Sex Abuse Victim Breaks His SilenceApr 25, 2003 | www.wpmi.com
From Boston to Los Angeles to Mobile, the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is far reaching. According to one Mobilian, it goes back farther than many people realize. He himself, a sex abuse victim speaking out for the first time after 40 years in silence.
With more than 50 Catholic Churches in the Mobile area and almost 50,000 parishioners, he is no longer one of them. This victim wants to remain anonymous. So for purposes of this story, we will call him "Bob".
"My entire family are all Catholic," he said. "After what I experienced at McGill, [I] backed away completely from Catholicism."
Bob says that it began when he was a freshman at McGill in the early sixties.
"I was molested by a Catholic priest and by a brother of the Sacred Heart at McGill," he said. "In my case the word got around, they passed me around," Bob went on to say.
He was just 13 years old when the incidents began.
"I knew something was horribly wrong, but I let him do it. Not once but many times."
Bob says that he felt helpless and betrayed.
"A priest was someone very holy, very special, almost sacred." He added, "I feel like I would have been ostracized. I feel like they would have said it was my fault or that I was a liar."
Bob is speaking out for the first time in 40 years because he is outraged at how Mobile Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb is handling the current sex abuse crisis.
"I'm not looking for anything from the Catholic church other for them to deal with this in a responsible manner," "Bob" said.
Alexander Sherlock, a priest who also taught at McGill, is accused of sexually abusing at least four minors -- at least one of the incidents dates back to the mid 70's. The Archbishop said that Sherlock's first known victim came forward in the late 90's.
"He was disciplined in a number of ways," Lipscomb said at a March press conference when the allegations began to arise. "He was taken out of a parish that was much better, he was moved to a smaller parish."
Bob believes that Sherlock should have been prosecuted, and not protected.
"I don't think Oscar Lipscomb understands how devastating this is," he said, adding, "and surely if he understood the devastation this causes an innocent child, he wouldn't have turned Alex Sherlock loose on other innocent children."
But the Archbishop felt that the matter should be dealt with within the walls of the church. "I was convinced this was a past incidence that occurred many years earlier, and was not operative in his life when he was reassigned. He had been given instructions in Montgomery to stay clear of youth activities and youth ministry,"
In the past year, hundreds of priests nationwide have either resigned or were dismissed.
"This is an evil that's been going on since I was associated with Catholicism," Bob said. "It's going on now, and I think what people in Mobile are learning is just the tip of the ice burg."
"We just don't know the full extent of it at this point," said Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr.
Following Sherlock's dismissal in February, another former McGill teacher and priest was dismissed in April for sexual misconduct. This time though, it was handled differently. According to Lipscomb, Father Arthur Schrenger was banished the day he admitted that he sexually abused two minors. more than two decades ago.
"The Archbishop has pledged his cooperation with the District Attorney's office," said Tyson, who added that the Archbishop is not under investigation. By law, Lipscomb was not required to report the priest's criminal behavior.
"In Alabama, there are mandatory reporters of abuse of children," Tyson said. "Interestingly enough though, pastors, priests and preachers are not part of the mandatory reporting statute."
There was a three-year statute of limitations on child abuse cases before 1985, when the State Legislature changed the law. NBC 15 News requested an interview with Archbishop Lipscomb to discuss Bob's allegations, but he declined.
"It's something you never forget," said Bob.
"What we try and do is assure them," said Tyson, saying that he usually tells his victims "wait a minute. You were a child. Someone took advantage of you while you were a child. You don't bear any responsibility or fault for those types of activities. You are a victim of a crime, step forward now and lets try to make sure future children don't have these types of problems."
"Embrace the innocent child," said Bob. "Don't embrace the evil pedophile."
A bill is pending in the Alabama state legislature that would require priests to report cases of suspected child abuse.