US Catholic priest who avoided charges marries teen he fled to Italy with

— Alexander Crow, 30, married 18-year-old high school graduate on Friday, according to license filed in Mobile county, Alabama

Alexander Crow had his clerical duties removed by the Catholic archdiocese of Mobile county.


A Roman Catholic priest in Alabama who was investigated by law enforcement after fleeing to Europe with a recent high school graduate he met through his ministry legally married her after he returned to the US with her, a document provided to the Guardian showed.

According to a marriage license filed in Mobile county, Alabama, Alexander Crow, 30, married the 18-year-old former McGill-Toolen Catholic high school student on Friday.

In late July, Crow – an expert in the theological study of demons and exorcism – had his clerical duties removed by the Catholic archdiocese of Mobile, after going to Italy with the teen and indicating he would never return to the US.

The archdiocese told him he “abandoned his assignment” and was accused of behavior “totally unbecoming of a priest”.

Though the archdiocese did not elaborate, priests take a vow of celibacy and amid a worldwide, decades-old clerical molestation scandal, Catholic officials have implemented guidelines meant to establish boundaries between clergymen and vulnerable adults.

The parents of the teen – who attended McGill-Toolen while Crow volunteered there – were not aware she was going to Italy with him.

The Mobile county sheriff’s office reviewed allegations that Crow engaged in sexual misconduct and groomed multiple girls at McGill-Toolen. However, on 7 November a Mobile TV station, WKRG, published a statement from the local district attorney saying prosecutors would not pursue charges.

The statement said that after being summoned to meet with investigators through a subpoena, the teen “declined to answer any questions” about her trip with Crow.

“She appeared in seemingly good health and said that she is safe,” the statement said. “Without being able to speak with the young lady about these events, we do not have sufficient admissible evidence to charge a crime at this point. Therefore, this investigation is currently closed.”

Investigators found a letter Crow sent to the girl on Valentine’s Day, when she was still 17. The missive expressed strong love and declared they were already married. But the marriage license filed jointly in their names in Mobile listed the wedding date as Friday.

The document, which prominently lists Alabama’s minimum age of marriage as 16, affirms: “Each of us is entering into the marriage voluntarily and of our own free will and not under duress or undue influence.”

Attempts to contact Crow, the girl or their families were not immediately successful.

The Mobile archbishop, Thomas Rodi, has said he intends to seek Crow’s permanent removal from the clergy, an extremely rare measure not often used against clergymen criminally charged with – or even convicted of – sexual abuse.

The process, controlled by church law, would not start until the beginning of next year, WKRG has reported.

Rodi was a high-ranking official in nearby New Orleans in 2000, when that city’s archdiocese included him on a letter reinstating a priest who had gone on sabbatical after having admitted sexually molesting or harassing multiple children.

That priest, Lawrence Hecker, has not faced expulsion from the clergy. He retired quietly in 2002 but was recently indicted on charges of child rape, kidnapping and other crimes.

Rodi has repeatedly rebuffed insinuations that the Mobile archdiocese was slow or reluctant to cooperate in the investigation of Crow.

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In the end, Pope Francis’ big summit dodged big issues

— Women’s ordination, priestly marriage, LGBTQ Catholics

By Claire Giangravé

What many will take away about the Synod on Synodality, the monthlong summit on the future of the Catholic Church, is that the 450 clergy and lay faithful called to the meeting skirted the key agenda items of women’s ordination, marriage for priests and acceptance of LGBTQ Catholics.

On Saturday, after the synod released a tepid summary of its work, the Women’s Ordination Conference pronounced itself “dismayed” by the failure of the synod to allow women to become priests.

“A ‘listening church’ that fails to be transformed by the fundamental exclusion of women and LGBTQ+ people,” a statement read, “fails to model the gospel itself.”

The term LGBTQ did not make it into the final document at all, earning the “disappointment” of New Ways Ministries, a network of gay Catholics and their allies, in its statement on Sunday, though it noted that the group drew encouragement from some of Pope Francis’ words of support.

