Some Parishioners Upset over Removal of Priest

Associated Press State & Local Wire
April 16, 2002

The sign outside St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church showed a noon Mass scheduled for Tuesday, but the doors of the red-brick Spanish-style building were locked.

Parishioners knew not to come. Their priest had been suspended amid yet another sex scandal involving Catholic clergy.

The Rev. Joseph Alexander was removed from his post at the church after the revelation that around 40 years ago he had a sexual relationship with a male teen-ager.

The "impropriety," as Bishop Edward O'Donnell called it in a statement released Monday, happened when Alexander was a Benedictine monk at St. Maur's Priory in Uniontown, Ky., and before he was ordained as a Catholic priest.

"Father Alexander has acknowledged his involvement in the behavior of which he is accused," O'Donnell said.

Further details of the incident were not released.

O'Donnell held a meeting Sunday with St. Anthony parishioners, some of whom were upset that Alexander, who had served at the church since 1988, was being removed.

Eunice Councilman Jackson Burson, a St. Anthony's parishioner, said Alexander's removal was an "overreaction because of some bad things that happened in other places."

"I've never known a harder worker or a man of more apparent personal piety. He gave great homilies," Burson said.

Burson said Alexander's removal was unfair because it was the result of something that happened decades ago.

Alexander was "universally respected by the parishioners of St. Anthony's," Burson said.

"I think it's a shame," Burson said.

The Eunice News has received one letter from a man saying he was speaking on behalf of a group of parishioners who didn't want to see their priest go.

But few people in this small central Louisiana town wanted to talk publicly about Alexander and the scandal that has engulfed their church.

"I'm Catholic, I can't say anything," said one woman who did not want to be identified.

Alexander, 69, has been placed on administrative leave, according to O'Donnell's letter.

A Lafayette native, Alexander joined the Order of St. Benedict in South Union, Ky., in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1973.

He returned to Lafayette in 1984 and served as assistant chaplain at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. He taught at St. Thomas More High School from 1985-87; was principal at Holy Rosary Institute, 1987-88; and moved in 1988 to St. Anthony in Eunice where he has been associate pastor, administrator and pastor.

The person who made the accusation first contacted the Diocese of Owensboro in Kentucky, and church officials there told him to contact the Diocese of Lafayette.

His name was not made public and there is no indication whether he reported the incident to law enforcement authorities.

"None of the incidents brought up occurred anywhere in the state of Louisiana," O'Donnell's statement said. "Father Alexander has served with distinction in the diocese and in St. Anthony Parish and we have no reason to believe that any abuse took place during his years of service in the diocese."

A message left with the bishop's secretary was not immediately returned.


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