St. Paul priest’s sex misconduct conviction reinstated
A St. Paul priest broke the law when he had sex with a female parishioner, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided Wednesday.
The high court reinstated the conviction of Christopher Wenthe, reversing a Court of Appeals ruling last year that said he deserved a new trial.
In a dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Justice Alan Page said he believed the appellate court was right to strike down Wenthe’s conviction.
It was the second time the high court has reversed an appellate ruling in the case.
The court’s Wednesday ruling centered on three issues: whether the trial court’s jury instructions misstated the law; whether the state’s clergy sexual conduct law required Wenthe to know the woman was seeking spiritual counseling at the time they engaged in sexual contact; and whether Wenthe should have been allowed to offer counter prosecution claims that the woman was sexually naive.
A previous appeal and Supreme Court reversal centered on First Amendment issues. The case was sent back to the appeals court on the remaining issues, which were decided last year and reversed Wednesday.
Wenthe, a Roman Catholic priest, was convicted in 2011 of third-degree criminal sexual conduct for a sexual encounter with a woman; their relationship began in 2003, while he was working at Nativity of Our Lord church in St. Paul.
The victim testified that when she was a new parishioner at Nativity, in St. Paul’s Macalester-Groveland neighborhood, she and Wenthe developed a close bond. She was 21; he was 38.
They began to see each other regularly. Hours before the first sexual encounter, on Nov.