But for the synod’s organizers, the event was never about providing definitive answers on these topics but about promoting dialogue and overcoming division. “Many ask for results. But synodality is a listening exercise: prolonged, respectful and humble,” Cardinal Mario Grech, secretary-general of the synod, said Saturday evening.

In the final 42-page document, titled Synthesis Document for a Synodal Church in Mission and approved by 364 voting participants in the meeting, the summit is portrayed as a success, with most of the 20 separate points passing by overwhelming majorities, even if no single paragraph obtained full consensus.

During the event, which opened Oct. 4 with a Mass presided over by Pope Francis, participants talked about the spirit of friendship, respect and dialogue overcoming polarization even in the most divisive debates. Even conservative clergy who were initially critical, including German Cardinal Gerhard Müller and the Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schönborn agreed the synod was a positive experience.

Divisions were, nonetheless, evident: In votes on the individual points in the final document, 69 attendees voted against a paragraph on the possibility of women becoming deacons, who are ordained to preach at Mass but not to celebrate the Eucharist or hear confessions. Mentions of considering the possibility of married priests drew 55 negative votes, or 15% of the voting membership.

Attendants wrote that they are aware that the term synodality awakens “confusion and concern” among many that the teaching of the church will be changed. Since its start, the synod has been accompanied by vocal criticism of conservative prelates who believe the summit is a Trojan horse aimed at forwarding progressive agendas in the church.

Some of those conservatives had bridled at the portrayal of this year’s synod as a completion of the work of Vatican II, the meeting called by Pope John XXIII in the early 1960s seeking to reconcile the church with the demands of changing society. Since then, many progressives have felt that those reforms have been muted or ignored and looked to the synod to make good, increasing conservatives’ fears regarding the dilution of tradition and the power of the hierarchy.

The document’s opening section indeed presents the Synod on Synodality as a “further reception” of Vatican II, but while it recognized the almost familial conflicts posed by the small discussion groups — “We also share that it’s not easy listening to different ideas, without immediately giving into the temptation of answering back,” the document read — participants said that through prayer the effectiveness and primacy of synodality in the church eventually came through.

“A substantial agreement emerged that, with the necessary clarifications, the synodal prospective represents the future of the church,” the document read. The document, drafted with the assistance of theologians, describes synodality as “a journeying of Christians toward Christ and the Kingdom, together with all of humanity.”

In his speech to the synod assembly Wednesday (Oct. 25), Francis further laid out a view of a Catholic Church centered around the “infallibility of faithful people.” The faithful, the pope explained, share an intuition of the beliefs of the church that needs to be interpreted and adopted by the church as a whole.

The closing document proposes that updates to canon law be made to enlarge the participation of people in the church.

Adding to the document’s vision of a more open power structure is its call for the church to be more receptive to individual cultures around the Catholic world, and it urges the church to combat xenophobia and racism.

The document also emphasizes the need to promote relationships with other churches and denominations, suggesting that a council of Roman church patriarchs and archbishops be formed to advise the pope on ecumenism, and even proposing a synod on the Eastern churches. Attendees voiced the hope that Easter 2025, when all Christians will celebrate the paschal feast on the same day, may foster further communion among believers.

The spirit of openness infused the synod participants’ recommendations about the hierarchy, calling on bishops to be “examples of synodality.” Among the proposals were the strengthening of lay and clergy councils at the parish and diocesan levels, allowing lay people to have a voice in selecting bishops and reducing the role of the papal nuncio, the Vatican’s ambassador in a given country.

At the top of the power structure, the document said, the council of cardinals that advises the pope, known as the C9, should take on more responsibilities and suggested reforming canon law to offer “dispositions for a more collegial exercise of the papal ministry.”

But there are limits to how democratic the church hierarchy is willing to become. While the presence of lay people at the synod was welcomed in the document, it also warned that “the criteria allowing nonbishops to participate in the synod will have to be clarified.” When the synod rejoins after a year, it stated, “some suggest that there should be a meeting of exclusively bishops to complete the synodal process.”

