An Austin Catholic priest has been accused of groping a seriously ill woman while he was administering her last rites.
Rev. Gerold Langsch, 75, was charged with assault by contact last Thursday for an incident that occurred in the woman’s home last October. He was released on $15,000 bond and faces one year of prison time and up to $4,000 in fines, according to CBS Dallas Fort Worth.
The woman, who is suffering from complications from diabetes, is currently in hospice care. Although the incident occurred months ago, the Austin Police Department claims its investigation was delayed due to the woman’s health problems. She was able to identify Langsch in a lineup this month, which helped police make the arrest, Fox San Antonio reports.
Catholic priests are often called upon to administer last rites ― a religious ceremony offered to someone who is seriously ill and in danger of death. Last rites typically include time for the sick individual to confess their sins, be blessed with holy oil and receive Holy Communion for the last time.
The alleged victim’s ex-husband contacted a local Catholic service organization about her health, and the organization offered to send a priest to the woman’s home, Fox San Antonio reports.
But when Langsch went to the woman’s home on Oct. 5, he used the sacred ritual as a cover for sexual assault, an arrest affidavit obtained by the Associated Press suggests. Langsch reportedly rubbed holy water on the woman’s chest then began to apply lotion. He reportedly massaged and pinched her breast, asking, “Does that feel good?” He also allegedly attempted to slip a hand under the woman’s diaper, the AP reports.
The woman later told police that Langsch had left her shocked and confused and feeling like a “nasty, dirty piece of meat.”
The Diocese of Austin said that Langsch was removed from active ministry in February after it received an unrelated report that he had “failed to maintain proper boundaries” with an adult. That incident did not involve physical contact, the diocese stated.
Langsch came to the diocese in Nov. 2015 and served at St. Paul Parish in Austin. He is a member of the Schoenstatt Apostolic movement, a Catholic movement founded in Germany a century ago which now has centers in the U.S.
“The Diocese of Austin will cooperate fully with the police in their investigation,” the diocese said in its statement. “We trust that God will guide our public officials toward a just result and we offer prayers for all involved.”