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Published February 17, 2011, 07:49 PM

MN Priest Charged with Abusing Woman He Counseled

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.

By: Associated Press,

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.

The archdiocese just learned of the charge late Thursday and was preparing a response, spokesman Dennis McGrath said.

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