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Continued: Maplewood priest charged with fondling woman who sought counseling

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 19, 2013 - 9:53 PM

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Supreme Court found constitutional a state law that bars clergy members from having sex with people they counsel, clearing the way for the charges against Huberty.

The 4-1 ruling upheld the law in the case of the Rev. Christopher Wenthe, a St. Paul priest who in 2011 was convicted of third-degree sexual misconduct for having a relationship with an adult parishioner a decade ago. The ruling also reversed a Minnesota Court of Appeals decision last year that had granted Wenthe a new trial.

The Appeals Court had ruled that the religious evidence used against Wenthe violated his rights under the First Amendment, which holds in part that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

But the state high court said the law was not excessively entangled with religion because it applies “neutral principles of law and regulates only secular aspects of clergy-parishioner relationships.”

‘It’s a crime’

Megan Peterson, leader of Minnesota’s chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), praised the charge against Huberty, saying, “Keeping quiet only helps predators and endangers others.”

“If a criminal embezzles from a bank, no one talks about their ‘financial relationship,’ ” she said. “So no one should ever talk about ‘a relationship’ between a predatory priest and a parishioner. It’s a crime. It should be treated and described as a crime. It should not be minimized or mischaracterized by words or phrases that suggest consent when no genuine consent is possible.”

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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