AL--Birmingham Catholic priest is exposed as abuser for first time

For immediate release: Wednesday, Nov. 5

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])

A Catholic priest who spent the last two decades of his life working in Alabama has been exposed – for the first time - as a credibly accused child molester. We call on Alabama Catholic officials to warn parents, parishioners and the public about him and to beg anyone with information or suspicions about him to call law enforcement immediately.    

From 1983 to 2003, Fr. Sean Leo Rooney worked at St. John Bosco parish in Birmingham and Holy Rosary parish in Birmingham (Gate City).  In 2013, Fr. Rooney was accused in a lawsuit of having sexually abused a 14-year-old junior seminary student at least twice.

Last week, a Boston attorney disclosed that he settled a child sex abuse and cover up case against Fr. Rooney and his church supervisors. That attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, has posted Fr. Rooney’s name on his website as one of dozens of accused priests against whom Garabedian has won settlements.

We applaud Fr. Rooney’s victim for having the strength to come forward, file suit, endure delays and win some measure of justice and expose Catholic officials who have committed and concealed child sex crimes.

And we denounce Catholic officials in every state where he worked who apparently have kept silent about the accusations against Fr. Rooney for months or years.

We urge Alabama's bishop to "come clean," explain why he and his colleagues have hidden these allegations, and to fire or at least demote every single Catholic employee who endangered kids by keeping quiet about them.

Fr. Rooney was a religious order priest. He belonged to the New Rochelle, NY based region (or province) of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

So Alabama’s bishop will try to split hairs and claim Fr. Rooney wasn’t his responsibility. But that’s legalistic dodge. Religious order priests like Fr. Rooney work in a diocese only with the explicit approval of the local bishop. And it’s the local bishop’s duty to safeguard the well-being of every Catholic parishioner in his diocese.

So it doesn’t matter which Catholic official officially signed Fr. Rooney’s paycheck. It’s the obligation of Alabama Catholic officials to aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes and beg them to call police.

Let there be no mistake about this new information:  it’s being released because victims have filed lawsuits and insist on disclosures and real safety measures, not just pay offs. It’s not a sign of reform by Catholic officials. It’s a sign that when victims are brave enough to step forward and smart enough to file lawsuits, more truth can be exposed and more kids can be protected.

We hope that anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Rooney – or any cleric – will find the courage to speak up, get help, expose wrongdoers, protect others and start healing.

Fr. Rooney was ordained in 1959 and also worked in schools in Boston MA, Cedar Lake IN, Paterson NJ, Marrero LA and Ramsey NJ, and to high school seminaries in Cedar Lake IN and Goshen NJ.

His photo and work history are here:

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])    

Showing 1 comment

  • Mary Banks
    commented 2018-02-21 16:25:45 -0600
    Do you have a support group? My son was abused as a young teen by a priest who WAS a family friend, but our son just recently told me about it. He is 41 years old.

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