And synodality seemed to dictate that where the deepest divisions lie, more discussion is needed. On the question of female deacons, which some say would signify a return to early church practice and others call a break with tradition, the document simply acknowledged that women experience inequality in the church but left any decision to already existing commissions created by Francis, promising theological study in time for the next synod assembly.

Participants also asked for further discussion on the issue of celibacy for priests.

In its final section, the document took up the problem of clergy sex abuse, which Catholics around the world, meeting to air their concerns in listening sessions in their dioceses, had asked the synod to address. But apart from recognizing the need to listen to victims of clergy abuse, it did not offer specific proposals on how to prevent abuse or increase clergy accountability.

The document will now be circulated back to those dioceses for consideration by Catholic leaders and congregants. According to German bishops who attended the synod, “It is now up to the local churches, and thus also up to us, to use these spaces which the synod has opened up in order to continue to work on a synodal church, to advance along the synodal paths, and thus to translate the momentum into concrete reflection and action.”

Despite its multitude of proposals and challenges, the first synod closed with more questions than answers. Regarding those Catholics who might be left still “in a situation of solitude” if they obey the church teachings on “questions of marriage and sexual ethics,” the synod’s participants offered “closeness and support.”

“A profound sense of love, mercy and compassion” was shared by participants for those who “feel wounded or cast aside by the church, who desire a place to return ‘home’ where they can feel safe, feel listened to and respected, without fear of feeling judged.”

But the participants declared themselves often caught between the Christian principle of mercy and the need to defend the doctrinal beliefs of the church.

“If we adopt doctrine harshly and with a judging attitude, we betray the gospel,” the document read, “If we practice cheap mercy, we don’t transmit God’s love.”

Complete Article HERE!

Polish bishop apologises after reports of priests’ “sex party with male prostitute”

A bishop has issued a letter apologising for recent “painful events” in his diocese, where media reports suggest that a group of priests were involved in a “sex party” at which a male prostitute lost consciousness and was initially denied medical assistance.

Though the church has acknowledged an incident took place and prosecutors have announced an investigation, neither have confirmed the precise nature of what took place and the local diocese says some aspects of media reports are inaccurate.

Last week, Gazeta Wyborcza, a leading liberal daily, reported that priests in Dąbrowa Górnicza, a city in southern Poland, had organised a party in a building belonging to the parish to which a male prostitute had been invited.

“The event was purely sexual in nature,” an unnamed source with knowledge of the incident told the newspaper. “Its participants took potency enhancement drugs.”

Gazeta Wyborcza reported that “the party got out of control and the male prostitute lost consciousness”, resulting in an ambulance being called. However, when paramedics arrived, they were refused entry to the premises. The paramedics then reportedly called the police, who helped them gain access to the unconscious man.

A spokesman for the local prosecutor’s office told Gazeta Wybrocza that an investigation has been initiated into the possible failure to provide assistance to a person whose health is endangered, a crime that can carry up to three years in prison.

In response to the newspaper’s enquiries, the local Catholic curia confirmed that there had been an incident involving the “intervention of an ambulance and police in a building belonging to the parish”. It said the bishop had appointed a commission to urgently explain what had happened.

In a subsequent statement, the curia announced that the commission’s “findings so far differ from the information presented by some media”, though it did not provide any further details.

Events then took a further dramatic turn when, on Thursday night, someone set fire to the doors of the basilica in the parish where the alleged incident had taken place. Firefighters extinguished the blaze and no one was injured. Police later detained a man suspected of starting the fire.

On Friday, the curia announced that the priest in whose apartment the alleged incident had taken place – who can be named only as Tomasz Z. under Polish privacy law – had been removed from all ecclesiastical duties “until the matter is clarified”.

Meanwhile, Niedziela, a weekly Catholic news magazine, announced that it had terminated its cooperation with Tomasz Z., who had previously been the editor-in-chief of its local Sosnowiec edition.

Yesterday, a letter from the bishop of Sosnowiec, Grzegorz Kaszak, was read in all churches in the diocese. He referred to the “painful events in Dąbrowa Górnicza” and the “ashamed priests” involved, but without providing any details of what had taken place.

