St. Cloud priest convicted of abuse is dismissed from priesthood

A brick office building is framed by trees in afternoon light
The St Cloud Diocese office is seen along Third Avenue South, located just blocks away from St. Cloud State University on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

A St. Cloud priest who served prison time for sexual misconduct with an adult parishioner has left the priesthood.

In a news release issued Tuesday, St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler stated after a formal review, he recommended to Anthony Oelrich that he should seek to be laicized, or dismissed from the clerical state. 

Oelrich agreed, and the laicization process is complete, Kettler stated.

Oelrich, 56, was released from prison Oct. 17 after serving more than two years of a 41-month sentence. 

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He pleaded guilty in 2019 to one felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for having ongoing sexual conduct with a woman who'd come to him for spiritual advice while he was serving at the Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud. 

A mug shot of a white man
St. Cloud priest Anthony Oelrich was released from prison Oct. 21 after serving more than two years for criminal sexual conduct with an adult.
Courtesy of Minnesota Department of Corrections

While he was in prison, Oelrich remained a priest, although his priestly faculties were suspended. That meant he couldn’t present himself as a priest, celebrate Mass publicly or wear the Roman collar. But he continued to receive his priest’s salary.

Laicization means Oelrich can no longer minister or hold any leadership roles in the church. He will not receive a salary, housing or health benefits from the diocese, and is no longer permitted to use the title “father.”

Kettler encouraged anyone who has suffered abuse to report it to local law enforcement, and to contact the diocese for support. He also asked people to pray for healing for all survivors of sexual abuse “and for those wounded by the Church in any way.”