MOBILE, Ala. (OSV News) – An Alabama priest disgraced after abandoning his parish to travel to Italy with an 18-year-old woman described himself as “married” to her in a Valentine’s Day letter. Father Alex Crow, 30, and the unnamed woman are believed to have left Mobile unannounced July 24 and have been located in Italy. In a separate letter, Father Crow indicated he believed that Jesus had told him and the young women to leave, and planned to remain a priest. Father Crow had been a parochial vicar at Corpus Christi Parish in Mobile and left behind a letter to the Archdiocese of Mobile stating that he would never return to the United States, according to the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office has been investigating whether a crime has occurred. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said that there are currently no criminal charges against Father Crow, but the office is investigating the nature of the relationship and whether the woman has been manipulated or coerced. The office is also clarifying the nature of Father Crow’s involvement at the young woman’s former high school. Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi has 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.” In July, the archdiocese reported the situation to the Mobile County District Attorney, who opened the investigation. In its Aug. 14 statement, the Mobile Archdiocese said that it “has and will continue to cooperate fully with all requests for information from law enforcement.”

NEW ORLEANS (OSV News) – The Archdiocese of New Orleans and Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond are pushing back at a newspaper’s investigative report claiming they mishandled several claims of clerical abuse. The Guardian published an Aug. 8 investigative feature concluding that the “archbishop on six different occasions disregarded findings of credibility” for accused priests, allegedly overriding the archdiocesan review board, a consultative body required for each diocese or eparchy by the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” also known as the Dallas Charter. The newspaper article cited a confidential 48-page attorney’s memorandum it had obtained, claiming the document revealed the archdiocese was keeping several priests from being named as credibly accused while the archbishop approved a number of settlements. Allegations against the deceased or retired priests named in The Guardian’s report ranged from inappropriate touching to rape. “We adamantly deny the assertions made in The Guardian that allegations of sexual abuse were mishandled by Archbishop Aymond and the Archdiocese of New Orleans,” Sarah Comiskey McDonald, archdiocesan communications director, said in an Aug. 8 email to OSV News. “Each allegation is complex and unique. A finding of credibility by the Internal Review Board is not a determination of guilt in either canon law or civil law,” she said. McDonald provided the archbishop’s statement to The Guardian where he said, “In each instance … decisions were made and actions were taken based upon the information and in consultation with lay professionals and experts as well as church leadership.” He said, “Each situation is complex and decisions were not made with a careless disregard for survivors nor a desire to protect the church and the priests.”

PETERSBURG, Va. (OSV News) – Father Brian Capuano has worn many hats during his tenure as a priest: pastor, mentor, director of worship and vicar for vocations, just to name a few. He also can count brewmaster among them. This spring Trapezium Brewing Co. in Petersburg launched the second release of his signature “Father Brian’s Bourbon Barrel Brown Ale,” where hundreds of family, friends and past parishioners toasted the beloved priest. For nine years Father Capuano was pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Petersburg, which is in the Richmond Diocese. To learn more about the community, its people and its culture, he would walk the streets, often dressed in his full priest cassock, and interact with those he met along the way. He ventured to local restaurants and events, believing it was important to be seen outside of church, which eventually led him to Trapezium. It became a place where he could get some paperwork done and engage with the community. Since 2019 he has been Richmond’s diocesan vicar for vocations in 2019, and despite an ever-busy schedule he still tries to frequent Trapezium and other venues. He sees this as an important part of his mission and the greater mission of the church. “We can’t expect people to simply ‘come to church’ to be evangelized,” he said. “From the beginning, the Lord sent the 12 and then the 72 to bring the good news to people who need salvation. That has to continue today; we cannot be limited as priests, and Catholics in general, to simply serving the needs of those who cross the threshold of our churches.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Thanking a group of European lawyers for their attention to environmental protection laws, Pope Francis said he was preparing another document on the subject. “I am writing a second part to Laudato Si’ to update it on current problems,” the pope told the lawyers Aug. 21 during a meeting in the library of the Apostolic Palace. He provided no further information. “Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home” was the title of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter on the need for an “integral ecology” that respects the dignity and value of the human person, helps the poor and safeguards the planet. The pope made his remark in the context of thanking the lawyers for their “willingness to work for the development of a normative framework aimed at protecting the environment.” He told them, “It must never be forgotten that future generations are entitled to receive from our hands a beautiful and habitable world, and that this entails grave responsibilities toward the natural world that we have received from the benevolent hands of God.”

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) – The Jesuit-run Central American University in Managua suspended operations Aug. 16 after Nicaraguan authorities branded the school a “center of terrorism” the previous day and froze its assets for confiscation – actions marking an escalation in the regime’s repression of the Catholic Church and its charitable and educational projects. The Jesuit province in Central America immediately rebuked the terrorism accusations as “false and unfounded,” saying in an Aug. 16 statement, “The de facto confiscation of the (university) is the price to pay for seeking a more just society, protecting life, truth and freedom for the Nicaraguan people in accordance with the (school) slogan, ‘The truth will set you free.’” The accusations against the school, known locally as UCA, “form part of a series of unjustified attacks against the Nicaraguan population and other educational and social institutions of civil society – and are generating a climate of violence and insecurity and worsening the country’s social-political crisis.” UCA confirmed in a statement to the university community that the country’s 10th district court – which accused the school of “organizing criminal groups” – had ordered its assets seized and handed over to “the State of Nicaragua, which will guarantee the continuity of all educational programs.” Auxiliary Bishop Silvio José Baez of Managua, currently exiled in Miami, called the “confiscation” of the UCA “unjust,” “illegal” and “outrageous.”

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (OSV News) – The Colombian bishops’ conference has welcomed the beginning of a six-month ceasefire between the nation’s military and the largest remaining rebel group and began to train dozens of priests and lay workers from different parts of the country on how to help monitor the truce. In a statement published on Aug. 10, the bishop’s conference said that 31 representatives from 18 different dioceses were briefed on details of the ceasefire and on international humanitarian law. The group also discussed methods that would be suitable to report breaches of the ceasefire. “We will take this knowledge to our territories,” said Father Jairo Alberto Rave, from the Diocese of Barrancabermeja, “so that we can make an important contribution” to the peace process. The truce started on Aug. 3, and seeks to facilitate peace talks between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army – known as ELN by its Spanish acronym – a Marxist-oriented rebel group that is particularly influential in the west of Colombia and along its eastern border with Venezuela. It is the longest ceasefire ever between Colombia’s government and the ELN and is part of President Gustavo Petro’s plans to pacify rural areas of the country that are still affected by violence waged by rebel groups and cartels, that were not part of a 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group.