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Alabama Catholic priest tells diocese he will ‘never return to America,’ flees United States with teen

Father Alex Crow, former parochial vicar at Corpus Christi Parish in Mobile, Ala., is pictured in an undated photo. The 30-year-old priest was publicly placed under restriction by the Mobile Archdiocese for walking away from his parish and reportedly leaving the country with a recent Catholic high school graduate for an exorcism. In a July 26 statement, the archdiocese announced Father Crow exhibited behavior "totally unbecoming of a priest." (OSV News photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Mobile)

A young Alabama Catholic priest placed under restriction by the Archdiocese of Mobile July 26 has been located in Italy, along with an 18-year-old woman with whom he had fled the country days earlier.

The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office announced in a July 29 statement that 30-year-old Father Alex Crow and his companion had been tracked down by “a family member” of the young woman.

According to the sheriff’s office, “the young woman stated she went with him on her own free will.”

“It appeared that they were staying in separate bedrooms and the young woman insisted that there was no intimate relationship,” said Sheriff Paul Burch in the statement. “The investigation is still open and we are still checking into a few matters, however, there does not appear to be any criminal charges.”

The sheriff’s office also said that Father Crow, who had been a parochial vicar at Corpus Christi Parish in Mobile, “left a letter with the archdiocese stating he would never return to America,” and that “as of today, both he and the young woman remain in Europe.”

Lori Myles, public information officer for the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office, told OSV News she believed the relative who tracked down the duo was an uncle of the young woman, who had “left on her own accord.”

She added that “the family member who reported back to us did not seem alarmed.”

“Thus far there is no criminal activity,” said Myles, adding that Father Crow, who was believed to have left on July 24, “paid for everything he bought,” although she could not confirm if he had covered the young woman’s costs.

“The church has never sent out an alarm that they’re missing finances,” Myles said.

She noted that her office became involved in the investigation since the young woman and her family were residents of Mobile County.

Myles said several co-workers who are parishioners at Corpus Christi had heard Father Crow deliver a homily at Sunday Mass on July 23, without any indication he had planned to leave the country.

Myles was not able to specify where in Italy the two had been found, but said they had stayed at “an AirBnB” rental property.

The Archdiocese of Mobile had issued a July 26 statement announcing Father Crow had “abandoned his assignment in the diocese” and exhibited behavior “totally unbecoming of a priest.”

According to the statement, Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi told Father Crow that “he may no longer exercise ministry as a priest, nor to tell people he is a priest, nor to dress as a priest.”

The archdiocese also said that “due to the circumstances of his departure, we have reported this to the district attorney.”

Mobile County District Attorney communications director Tara Zieman confirmed to OSV News July 27 that her office had received from the archdiocese “an initial report … of a local priest and a local 18-year-old who had left the country together.”

“It was communicated to us that the 18-year-old was a woman,” said Zieman, adding she could not “confirm where they went” or their current location.

“We are working with very little information,” she said at the time..

Asked by OSV News if other law enforcement agencies could become involved in the matter, Zieman said, “Potentially.”

In a statement to OSV News, Mobile County District Attorney Keith Blackwood said, “We are awaiting more facts and encourage anyone with information to contact the DA’s office.”

Zieman told OSV News that at this time the DA’s office has “no evidence or information that would give us the impression” the young woman is in danger or that criminal action has taken place.

No missing persons report had been filed for the young woman, she told OSV News.

The Archdiocese of Mobile declined OSV News’ initial request for additional information, saying in an email that “out of respect for the privacy of innocent parties, the archdiocese will offer no further comment.”

The archdiocese declined OSV News’ July 30 request for updated comment on the finding of Father Crow and the young woman.

Local media outlet Lagniappe had reported the woman is a recent graduate of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile, which Father Crow had attended from 2007-2011, and where media had said he was once on staff.

However, in a July 28 Facebook post, McGill-Toolen principal Michelle Haas and president Father Bry Shields said “contrary to what was reported, Mr. Crow was never employed” by the school.

“Mr. Crow did visit some Theology classrooms, and hear confessions during the period, September through December 2021. He also celebrated one school Mass that year. He has not chaperoned any school trips or retreats,” said Haas and Father Shields, noting they were “stunned” by news of Father Crow’s departure and would “continue to pray for the families involved.”

Lagniappe also said Father Crow — alleged to have spoken about demonology to McGill-Toolen students — may have traveled with the young woman to Spain for an exorcism.

Ahead of his June 2021 priestly ordination, Father Crow admitted to previously experiencing his own struggles with faith in God. In an interview with the Archdiocese of Mobile’s newspaper, The Catholic Week, Father Crow — a Semmes, Alabama, native who had attended St. Ignatius Parish in Mobile — said as a young man he had been “as far away from the church as one could be.”

“Not only did I not live the Catholic faith, I wasn’t even sure if I believed in God. I have said jokingly before that my call to the priesthood is proof that God exists,” he said at the time.

Father Crow was baptized as an Episcopalian and later joined the Presbyterian Church in America, according to a biography on a now-cached page from the Corpus Christi Parish website.

Following high school, Father Crow attended college from 2011-2012 before leaving to become a musician. He told The Catholic Week he had a sudden prompting one day to go to confession and about three months later began discerning a call to priesthood.

He had told The Catholic Week he hoped to use his own return to the faith “to help others find their way back” and that as priest he was “excited to offer the sacrifice of the Mass every day, hear confessions and provide spiritual direction.”

Father Crow received a master of divinity degree from St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana and a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology from Collegio Sant’Anselmo in Rome, with a concentration in demonology and exorcism.

As a priest, Father Crow also appeared in several Catholic podcasts and videos, some of which dealt with the topic of demons. He was known to be a priest interested in also celebrating the Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal, commonly called the “traditional Latin Mass.”

OSV News requests for comment by McGill-Toolen school officials and by Father Pat Arensberg, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish, were not immediately returned.

Father Arensberg posted a message to the parish’s Facebook page July 26, saying, “It is with great sadness that I announce that Fr. Crow has left the Archdiocese and is no longer the Parochial Vicar at Corpus Christi Parish. Please keep Fr. Crow in your prayers. I also ask that you pray for me and for our parish as we adjust to this unexpected change.”