ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Roman Catholic priest was charged Thursday with third-degree criminal sexual conduct for having sex with a woman he was counseling, the Ramsey County attorney’s office said in a statement.
A criminal complaint said Christopher Thomas Wenthe, 46, of Delano, had sex with the woman multiple times from 2003 to 2005 while he was a priest at Nativity Catholic Church in St. Paul. Wenthe met the woman while she was taking a course for converting to Catholicism and became her confessor, the complaint said. Encounters between the two took place in his apartment in the church rectory and sometimes after Mass in the sacristy, the room where priests change out of their ceremonial garments, it said.
Wenthe couldn’t be reached in jail for comment Thursday, and it wasn’t clear whether he had a lawyer.
The woman, who had been sexually abused as a child, went to police last April, when she was 29, but the complaint said a roommate of hers told the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis about the relationship in 2005. The woman told an unnamed high-ranking archdiocese official herself in a 2006 letter, it said.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who may be victims of sex crimes.
Wenthe acknowledged having regular sex with the woman when police interviewed him last August, the complaint said, and told police the archdiocese “confronted him about his inappropriate relationship with her” around December of 2004, about the time he underwent treatment for a “generalized anxiety disorder.” He completed treatment and was assigned to a parish in Stillwater, then later to a church in Delano, the complaint said.
In a statement Thursday, the archdiocese said after the matter was reported to the archdiocese in September 2005, the woman met with representatives of the archdiocese and was offered counseling and therapy. She also was informed that she could report her contact with Wenthe to police but chose not to do so, the archdiocese said.
The archdiocese said it sent Wenthe for a psychological assessment and treatment. In August 2006, the Clergy Review Board recommended that Wenthe be allowed to return to active ministry with certain conditions and restrictions, the archdiocese said. There have been no complaints or incidents over the past five years of his ministry, the statement said.
The archdiocese said it “sincerely regrets any pain or suffering that the woman may have endured and continues to offer her our assistance and care.”
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