DA Continues Probe into Priest Sex Abuse Allegations
Staff Looks Through Archdiocese Records

NBC 13 WVTM [Mobile AL]
March 20, 2003

MOBILE, Ala. -- Mobile County District Attorney John M. Tyson Jr. said his staff was working through massive records provided by the Archdiocese of Mobile in the investigation of sex abuse allegations against a former priest, but he may request even more documents.

The investigation involves the Rev. J. Alexander Sherlock, 62, who served six Mobile area parishes between 1966 and 1997, then moved to Montgomery to serve as pastor of St. Peter's Catholic Church. He resigned from the priesthood Feb. 28.

Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb has said that Sherlock has admitted to three sex abuse incidents and that a fourth credible allegation surfaced last week.

Tyson, who opened his investigation Monday, would not comment on how many people had come forward.

The Very Rev. Michael L. Farmer, chancellor of the archdiocese, said the documents turned over to the district attorney's office Tuesday were "personnel files, pretty much."

Lipscomb said he learned of one credible accusation of child sex abuse against Sherlock in 1997 and that two more individuals brought credible allegations to him "after the year 2000." Farmer has said that he believes all four people who came forward are male.

Tyson did not rule out future requests of archdiocesan documents during the investigation.

"My request is an open-ended request, and as we go through various available records we may make additional requests," Tyson said. "The response to our request has been timely."

Lipscomb said the first allegation he knew of dated back to the mid-1970s. The archbishop could not offer a time frame for other instances of abuse.

Alabama law does not require clergy to tell authorities about abuse, but bills mandating them to report known or suspected cases of child abuse to the state Department of Human Resources have been introduced in the House and Senate.

Lipscomb said Tuesday he supports the legislation.

The archbishop said he did not remove Sherlock from active ministry upon first learning of his behavior because he "was convinced this was a past instance that occurred years earlier and was not operative in his life."

Lipscomb said he informed Sherlock in January 2003 that "particular law governing his case would be operative as of March 1 and I would be obliged to remove him."


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