ST. CLOUD, Minn. - An ordained priest with the St. Cloud Diocese is accused of sexual assaulting a woman who came to him for spiritual guidance due to a prior relationship which included sexual abuse.
Father Anthony Joseph Oelrich, 51, is charged with criminal sexual conduct for an inappropriate relationship with the victim that started in 2013. He was arrested on Feb. 13 and is currently in custody in Stearns County. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday.
According to the criminal charges, the woman sought the help of Father Oelrich after confessing she was the victim of sexual abuse in December of 2013. After her initial disclosure with Oelrich, he began asking further questions about the abuse. The woman told investigators she became suicidal at one point and Oelrich reached out to her and consoled her.
The criminal complaint details a number of incidents where Father Oelrich asked the victim to touch him inappropriately when she sought his help.
The victim also told authorities she was suffering from insomnia so Oelrich would tuck her in at night and often sleep with her in her bed until 1 a.m.
In January 2014, the woman said she was invited to the rectory in St. Cloud to have dinner with Father Oelrich. That night, he suggested she stay the night and the two engaged in sexual intercourse. This occurred repeatedly until April of 2014.
The victim told authorities she was still seeing him for confession during this timeframe. MN Statue prohibits a member of the clergy from engaging in a sexual relationship under these circumstances.
In an interview with investigators, Oelrich admitted a "boundary violation" with the woman but said he couldn't say anything else, citing the privilege of confession.
It was not immediately clear if Oelrich has an attorney who could speak on his behalf. A phone message was left at Christ Church Newman Center, where Oelrich is pastor. Kettler placed Oelrich on administrative leave and suspended him from acting as a priest pending the outcome of his case.
Oelrich has also served at Sacred Heart Parish in Sauk Rapids and the Cathedral of St. Mary in St. Cloud.
St. Cloud Diocese released a statement saying, "Bishop Donald Kettler of the Diocese of Saint Cloud has been notified by the St. Cloud Police Department that Father Anthony Oelrich, a priest of the diocese, was arrested Feb. 13 following an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct involving an adult woman.
Bishop Kettler has removed Father Oelrich as pastor of Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud. An administrator has been appointed for the parish. The bishop also has suspended Father Oelrich’s priestly faculties, meaning he cannot function or present himself as a priest, pending the outcome of the judicial process.
Father Oelrich was ordained to the priesthood June 6, 1992 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. He has served the following assignments: associate pastor, Sacred Heart in Sauk Rapids (1992-1995); co-administrator, St. Mary in Holdingford, St. Hedwig in Holdingford, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Opole, Immaculate Conception in St. Anna, and St. Columbkille in St. Wendel (1995); co-pastor of these same five parishes (1995-2001); graduate studies (2001-2005); director of continuing education for clergy (2005-); pastor, Holy Cross in Pearl Lake (2005-2007); pastor, Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Rockville (2006-2007); pastor, St. Augustine in St. Cloud (2007-2015); rector, St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud (2007-2015); pastor, Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud (20072018).
The diocese is cooperating with civil authorities and encourages all victims of abuse to come forward. Contact information for victim advocates and county officials to whom abuse can be reported is available online at: http://stcdio.org/about/safe-environment/how-to-report-abuse."