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Second Priest Removed In Widening Probe of Misconduct With Minors

Apr 3, 2003 | AP

A second Roman Catholic priest has been dismissed and files of two others have been turned over to authorities in a widening probe of misconduct with minors in the Archdiocese of Mobile.

No criminal charges have been filed. District Attorney John Tyson said Thursday his investigation is "open-ended" and he continues to rely on the cooperation of the archdiocese, which had not divulged knowledge of some of the alleged sexual abuses of minors until recent weeks.

Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb, in a statement Wednesday, said he removed the Rev. Arthur Schrenger from the priesthood on Tuesday after Schrenger confirmed two instances of misconduct with minors prior to 1985.

Schrenger, who was ordained in 1975, served as an associate pastor at three Mobile parishes between then and 1983 and as a religion teacher at the Catholic McGill-Toolen High School 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 did not immediately return a phone message Thursday for comment.

Lipscomb also said he has turned over to the district attorney the church files on two other priests whose names have surfaced in the probe. District Attorney John Tyson on Thursday did not provide details of allegations against the two.

Previously the Rev. J. Alexander Sherlock resigned from the priesthood on Feb. 28 following sex abuse allegations involving four young men dating back to the 1970s when he was in Mobile. Lipscomb learned of the first victim's allegation in 1998 but allowed Sherlock to continue in the ministry in Montgomery.

In previous statements, Lipscomb said Sherlock requested the transfer from Mobile to Montgomery, his hometown, after Lipscomb confronted him with the first 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.

But Lipscomb, who stunned members of the archdiocese when he disclosed his handling of the Sherlock case earlier this year, on Wednesday corrected his initial statement, saying Sherlock was moved from Mobile to St. Peter's Church in Montgomery before the first allegation surfaced, not after.

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.

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.

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