Catholics Speaking out about Sexual Abuse Allegations

By Josh Bernstein
WPMI NBC 15 [Mobile AL]
April 3, 2003

(MOBILE, AL) April 3 - Local catholics are speaking out about the sexual abuse scandal. In the last few weeks, 2 priests who served and taught in Mobile have been removed. And NBC 15 has learned that a Catholic Brother was fired several years ago, all for sexual abuse on kids. The District Attorney makes a plea for victims and witnesses to assist in his investigation.

At a time when catholics are supposed to be focused on prayer and forgiveness, their attentions have shifted locally to allegations of sexual abuse that are plaguing their church.

Francid Stewart describes her emotions as "disappointment and hard ache."

Stewart has a daughter that attends McGill-Toolen High School, where two priests recently relieved of their duties. Father Alex Sherlock and Father Arthur Schringer worked at the school for several years. Both have admitted to sexually molesting minors on more than one occasion.

"There's been a trail of tears through here," Stewart said.

District Attorney John Tyson Jr is personally heading up the investigation that started out with one victim and one priest.

"Now we're hearing from multiple victims and multiple possibilities of perpetrators," he said.

In the last three weeks, NBC 15 has learned about similar allegations involving four priests and a brother, Victor Bendillo, who worked at McGill-Toolen as well.

"The issue is asking for forgiveness and asking to be healed," Tyson said.

But how do you forgive someone who's admitted to molesting a child? And how do you keep it from happening again? Several critics say that the church should relax it's vow of celibacy, but Frances Stewart disagreed.

"The perversion is the issue," she said. "It's not the celibacy."

For the District Attorney, it has been his experience that there is no cure for people who admit to molesting a child. But to keep it from happening again, Tyson is issuing an emotional plea for anyone with information to come forward and help out with this case.

Tyson said that he has no idea how big the investigation will get, and would not comment about any allegations possibly involving other members of the clergy. He just wants to stress the importance about victims and witnesses coming forward to help keep this from happening to anyone else.

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