fr. Wagner remains on leave from the ministry pending a decision by its Clergy Review Board.

The allegations first surfaced in January, when Father Wagner was relieved of his duties at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Sleepy Eye, where Wagner grew up. The allegations concern his time in New Ulm, and a relationship that began with a 15-year old girl who attended Cathedral High School.

On Thursday, New Ulm Police told the FOX 9 Investigators that prosecutors were declining to file charges due to a “lack of evidence and the inability to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But that did not stop the girl’s mother, who FOX 9 is not identifying, from getting a restraining order against the priest earlier this month. 

The girl’s mother claims she found more than 1,500 Facebook messages between her daughter and the priest over a nearly two-year period. Printed out, the messages filled 230 pages and the date stamps indicate they were sent at all hours. 

In one message, Fr. Wagner asks, “Do your friends know that we test a lot?” And, "No matter what anyone says, I will always be a spiritual father to you.”

In the restraining order affidavit, the mother checks a box indicating that the relationship is “Romantic or Sexual,” but it’s unclear if the allegations concern sexual contact. 

What's clear is that even Fr. Wagner had concerns about boundaries being crossed. 

Wagner wrote, “A priest isn’t supposed to have that kind of relationship with a teenager,” and goes on to say, “We must keep this relationship ‘appropriate’ if you know what I mean.”

Fr. Wagner is a former accountant who was ordained just three years ago. He divorced in 2004.

The FOX 9 Investigators were unable to reach Fr. Wagner for comment, either at his home or by phone. 

A statement from New Ulm Police said the case will not be closed, but rather suspended until new evidence is discovered.


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