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Second Priest Removed For Alleged Misconduct

Apr 2, 2003 | AP A second Roman Catholic priest was dismissed in a probe of misconduct with minors in the Archdiocese of Mobile, Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb said Wednesday.

Lipscomb released a statement saying he removed the Rev. Arthur Schrenger from the priesthood on Tuesday after Schrenger confirmed two instances of misconduct with minors prior to 1985.

Schrenger was ordained in 1975 and served as an associate pastor at three Mobile parishes between then and 1983. He also was a religion teacher at McGill-Toolen High School, the Catholic school in Mobile, from May 1976 to May 1983 and again from August 1984 to December 1987. He has worked in the archdiocese's marriage counseling office in Mobile since 2001.

Details about the misconduct were not disclosed in Lipscomb's statement and he has declined requests for interviews. Schrenger could not immediately be located for comment.

Lipscomb also corrected a previous statement about his handling of the removal of another priest, the Rev. J. Alexander Sherlock, who resigned from the priesthood on Feb. 28 following sex abuse allegations involving four young men dating back to the 1970s.

Lipscomb said the first victim contacted him Tuesday with a correction, saying he had complained to Lipscomb in January 1998, after Sherlock was moved to St. Peter's Church in Montgomery. Lipscomb previously said the complaint came in 1997, when Sherlock was still pastor of St. Pius X in Mobile.

Lipscomb said Wednesday that prior to the transfer of Sherlock to Montgomery, the question of any sexual abuse against a minor had not arisen.

"It was in February 1998, shortly after I received the allegation from this victim, that I confronted Sherlock," Lipscomb said.

In previous statements, Lipscomb said Sherlock requested the transfer to Montgomery, his hometown, after Lipscomb confronted him with the allegation of sexual abuse. Lipscomb said he granted the move to a church with few young people, with the agreement that Sherlock would undergo psychological therapy.

The archbishop said he has cooperated with Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson's office, turning over files on Sherlock and now Schrenger.

Lipscomb also gave Tyson additional files and information on Victor Bendillo, who is not a priest, but a "brother" of the Scared Heart assigned to McGill-Toolen High School.

On July 20, 1998, a verbal complaint of abuse against Brother Victor was received and he was removed from the ministry. The person complaining about him came forward on the condition of anonymity, according to Lipscomb.

Following Brother Victor's removal, three additional complaints against him were received by the archdiocese. Lipscomb said he handled two of the complaints with a personal response. The third person was represented by a lawyer. Their names were not disclosed.

"The primary concern of the victims was that future damage to others be prevented. My first concern was to offer them the help and support they needed, which I did," Lipscomb said, without giving any details in the complaints.

Meanwhile, a woman has accused another Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Mobile of sexually abusing her in the early 1970s after she sought counseling from him.

Honey Weiss, 47, said the Rev. Adrian Cook, then a priest at Holy Family Catholic Church, had sex with her at her apartment when she was 19 after she talked to him following an unplanned pregnancy.

Cook maintains Weiss consented to having sex with him.

Weiss said Lipscomb learned of the accusations in 1996 and offered to pay for counseling and medications she said became necessary largely as a result of her relationship with the priest. She said she accepted.

Lipscomb confirmed Wednesday that the church has paid for Weiss' therapy and medications since a 1997 meeting.

As for Cook, Weiss said she came to know the priest in the early 1970s, when he was an associate pastor at Holy Family and became involved in the Catholic Youth Organization. Cook became a fixture in her home, she said.

When she became pregnant in 1973, Weiss said, she could not bear to tell her family. She said she told Cook and he broke the news to them for her.

After she gave birth and gave the baby up for adoption, Weiss said she was subjected to ridicule and gossip, and sought help from Cook.

Weiss would not say how many times she had sexual contact with Cook, other than to say it was more than once. She said the incidents haunted her for years.

Cook, now 57, serves as pastor of St. Maurice Catholic Church in Brewton. In an interview with the Mobile Register on Tuesday, he acknowledged that he had sex with Weiss, but said it was consensual. He also confirmed that he had fathered a child with another woman.

"We did have sex, but it was between consenting adults," Cook said. He strongly contested her description of the sex as "abuse" and disagreed that it happened in conjunction with a counseling session. He also said he thought it happened later than she said it did.

Weiss said she has tried to reach a more final settlement, and even hired a lawyer, so she would not have to keep going to Lipscomb to reimburse her medical expenses.

As of Jan. 31, 2002, Weiss said, the archdiocese had paid her therapist $11,790, and reimbursed her for doctor visits and medications, which she said averaged $125 a month.

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