Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile

Coordinates: 30°41′21″N 88°02′46″W / 30.68917°N 88.04611°W / 30.68917; -88.04611
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Archdiocese of Mobile

Archidiœcesis Mobiliensis
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Coat of arms
CountryUnited States
TerritoryLower half of Alabama
Ecclesiastical provinceProvince of Mobile
Area59,467 km2 (22,960 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2021)
1.84 million
108,000 (5%)
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
CathedralCathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Patron saintImmaculate Conception (Primary)
Irenaeus of Lyons, Michael the Archangel (Secondary)
Current leadership
ArchbishopThomas John Rodi

Former names: Apostolic Vicariate of Alabama and the Floridas (1825-1829), Diocese of Mobile (1829-1954; 1969-1980), Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham (1954-1969).

The Archdiocese of Mobile (Latin: Archidiœcesis Mobiliensis) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory, or archdiocese, of the Catholic Church in southern Alabama in the United States. It is the metropolitan see of the Province of Mobile, which includes the suffragan bishopric sees of the Diocese of Biloxi, the Diocese of Jackson, and the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama. It was established as the Archdiocese of Mobile on November 16, 1980. The Archbishop of Mobile is the pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception located in Mobile, Alabama.


The Archdiocese of Mobile encompasses 22,969 square miles with 76 parishes and seven missions and a total Catholic population of approximately 108,000. It comprises the counties of Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Elmore, Escambia, Geneva, Henry, Houston, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Mobile, Monroe, Montgomery, Pike, Russell, Washington and Wilcox.

Name changes[edit]

The present day Archdiocese of Mobile has undergone several name changes over the past 200 years:

  • Vicariate Apostolic of Alabama and the Floridas (1825 to 1829)
  • Diocese of Mobile (1829 to 1954)
  • Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham (1954 to 1969)
  • Diocese of Mobile (1969 to 1980)
  • Archdiocese of Mobile (1980 to present)[1]


1700 to 1829[edit]

In 1703, the first Catholic church in present day Alabama, the Church of Fort Louis de la Louisiane, was founded by the French at the original site of the City of Mobile. That next year, Henri Roulleaux De la Vente became the first resident priest, under the authority of the Diocese of Quebec.[2][3]

By the beginning of the 19th century, Mobile and the Florida Panhandle area were controlled by Spain. However, by 1821 they had fallen into American hands.[4][5] In 1825, Pope Leo XII removed these territories from jurisdiction by a Spanish diocese, creating the Vicariate Apostolic of Alabama and the Floridas (East Florida and West Florida).[1] The pope named Michael Portier as the vicar apostolic.[6][3]

The new vicariate included all of Alabama, Florida, and Arkansas. At the time of his accession, Portier was the only clergyman in the vicariate; he had two churches in Florida and one in Mobile, with an estimated Catholic population of 6,000.[3] Portier began his administration by riding through his vicariate, offering communion preaching, and administering the sacraments.

1829 to 1859[edit]

In 1829, Pope Pius VIII erected the Diocese of Mobile, taking the Florida Territory and the new State of Alabama from the vicariate. Portier became the first bishop of Mobile.[1] His cathedral was a small church twenty feet wide by fifty feet deep, his residence a still smaller two-roomed frame structure. In 1827, the cathedral was destroyed in a fire that ravaged Mobile.[3] In 1830, Portier established Spring Hill College in Mobile, the first institution of higher learning in Alabama.[7] That same year, Portier sent his priests into interiors parts of Alabama to minister to small clusters of Catholics in the area.[3] In 1833, Portier brought a group of nuns from Georgetown Visitation Monastery in Washington, D.C. to establish the Convent and Academy of the Visitation in Mobile. St. Peter's Church in Montgomery, Alabama, the first Catholic church in that city, was constructed in 1834.[8]

Portier started construction of a new cathedral in Mobile in 1837. Saint John's Parish, the first Catholic parish in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was established in 1844.[9] Portier brought the Brothers of the Sacred Heart from France to the diocese about 1847, and the Daughters of Charity from Emmitsburg, Maryland, to manage orphan asylums for boys and girls, respectively. In 1850, Portier consecrated the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Mobile. That same year, Pope Pius IX erected the Diocese of Savannah and moved eastern Florida out of the Diocese of Mobile.[10] In Rome at this time, Portier returned to Mobile with another priest and several seminarians.[3]

In 1854, Know Nothing elements in Mobile forced the Daughters of Charity to leave the City Hospital, spreading false charges of mismanagement. In reaction, the Catholic community raised funds to start Providence Infirmary for the sisters. Within five years, the City Hospital had requested the sisters return to their facility to reverse its decline.[3]

