Catholic priest marries teen he fled to Italy with, avoids charges

Photo of Catholic priest Alexander Crow, who married an 18-year-old recent high school grad on Nov. 17, 2023 after being investigated by police. Archdiocese of Mobile

A disgraced Catholic priest who was investigated by police after flying to Italy with a recent high school graduate has legally married the 18-year-old in question, according to an Alabama marriage certificate signed on Friday.

Alexander Crow “abandoned his parish” and travelled to Europe in July with the “young female parishioner” shortly after she graduated McGill-Toolen Catholic High School that summer, the Archdiocese of Mobile Thomas J. Rodi said, adding that the archdiocese reported the incident to police.

Crow was investigated by the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office amid allegations of sexual misconduct and grooming, but no criminal charges were laid.

In a statement to local broadcaster WKRG, the Mobile County District Attorney’s Office said it subpoenaed the 18-year-old after she and Crow returned to the U.S. in November.

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“She appeared in seemingly good health and said that she is safe. However, she brought an attorney with her to the meeting, and together they declined to answer any questions about the circumstances surrounding her July disappearance, or indeed any other questions,” the statement reads.

“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 time,” the statement continues. “As there are no criminal charges at this time, I will not answer any questions about a private relationship between two now-adults.”

Crow, 30, has been stripped of his priestly faculties by the Archdiocese of Mobile, but he remains in the clergy, according to a statement on its website. The archdiocese is pursuing Crow’s permanent defrocking, but the process cannot begin until January 2024 — six months after Crow abandoned his post, in accordance with church law.

Rodi said in a message to parishioners posted to an archdiocese YouTube account in late September that the ministry is conducting an internal investigation “to understand how Alex Crow conducted himself while he was a priest in this Archdiocese with adults and minors, and the nature of his relationship with the young woman in question during the critical time when she was a student.”

Crow was never employed as a teacher at McGill-Toolen, but he did visit theology classes and heard confessions from students between September and December 2021, the high school wrote on Facebook.

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Rodi said the archdiocese first became aware of complaints regarding Crow and his behaviour toward the 18-year-old during a trip in June, shortly after she graduated, “but these reports did not allege sexual misconduct.”

However, investigators say they found a letter that Crow wrote to the high schooler on Valentine’s Day when she was still 17. The letter even claimed they were already married.

Despite his office closing its criminal investigation in Crow, Mobile County Sheriff Paul Burch told WKRG he believes Crow groomed his now-bride.

“Once a predator, always a predator,” Burch said. “Why else would you start something if you didn’t intend there would be a physical relationship in the end?”

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