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Former Mobile Priest Admits He Sexually Abused Boys

Mar 17, 2003 | Most recently, Father J. Alexander Sherlock's home was St. Peters Church in Montgomery. But for most of his 37-year-career, Sherlock served in Mobile. Elouise Spafford, a member of one of his former churches remembers him fondly.

"He was brilliant, you know he knew the Bible real well," said Spafford.

But Sherlock had a secret that most people didn't know. He admits to sexually abusing at least three children years ago while in Mobile. Aside from teaching at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, Sherlock was associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Mobile, and later pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes on Dauphin Island Parkway. Most recently he was pastor at Saint Pius church on Sage Avenue, until his transfer to Montgomery in 1997.

Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb refused to offer any details about the abuses, but yesterday he told Sherlock's Montgomery congregation that Sherlock resigned there to seek help and was no longer fit to serve. Ironically, in the past, Sherlock has been vocal about sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, saying priests who abuse children should be punished.

In March of last year Sherlock told a reporter, "It is a terrible, terrible, terrible thing when somebody takes a child's innocence."

Lipscomb admitted he was aware of Sherlock's problem, but because he's been under psychiatric treatment for three years, he thought everything was okay until last week when a fourth allegation of abuse surfaced. Matthew O'Connor is the current pastor at St. Pius. While he's not aware if any of the victims are from St. Pius, he does believe the situation was handled incorrectly.

"I think he should have been suspended and let the law deal with it," said O'Connor. Other area Catholics are split on the subject.

"I feel like we're all human and sometimes we just make mistakes," said Elouise Spafford.

Darren O'Donnell added, "They certainly should be reprimanded, kept away from children."

The Archbishop is not saying when or where the abuses took place and he's not talking about the ages of the three boys. As for the fourth abuse allegation, a spokesperson for the Archbishop says it happened about 15 years ago in Mobile, but just recently came to Lipscomb's attention.

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