1859 to 1896[edit]

After Portier died in 1859, Pope Pius IX named John Quinlan as the second bishop of Mobile.[3] When he took office, the Catholic population of Alabama was approximately 10,000. Unlike many other states, there were few immigrant Catholics in Alabama.[3] In 1860, Quinlan traveled to Ireland, France and Rome, hoping to raise funds and recruit more priests for the diocese. During the American Civil War, several priests from the diocese served as chaplains for the Confederate States Army. Quinlan himself was a strong supporter of the Confederacy. In 1861, several Sisters of Charity travelled to Pensacola, Florida, to work in a military hospital there.[3] When Mobile was occupied by the Union Army in 1865, Catholic churches and facilities did not suffer any damage.[3] Quinlan died in 1883.

The third bishop of Mobile was Dominic Manucy, named by Pope Leo XIII in January 1884.[11] However, he resigned in September 1884 due to poor health. The pope then appointed Jeremiah O'Sullivan.[12] O'Sullivan was successful in restoring the financial status of the diocese.[13] He also established several new churches, chapels, and schools, and oversaw the addition of two towers to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.[13] O'Sullivan died in 1896.

1896 to 1954[edit]

In 1897, Edward Allen from the Archdiocese of Boston was appointed the fifth Bishop of Mobile by Leo XIII.[14] During Allen's administration, the Catholic population of the diocese increased from 18,000 to 48,000, and the number of priests more than doubled.[15] He also established several new churches, hospitals, orphanages, and schools.[15] The diocese was devastated by a major hurricane in 1906; many churches were either totally or partially destroyed, but were rebuilt or repaired under Allen's direction.[15] Deeply concerned for the African American community, he invited the Josephite Fathers to direct the black missions in the diocese, founded St. Joseph's College in order to "educate young colored men to be catechists and teachers," and sanctioned the establishment of the Knights of Peter Claver.[15] Allen died in 1926.

Pope Pius XI in 1927 selected Thomas Toolen to be the next bishop of Mobile.[16] In connection with the centennial celebration of the diocese, he erected Allen Memorial Hospital in honor of his predecessor Allen in December 1929.[17] In 1941, Toolen prohibited Catholic parents who sent their children to public schools from receiving the sacraments.[18] He explained,

"The Catholic system of education has been the greatest boon this country has ever known. We are prepared to take care of our children from the first grade to the university...Catholic parents must send their children to the Catholic school. Parents who do not obey are rebellious and should be treated as such."[18]

1954 to 1968[edit]

In 1954, Pope Pius XII renamed the Diocese of Mobile as the Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham to reflect the growth of Birmingham, Alabama. Toolen opened several new churches, orphanages, hospitals, and other institutions that were meant to minister exclusively to African Americans, leading opponents to call him "the nigger bishop".[19][20] In 1950, he oversaw construction of St. Martin de Porres Hospital in Mobile, which was the first hospital in Alabama where African American doctors could work alongside their white colleagues.[19] He also persuaded a local hospital to become the first one in Alabama to accept pregnant African American women.[20] In 1948, however, he denied the request of Joseph Howze, an African-American to be accepted as a seminarian for the diocese.[20]

In 1957, Toolen invited Mother Mary Angelica and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration to establish a religious community for African Americans in the diocese.[21] He broke ground on Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Irondale in 1961, and dedicated the monastery in 1962.[21] Eternal Word Television Network would be established here in 1981. In 1964, Toolen ended racial segregation in Catholic schools throughout Alabama. He wrote:

"After much prayer, consultation and advice, we have decided to integrate all the schools of the diocese. I know this will not meet with the approval of many of our people, but in justice and charity, this must be done. I ask all of our people to accept this decision as best for God and country."[22]

However, Toole publicly denounced the methods of civil rights activists, favoring a less confrontational approach to civil rights.[19] In 1965, Toolen ordered the Society of Saint Edmund to remove Maurice Ouellet from his post as pastor in Selma. Ouellet had allowed his rectory to serve as a headquarters for participants in the Selma to Montgomery marches.[23]

1968 to 1980[edit]

Pope Paul VI in 1968 erected the Diocese of St. Augustine, removing all of Florida from the Diocese of Mobile-Birmingham.[1] In June 1969, the pope erected the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, separating northern Alabama from what became again the Diocese of Mobile.[1] Toolen resigned as bishop in September 1969. Paul VI named Auxiliary Bishop John L. May of Chicago as the bishop of the second Diocese of Mobile. .[24] During his 10-year-long tenure in Mobile, May established eight parishes and two deaneries, dedicated twelve churches, founded two schools, and erected a convent.[25] He also dedicated several other institutions, including parish centers, elderly homes, and a new wing and intensive-care unit at Providence Hospital. [25]

