Here’s an unusual story about a priest who has been charged with criminal sexual conduct for an incident that took place during private Mass in a woman’s parents’ Minnesota home in 2010. The 33-year-old priest has been charged with two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct by clergy. His attorney claims that he is innocent and that the charges are being placed for the woman’s own personal gain. If you have a case like this one, understand that consent may not be a good defense for you.
What’s unusual about this story is that the woman, a 30-year-old, reported the sexual contact between her and the priest even though they had been interacting since 2009. According to her claims, she met the man in Rome, Italy, where she asked him to be her spiritual guide. The two began to meet every Wednesday to discuss their religion. In 2009, the priest told the woman about his sexual past. He gave her two personal journals, while she provided him with her own. She had written about wanting to find a husband in Rome, and he told her that he was the man that she was sent to meet.
While they were at church, he proposed to her. In 2010, they flew together to San Diego. At that time, he was ordained as a Catholic priest.
In July 2010, he flew to Minnesota to spend time with the woman’s family. He gave Mass and heard their confessions privately in their home. He and the alleged victim went to a cabin in Wisconsin during this trip as well. It was there that they had sex, she reports, but she also claims that they had sexual contact during the performance of the Mass, which occurred prior to the trip.
Later in the summer, the priest sent the woman a $1,000 check for her studies. In 2011, the man said that the devil tempted him to think that she was going to tell someone about their interactions and ruin his ministry. Between 2012 and 2014, the victim reported her sexual contact with the priest to the Catholic Church. He was reassigned to a new church after undergoing a psychological evaluation and taking a leave of absence.
In this case, it would appear that the woman had been a consenting party to the sexual conduct, but in Minnesota, consent isn’t a defense for sexual actions if the person who acted on those actions was a member of the clergy. It’s also not a defense if sexual penetration occurred during the course of a meeting in which the alleged victim was seeking spiritual or religious advice, aid or comfort.
Source: Fox 9, “San Diego priest charged with sexual assault of Minnesota woman during private mass,” Oct. 07, 2016