US Catholic priest who avoided charges marries teen he fled to Italy with
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 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 Mc-Gill 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 often not used against clergymen charged or even convicted of crimes.
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 archdiocese included him on a letter reinstating a priest who had gone on sabbatical after admitting 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.