A Catholic priest acquitted in 2014 of inappropriate sexual contact with an adult parishioner has been relieved of his work as a priest by Pope Francis.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced Mark A. Huberty’s departure from the church in a May 18 statement on its website, but did not explain why, or note whether it was linked to his old criminal case in Ramsey County.
“Mark Huber- ty, who was a priest of this Archdiocese from 1996 until a leave of absence in 2013, was notified that he has been dispensed from the obligations of the clerical state by Pope Francis,” the statement said. “Mark Huberty can no longer serve as a priest.”
Huberty was tried before jurors in 2014 on one count each of fourth and fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly starting a sexual relationship with a married woman he had been counseling. The two met when he was pastor at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Maplewood.
The affair included sexual touching and consensual kissing, consent not being a defense against the charge. Prosecutors argued that Huberty chose the woman because her depression and anxiety made her an easy target, and that he used his status as her spiritual adviser to his benefit.
Huberty was charged under a law that prohibits clergy from engaging in a sexual relationship with someone they are advising spiritually.
After his acquittal, Huberty said he was looking forward to working as a priest again.
“I never understood why the prosecution pursued this so aggressively,” he said in a statement released at the time. “A lot of unnecessary harm was caused for a lot of people, including the people of my parish and the complainant herself. Now it’s time to heal.”
The archdiocese said at the time that he would remain on leave from active ministry until a standards board for the church reviewed the case.