Austin Catholic priest accused of assaulting woman during last rites

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – A 75-year-old Catholic priest in Austin is accused of touching a woman in a sexual manner who was in hospice care, according to documents filed in court.

Rev. Gerold Langsch faces a Class A misdemeanor assault by contact charge. Court documents say he went to the woman’s home in October 2018 to administer her last rites. The woman suffered from several medical conditions and was put on hospice care due to complications with diabetes, according to the affidavit. Assault by contact is typically a Class C misdemeanor, which is the lowest level criminal charge in Texas, but Austin Police Det. Steven McCormick says the charge was upgraded to a Class A because the victim is disabled. It carries a maxiumum sentence of up to one year in a county jail, and a $4,000 fine.

ACCUSED: List of Catholic priests accused of child sexual abuse in the Austin diocese 

“While on hospice, the victim’s ex-husband contacted the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic-based fraternal service, to inform them of the victim’s illness,” officials wrote in the affidavit. “They offered to send a priest to their home to give the victim her last rites, a religious ceremony to offer absolution of sins prior to dying through anointment.” 

The victim told police Langsch came to her home on Oct. 5 and touched her inappropriately after anointing her with holy water. He also allegedly asked her if it felt “good,” the affidavit stated.

“The victim was in shock, uncomfortable and very confused about what the suspect was doing,” police wrote. “She described the feeling like a ‘nasty, dirty piece of meat.'” 

Police investigated the alleged suspect, known to the victim only as “Father Gerold” with St. Paul’s Catholic Church. They identified Langsch as a suspect and on March 13, presented his photo in a lineup to the victim. She was able to positively identify Langsch in the lineup, according to the affidavit.

A spokesperson with the Diocese of Austin says Father Langsch became pastor of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in south Austin in Nov. 2015. The Knights of Columbus Austin chapter website lists Langsch as a chaplain with the group in 2017-2018. Gonzales also told KXAN Father Langsch was ordained as a priest in 1972 for the Schoenstatt Movement in Germany.

Langsch was charged and arrested. His bond was set at $15,000 with the condition that he not make contact with the woman. He bonded out of Travis County Jail, records show.

The Diocese of Austin issued a statement to KXAN regarding a separate incident after news of his arrest and charges came to light. 

In February, Rev. Langsch’s religious superiors and the Diocese of Austin received an unrelated report that he had failed to maintain proper boundaries with an adult. That report did not involve any physical contact. Rev. Langsch was removed as pastor of St. Paul Parish in Austin based on that report. He is no longer able to serve as a priest in the Diocese of Austin.

Diocese officials said Father Langsch resigned as pastor of St. Paul Parish in February, prior to his arrest last week. The priest turned 75 years old in Dec. 2018, which is retirement age in the Schoenstatt community. Schoenstatt leaders say they will determine where Father Langsch will live. Records indicate prior to his arrest, Langsch was living at St. Paul Parish.

Diocese leaders say they are cooperating with police as they investigate. 

“We trust that God will guide our public officials toward a just result and we offer prayers for all involved,” they wrote. 

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