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Mobile DA Talks With Archbishop About Sex Abuse Claims

Priest Has History Of Child Sex Abuse Allegations

Mar 18, 2003 | AP

A prosecutor said he would talk with Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb, who told stunned parishioners that he let a priest remain at a Roman Catholic church despite a history of sex abuse allegations involving children.

While it was unclear whether any criminal charges could result, Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson said his office must "follow the leads" opened by the announcement.

Lipscomb on Sunday told members of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Montgomery that their former pastor, the Rev. J. Alexander Sherlock, who earlier had served in Mobile, had left the priesthood after a history of abuse cases involving at least three victims.

"My understanding is these people are adults now in their late 20s or early 30s," said the Rev. Michael Farmer, a spokesman for Lipscomb.

Lipscomb had known about the cases since at least the late '90s and talked to the victims, but he did not believe the priest presented a danger to children based on mental evaluations, Farmer said.

A fourth case surfaced last week after a man's attorney telephoned the archdiocese and said his client had been abused by Sherlock about 16 years ago, Farmer said Monday.

Farmer said Lipscomb let Sherlock resign two weeks ago after receiving a letter from the priest's psychologist stating he needed to quit because of depression. Sherlock had been at St. Peter's since 1997 and spent most of his 37-year career in Mobile.

Church staff members and parishioners were not told about the abuse claims when Sherlock quit, Farmer said. Lipscomb went public with the allegations after the attorney called.

"I take responsibility because I trusted Father Sherlock, and thought I had it under control to leave him in effectual ministry, and that I would leave no one else in danger," Lipscomb told parishioners.

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