MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A local group’s petition to remove Archbishop Thomas Rodi, the Rev. Bry Shields and McGill-Toolen Catholic High School Principal Michelle Haas from their posts received more than 1,000 signatures by Friday.
“The essence of the Catholic faith is built on trust, love, and a commitment to truth and justice,” states The Catholic Warrior Initiative, in the group’s petition on change.org. “Over time, these values have been jeopardized by specific leadership decisions, actions, and inactions that have been detrimental to the well-being of our children and the trust of our community.”
In July, the archdiocese reported to the District Attorney’s office that Crow had abandoned his assignment at Corpus Christi Parish and fled to Italy with an 18-year-old recent McGill-Toolen graduate. In August, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office released a Valentine’s Day letter that Crow sent to the at-the-time 17-year-old girl.
The Crow controversy, one of the group’s concerns, follows years of revelations about widespread clergy sexual abuse, within the worldwide Catholic Church. The Archdiocese of Mobile in December 2018 released two lists of priests and deacons who had been accused of child sex abuse since 1950.
The petition alleges, “For decades, there have been deeply troubling cover-ups within the Archdiocese and McGill, particularly related to child predators, encompassing both sexual and emotional misconduct.”
It lists the following allegations:
- Dismissal of claims without proper investigation
- Reluctance or refusal to believe victims
- Lack of action to address and rectify the reported issues
“Our goal is not to tarnish the reputation of any individual but to ensure the safety, transparency, and integrity of our Catholic institutions and schools,” the petition reads. “We firmly believe that for the community to heal and move forward, there is a pressing need for a change in leadership.”
The petition had garnered 1,056 signatures as of Friday evening.
WKRG reached out to the archdiocese for a comment on the petition. A spokesperson informed a reporter that Rodi would release a statement Friday evening about the archdiocese’s handling of the Crow situation.
Rodi’s video statement was posted to the archdiocese’s Facebook page. In it, he said:
“To my knowledge, no one ever accused Alex Crow of sexual misconduct of any kind prior to his departure in July. No one personally raised concerns about Alex Crow and sexual misconduct with me. And the Office of Child Protection has informed me that no one reported to them that Alex Crow had engaged in sexual misconduct.
“I did receive complaints by some about his ministry, his preaching, and whether he was acting in accordance with church teaching. But these complaints were not about sexual misconduct.
“We received reports about Alex Crow’s behavior with the young woman in question on a trip in June following her graduation and shortly before their departure. But these reports did not allege sexual misconduct, and the Office of Child Protection opened a file to begin investigating these reports.
“Upon learning of Crow’s departure, the Archdiocese immediately reported the incident to law enforcement. The Archdiocese did this, not because it knew, or even suspected Crow had committed a crime, but out of an abundance of caution.
“The Archdiocese did not know what might have occurred and understood that law enforcement would be in the best position to investigate and assist the young woman’s family….”
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether Crow had an illegal relationship with the girl while she was still a student at McGill.
They are working to recover any photos, messages, emails or anything that will add information regarding the relationship between Crow and the girl.
However, processing that information will take time, they said.