Mobile priest runs off to Italy with a recent high school grad; SNAP wants answers from his Archbishop
For immediate release: August 21, 2023
Last week disturbing reports revealed that a 30 -year-old Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Mobile fled to Europe with an 18-year-old teen, saying that Jesus told them that they should leave and not return to Alabama. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wonders why it took so long for the Archbishop to act in this case, and why he had not released more information about the scandal to the faithful and the public.
McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile admitted that Fr. Alex Crow sat in on classes and took confessions there in 2021, the same year that he was ordained. Earlier this summer, Fr. Crow traveled to Europe with a just-turned 18-year-old graduate of McGill-Toolen, and Mobile law enforcement released two letters the cleric wrote that suggests that Fr. Crow’s relationship with the teen was inappropriate, including a Valentine’s Day love letter to the teen.
Despite reports that parents had complained about Fr. Crow to the Archdiocese, including insisting that the clergyman stay away from another girl, Archbishop Thomas John Rodi appears to have done nothing in response. Fr. Crow was still able to go with a group of students to Italy in June. It was only after the clergyman and the 18-year-old did not return to Alabama that Archdiocese announced that he exhibited behavior “unbecoming of a priest” and that he “may no longer exercise ministry as a priest.” It is extremely disappointing that the Archbishop was not open about what had transpired, and that he did not mention or express any concern for the teen.
The survivors’ group is concerned about the Archbishop's deplorable lack of action. SNAP contends that if the Archbishop had responded appropriately to the earlier complaints, that what appears to be the grooming of this young girl may have been aborted and she would not have run away with this much older man. This episode will undoubtedly reverberate through the rest of this girl’s life.
Despite often repeated claims that the abuse problem in the Catholic Church is a thing of the past, we see in this case that this is simply not true. Despite repeated pledges of openness and transparency, we see a Catholic hierarch hiding complaints about one of his clergymen, resulting in a young girl being placed in harm's way.
Whether or not Fr. Crow’s actions meet the definition of a crime in Alabama, SNAP knows from its work with adult survivors that they – like children -- suffer greatly from the betrayal of a trusted clergyman. After all, in the Catholic tradition, all parishioners address the priest as “Father,” and he is someone who is in a position of authority over their spiritual lives. Although Alabama is not among them, in a handful of states, it is a crime for clergy to have sex with parishioners or those they are counseling. We also recognize that back in June of 2022 Pope Francis changed Catholic Church law to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by clergy.
SNAP urges Archbishop Rodi to come clean now with his flock and law enforcement about what he knew about Fr. Crow, and when he knew it, including whether he approved this cleric for ordination. He should also be explaining to the faithful why he ignored another complaint until it was too late for this girl. We believe that the sheriff should also be investigating if the Archbishop broke any laws by sitting on this information.
In the meantime, we encourage anyone who may have experienced, witnessed, or suspected child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Alabama to come forward and make a report to secular authorities.
CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Interim Executive Director (mmcdo[email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors President ([email protected], 814- 341-8386)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)