“I apologise to all those who were affected and saddened, or even scandalised, by the situation,” wrote the bishop. “I would like to emphasise emphatically that there is no consent to moral evil. Anyone found guilty will be punished according to canon law, regardless of the verdict of a civil court.”

“Today I turn to you, beloved in Christ the Lord, with a request for prayer and fasting – tools of victory over the particularly strong evil that destroys man,” he continued. “Let us pray for the conversion of our brother who has committed a scandalous act.”

Meanwhile, the parish priest at the church where the alleged incident took place said during Sunday mass yesterday that he “condemns the act committed by Father Tomasz Z.” But he also appealed to people to not “act to intensify the spiral of hatred: evil must be overcome with good”.

Complete Article HERE!

‘It’s time to abolish celibacy,’ says president of Swiss Bishops’ Conference

“The time is ripe to abolish celibacy. I have no problem at all imagining married priests,” said Felix Gmür.

The president of the Swiss Bishops’ Conference admits mistakes in dealing with abuse cases in the Catholic Church and advocates for the abolition of celibacy and the admission of women to the priesthood.

In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) am SonntagExternal link, Bishop Felix Gmür also said that the Catholic Church has been active in the topic of abuse cases for a long time.

The prevailing conditions must be questioned, the Swiss Bishops’ Conference president explains. In his view, the time is ripe to abolish celibacy and to allow women access to the priesthood.

At the beginning of his time as bishop, Gmür emphasised the legally correct conduct in cases of abuse, he said in the interview with NZZ am Sonntag. The victim’s perspective had been neglected in the process. “In this respect, I have changed my perspective over time”.

Gmür is in favour of an external monitoring of the church investigation into the cases of abuse, as demanded by the Roman Catholic Central Conference.

In general, power in the Church must be better distributed, Gmür said. “I will lobby in Rome for the Church to decentralise.” A new sexual morality is needed, together with the possibility to make regulations regionally.

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference has decided to set up an ecclesiastical criminal and disciplinary tribunal for the Roman Catholic Church in Switzerland. However, this still has to be discussed with the Pope, since such tribunal is not provided for in canon law, said Gmür. However, the proceedings under church law are subordinate to state law, “so they do not replace secular criminal proceedings.”

Women should join the priesthood

Part of coming to terms with the situation is questioning the prevailing conditions. “Celibacy means that I am available to God. But I believe that this sign is no longer understood by society today,” says Gmür. “The time is ripe to abolish celibacy. I have no problem at all imagining married priests.”

The exclusion of women from priestly ordination should also fall, he says. “The subordination of women in the Catholic Church is incomprehensible to me. Changes are needed there,” Gmür said. He added that the Church is “not yet where we need it to be” when it comes to the ban on concubinage for employees.

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church’s latest scandals in the US

— America’s largest Christian denomination continues to cause controversy

The Catholic Church has a history of scandal spanning decades.

By Devika Rao

The Catholic Church is not new to controversy. The institution’s actions prompted The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer-winning spotlight investigation detailing the pedophilic transgressions of Catholic priests and enabling evasive maneuvers of their bishops. However, there are many other scandals involving the church, including more instances of sexual abuse, privacy violations and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.

1 Child sex abuse in Pennsylvania

In 2018, a Pennsylvania grand jury issued a 900-page report detailing 70 years of child sex abuse by the Catholic Church in the state. The report found 300 priests involved in the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 identifiable victims and likely many more that went unreported. The grand jury said the church followed a “playbook for concealing the truth,” The New York Times reported.

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.” The investigation was led by then-Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is now Pennsylvania’s governor. He said the cover-up “stretched in some cases all the way up to the Vatican,” adding that the church “protected their institution at all costs” and “showed a complete disdain for victims.” The report also prompted investigations in other states, many of which uncovered similar findings.

2 Sex, drugs and nun control

The Bishop of Fort Worth and 10 cloistered nuns in Arlington, Texas, have been at odds in a convoluted scandal, Slate reported. The head of a local convent, Mother Teresa Agnes Gerlach, had a seizure in 2022 requiring medical intervention. While medicated, Gerlach admitted to committing online “sexual sin” with a priest, a violation of her vow of chastity. The information was reported to Bishop Michael Olson, who began a crusade against the nuns, interrogating them and confiscating their devices. Soon, the nuns refused to cooperate, claiming Olson was “traumatizing” them.

