A Roman Catholic priest has been arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge after he was accused of groping a woman in home hospice care while giving her last rites.
The Rev. Gerold Langsch, of Austin, was arrested Thursday and charged with assault by contact stemming from the Oct. 5 encounter. The 75-year-old priest is free on $15,000 bond. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a year in jail and fined up to $4,000.
Police contend in the arrest affidavit that the woman was in hospice care for complications from diabetes when Lansch went to her home to administer the sacrament of anointing the sick, a sacrament of absolution. The 60-year-old woman, who is still alive, reported that Langsch first anointed her chest with holy water, then began to apply lotion, massaging a breast, pinching a nipple and asking “Does that feel good?” He then allegedly tried to slip his hand inside her diaper but was unable to.
The woman later told police the priest’s actions left her in shock, uncomfortable, confused and feeling like a “nasty, dirty piece of meat.”
The victim’s husband had reached out to the local Knights of Columbus to tell them about his wife’s illness, and they, in turn, sent a priest over to conduct last rites services, according to the Austin Statesman. The purpose of last rites are to prepare a dying person's soul for death, and that involves absolution of their sins.
The investigation into the March incident was delayed because of the victim’s health problems, the Austin Police Department tells Fox San Antonio.
In a statement Wednesday, the Catholic Diocese of Austin said Langsch had been pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church in Austin until last month, when the diocese “received an unrelated report that he had failed to maintain proper boundaries with an adult.” The statement said that report did not involve any physical contact. Nevertheless, the diocese removed Langsch from his post and deemed him no longer able to serve as a priest in the diocese.
The diocese said it will cooperate fully with police and asks anyone with information about the priest’s actions to notify police.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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