ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- A former St. Cloud priest has been officially removed from the clerical state in the Catholic Church after using his position to manipulate a woman he was counseling into committing sexual acts.

Fifty-six-year-old Anthony Oelrich pleaded guilty to 3rd-degree criminal sexual conduct in November 2019. He was sentenced to three years and five months in prison.

Oelrich was put on administrative leave and suspended from his priestly duties at Christ Church Newman Center after the claims surfaced in December 2017.

Bishop Donald Kettler conducted a formal review of his status when the criminal and civil proceedings concluded. In a written statement, Kettler recommended Oelrich be laicized.

“In regard to the status of Father Anthony Oelrich, I previously indicated that I would conduct a formal review of his status after civil and criminal proceedings against him had concluded. This review was initiated and included interviews with a variety of people, including those impacted by his actions. After reviewing all of the information, I recommended to Father Oelrich, and he agreed, that he should seek laicization — being dispensed from the clerical state — from the Holy Father. This process has been completed and Father Oelrich has been laicized. As a result, he no longer can exercise sacred ministry in the Church or engage in any leadership roles in the Church. He does not receive any salary, housing or medical benefits from the diocese. “I ask you to please pray for healing for all victims-survivors of sexual abuse and for those wounded by the Church in any way. As we approach the season of Advent, may we find renewed hope in the promise of Christ as we prepare to welcome him into our lives and into our hearts.” In addition to the other prohibitions, Oelrich also is no longer permitted to use the title “Father.”

The St. Cloud Police Department began investigating after the woman came forward alleging a number of sexual encounters in late 2013 and early 2014. The woman told investigators she began seeing Father Oelrich for spiritual guidance following a sexually abusive relationship. The abuse came to light during confession in December 2013.

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The woman said Oelrich began having her touch him sexually and the counseling sessions shifted into intercourse in the early part of 2014.

The woman said Oelrich was manipulating her into sexual intercourse while he continued to see her for confession during that time.

As part of his sentence, Oelrich had to register as a predatory offender.

Bishop Kettler encourages anyone who has suffered abuse to report it to local law enforcement. Survivors of clergy sexual abuse may also contact the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator or victim advocates for support and access to resources for healing.


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