Dismissed Priest Led Montgomery Flock

By Jannell McGrew
Montgomery Advertiser
April 4, 2003

The Rev. Arthur C. Schrenger served as priest of Holy Spirit Catholic Church from 1987 to 1999

Another priest, dismissed from the priesthood amid disclosure of sexual misconduct with minors, had previously served at a Montgomery parish for more than a decade.

Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb dismissed the Rev. Arthur C. Schrenger from the ministry Tuesday after the priest "confirmed two instances of misconduct with minors prior to 1985." Lipscomb made an announcement about the dismissal on Wednesday.

Schrenger served as a priest at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Montgomery from 1987 to 1999, according to the Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile.

"This shows that the priesthood seems to be a real magnet for people with severe problems," former Holy Spirit member Karl Kirkland of Montgomery said Thursday. "The church needs to take a serious look at its policy on celibacy, which creates a situation where healthier members of society are excluded from" the priesthood.

Earlier this month, Lipscomb, 71, stunned members of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Montgomery, when he told them their former priest, the Rev. Alexander J. Sherlock, also had admitted to sexually abusing at least three minors. Lipscomb did not reveal the names, dates or places, but he stated the incidents were outside of Montgomery and that a fourth allegation had recently surfaced. But Lipscomb said this week that the first victim contacted him Tuesday with a correction, saying he complained to Lipscomb in Jauary 1998, after Sherlock was moved to St. Peter's.

Sherlock, 63, abruptly resigned as priest at St. Peter's on Feb. 28.

Recent revelations have shocked local Catholics, some of whom believe Lipscomb also should step down. Kirkland said he and his family were members of the church during the time Schrenger, 56, was pastor. Kirkland also had sons who were altar boys during that time.

Montgomery Catholic Vicky Downey, a member of St. Peter's, said she was outraged by Lipscomb's decision not to release information until now. Downey said she has known Schrenger for at least 10 years, but was not aware of his alleged sexual abuse problems.

"They have a big cover-up going on," she said. "It's like the guys are sticking together and are covering up for each other."

The Rev. Charles Troncale, the current priest at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

While the Sherlock and Schrenger scandals boiled, Honey Weiss, 47, held a news conference in Mobile claiming the Rev. Adrian Cook, then a priest at Holy Family Catholic Church, had sex with her at her apartment when she was 19.

Cook, 57, now a pastor at St. Maurice Catholic Church in Brewton, argues Weiss consented to having sex with him.

Since dismissing the priests, Lipscomb has cooperated with authorities and turned over files to Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr., who said the investigation is ongoing. No charges have been filed in the cases.

Lipscomb has been traveling the state recently, making appearances at various parishes where the priests officiated and has offered personal apologies to parishioners.

The Mobile archdiocese covers 28 south Alabama counties and has more than 65,000 Catholic adherents with about 150 priests.

Some Catholics believe apologies are not enough.

"The priests who commit crimes need to turn themselves in to civil authorities," said Downey. She said she also wants to see Lipscomb step down from office. "They need to do what is right," she added.

Lipscomb's dismissal of Schrenger from the priesthood came after Schrenger confirmed two instances of misconduct with minors before 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 McGill-Toolen Catholic High School from August 1984 to December 1987. He was reassigned to Holy Spirit Catholic Church the year he left McGill-Toolen. He has worked in the archdiocese's marriage counseling office in Mobile since 2001.


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