MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A St. Could priest has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman who went to him for spiritual advice.
Documents obtained by WCCO show that there is a history of similar complaints against the priest going back to the 1990s.
The bishop of St. Cloud has placed 51-year-old Anthony Oelrich on administrative leave. Oelrich had been assigned to the Newman Center, which ministers to St. Cloud State University and other students.
Oelrich has been stripped of his ability to serve as a priest until the legal case is settled.
In a statement, St. Cloud police say they began investigating allegations of sexual assault against Oelrich last December.
A criminal complaint says the victim went to Oelrich for spiritual advice when she was suicidal and had been sexually abused by a different individual.
During the course of 2013 and 2014, Oelrich and the victim began having sex.
The complaint says Oelrich admitted to a “boundary violation” with the woman.
WCCO caught up with the priest as he got out of jail Wednesday, but he refused to comment.
Oelrich was serving at the Christ Church Newman Center by the State Cloud State University campus, where he is known as Father Tony.
Students and others entering the center Wednesday declined to comment.
A spokesperson for St. Cloud State says the center and Oelrich have no direct affiliation with the university.
Police reports obtained by WCCO say that similar allegations against Oelrich by adult women first surfaced in the early 90s, and that the St. Cloud diocese was notified by one of the women’s husbands of an inappropriate relationship back in 1993.
A January 2017 St. Cloud police report quotes the victim as saying Oelrich “continues to have inappropriate sexual relationships with at least four other women.”
Police are making a public appeal for anyone with any information in the case to come forward and contact one of their investigators.
Authorities wouldn’t say Wednesday if the victim in the criminal complaint was a college student.
If convicted on the felony count, Oelrich could face up to 15 years in prison.
His next court appearance is Feb. 22.
The St. Cloud Diocese said they could not answer personnel questions concerning Oelrich.