Things escalated further, with Olson threatening to dismiss the nuns from their Carmelite order, and the nuns then suing Olson for violating their privacy and defamation. The nuns’ lawyer also called in the police to investigate Olson, prompting Olson’s office to release photos by a “confidential informant” taken in the nuns’ monastery showing “marijuana edibles, a bong and other drug paraphernalia.” The nuns claimed that the photo was staged and that Olson was trying to shut the monastery down to seize their property.

The conflict is still ongoing and the nuns have rejected Olson’s authority over them, despite Vatican intervention. “Every action he has taken with regard to us has proven to be devious and deceptive, marked by falsehood and an intent to persecute us,” the nuns wrote.

3 Art, abuse and Marko Rupnik

Slovenian priest Marko Rupnik was expelled from the Jesuits in June 2023 for “sexually, spiritually and psychologically abusing women” for decades, The Associated Press reported. However, Rupnik is also a famous Catholic mosaic artist whose work is in chapels all over the world, including the U.S. This has sparked debate as to whether his art should be removed or whether people should separate the art from the artist.

“The good of art is in the work of art itself,” argued the Rev. Patrick Briscoe in Our Sunday Visitor. “If we say anything else, we concede that art is, of itself and in fact, ideological.” On the other side, the victims of Rupnik’s abuse and other abuse survivors are calling for the art to be removed. “His artwork should be removed, as a testimony to the entire church, and as a witness, that there are consequences to perpetrating abuse,” clerical abuse victim Gina Barthel told The Pillar.

4 Child sex abuse in Baltimore

In April 2023, Maryland’s attorney general released a report outlining the sexual abuse of children and teenagers over six decades by clergy in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, The New York Times reported. The 463-page report identifies 156 abusers (10 of whose names are redacted) connected to the church, mostly men who served as priests, who abused more than 600 children dating back to the 1940s.

The report “illustrates the depraved, systemic failure of the archdiocese to protect the most vulnerable — the children it was charged to keep safe,” Attorney General Anthony Brown said. Archbishop William Lori, head of the Baltimore archdiocese — the oldest diocese in the U.S. — said in a statement he sees “the pain and destruction that was perpetrated by representatives of the church and perpetuated by the failures that allowed this evil to fester, and I am deeply sorry.”

5 The outing of a top priest

Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, secretary-general of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was forced to resign from his position in 2021 because he was found to have downloaded the gay dating app Grindr and frequently visited gay bars. However, there was controversy in the the way this information was discovered. Catholic news site The Pillar outed Burrill using “commercially available data to trace his calls, movements and behavior since 2018,” The Atlantic reported.

The manner in which The Pillar outed Burrill bothered many people more than his evident breaking of his vow of celibacy. “The use of app-based location tracking data to make public that which someone assumed would remain private should be chilling to any American with a smartphone,” remarked Catholic journal America Magazine. In addition, The Pillar “missed no opportunity to mention … charges that Grindr and other ‘hookup apps’ are used to facilitate sex with minors,” The Atlantic added, essentially conflating homosexuality with pedophilia, despite an acknowledged lack of any evidence that Burrill was in contact with any minors.

6 The prosecution of McCarrick

The Vatican expelled former U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick from the priesthood in 2019 for sexually abusing minors. In 2021, he was officially charged in Massachusetts with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in the 1970s, making him “the highest-ranking Roman Catholic official in the United States to face criminal charges in the clergy sexual abuse scandal,” The Boston Globe reported. McCarrick pleaded not guilty.

However, McCarrick, now 93, had the charges dismissed in August 2023 due to “age-related incompetence,” with the judge determining he was not mentally fit to stand trial, CNN reported. “In spite of the criminal court’s decision today, many clergy sexual abuse victims feel as though former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is and will always be the permanent personification of evil within the Catholic Church,” said the victim’s lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian.

Complete Article HERE!