Sunday, November 27, 2005

 

Disgraced priest dies



Mobile, Alabama - Alex Sherlock, forced to resign as an active Catholic priest in the wake of sexual abuse claims against him, was a Biblical scholar and a superb fundraiser, said those who remember him fondly.

Sherlock's body was found at his house in Mobile on Wednesday. Authorities said his death was from natural causes. He was 65.

While friends and relatives attended a funeral for him in Mobile on Friday, a former member of his Montgomery congregation and a fellow priest who attended the same seminary described Sherlock in positive terms.

"In the time I knew him, he was a great guy and a great minister," said Carl Barranco of St. Peter's Catholic Church. "It was most unfortunate to have heard about his past."

A Montgomery native, Sherlock was removed from his St. Peter's pastorate 21/2 years ago and transferred to Mobile after accusations of sexual improprieties with young boys in the Port City.

The Mobile Archdiocese, in a statement following Sherlock's death, said: "Though entirely apart from active priestly ministry, the resigned priest observed conscientiously the circumstances of a discreet retirement in Mobile."

The Rev. Oscar Lipscomb, who is the archbishop of Mobile, presided at a funeral Mass for Sherlock at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church on Friday afternoon.

The Rev. Charles Troncale, pastor of Church of the Holy Spirit in Montgomery and one of Sherlock's fellow seminary students four decades ago, remembered his friend as a man who excelled in the Scriptures.

"Those in his parishes -- those who benefited from his homilies -- could tell he was a scholar," said Troncale. "I was very saddened by the fact that he was removed from active ministry because of those accusations."

Sherlock, who graduated from Sidney Lanier High School, took the lead in a major remodeling campaign at St. Peter's. He and church lay leaders raised an estimated $750,000 to improve the appearance of one of Montgomery's most historic churches.

"The man had a vision to get it done, and he did a wonderful job for our church," Barranco said. "While he was here in Montgomery, we knew him as a very fine priest."

When the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic church widened across the country three years ago, Sherlock was asked following his final Mass of Christmas in 2002 what he thought should happen to a cleric involved in such conduct.

"He should go to prison," Sherlock said, during an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser. "He should pay the price."

Sherlock presided at several Catholic parishes in the South during his days as an active priest. He also was a teacher and one of his top students in Mobile was Bill Pryor, who would become Alabama attorney general and later a federal judge.

Sherlock's removal as St. Peter's priest stunned his congregation as well as many non-Catholics in Montgomery.

The Rev. Steve Martin, who replaced Sherlock as St. Peter's priest, declined comment when contacted Friday afternoon.

Troncale said those who knew Sherlock during his Montgomery tenure were "in shock" when they learned of his forced resignation and at news of his death.


See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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