May continued to implement the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, authorizing the laity to distribute communion, the reception of communion in the hand, and a new rite for the Sacrament of Penance.[25] He founded an Office of Youth Ministry, Diocesan Pastoral Council, and Diocesan Board of Catholic Education. May also established a retirement program for all lay church employees, a new health insurance program, a marriage preparation program, and anti-abortion programs. In 1977, he imposed a term limit of six years for parish priests in the diocese.[25] He ordained the diocese's first class of permanent deacons in 1979.[25] In 1980, May became archbishop of St. Louis.

1980 to present[edit]

On November 16, 1980, Pope John Paul II erected the Archdiocese of Mobile.[1] He designated the Dioceses of Birmingham, Biloxi and Jackson as suffragan dioceses of the new archdiocese. The pope appointed Oscar Lipscomb as the first archbishop of Mobile.[26]

In 1993, David Trosch, a archdiocesan priest in Magnolia Springs, started advocating the theory of justifiable homicide as a justification for killing medical professionals providing abortion services to women.[27] Trosch then attempted to place an advertisement in the Mobile Press-Register newspaper with a cartoon showing a man pointing a gun at a doctor holding a knife over a pregnant woman.[28] The Press-Register did not published the ad. Lipscomb offered Trosch "the alternative of publicly abiding by the [Archbishop's] judgment on this erroneous teaching or relinquishing his public position in the church."[28] Lipscomb removed Trosch from his pastoral assignments in August 1993, allowing him to continue celebrating mass but banning him from any "...public persona in the Church".[27]

When Lipscomb retired in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Bishop Thomas Rodi of Biloxi that same years as the next archbishop of Mobile. As of 2023, Rodi is the current archbishop of Mobile.

Reports of sexual abuse[edit]

In 2004, Linda Ledet, a parishioner in the archdiocese, sued the archdiocese, claiming it broke an agreement regarding Paul Zoghby, a high profile priest. In 1997, Ledet had reported to the archdiocese that Zoghby was making unwanted sexual advances and exposing himself to her. According to Ledet, the archdiocese agreed to pay for her counseling and to send Zoghby away for treatment. However, the archdiocese instead just transferred Zoghby to a different parish in Foley.[29] The archdiocese and Ledet settled the lawsuit in 2007.[30]

In December 2018, Archbishop Rodi released the names of 29 priests and religious order clergy with credible accusations of sexual abuse of minors while serving in the Archdiocese of Mobile, dating back to 1950.[31] At least two Catholic clergy on this list were convicted, with one other being sued.[32] Rodi also issued an apology and asked for forgiveness.[31]

In November 2019, Amal Samy, an archdiocesan priest from Mt. Vernon, was charged with lewd conduct towards a masseuse while receiving a massage on the Carnival Cruise ship Fantasy.[33] Samy denied the charges.

In July 2023, Alexander (Alex) Crow,[34] a 30-year-old priest of the archdiocese who had been ordained in 2021, abandoned his clerical duties and run away to Europe.[35][36] On 26 July, the Archdiocese released statement on Twitter:

Fr. Alex Crow abandoned his assignment in the Archdiocese. His behavior is totally unbecoming of a priest. He has been informed by the archbishop 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 addition, due to the circumstances of his departure, we have reported this to the district attorney.[37][38]

It was reported to the government authority because Crow was accompanied by an 18-year-old girl who had just graduated from the McGill-Toolen Catholic High School.[39] Crow was immediately removed from his position as the Parochial Vicar at Corpus Christi Parish.[40] There were initial speculations that they went to Spain to perform exorcism.[41] Crow had a degree in exorcism and demonology from the College of Sant'Anselmo in Rome, and had often indicated interests in demonic possssesions and exorcism in Mobile.[35][42] On 28 July, the girl's family located the two in Italy, and said that their daughter left on "her own free will". Mobile County Sheriff Paul Burch also announced from the family's report that there were no intimate relationship between the two.[43][44] The girl's family then raised a concern that Crow might be involved with other girls earlier.[45]

Previous letters from Crow were investigated and the police found out the nature of the run away.[34] Crow had planned the trip and had sent love letters to the girl on Valentine's Day,[45] asserting: "Now, we are in love and we are married!"[46]


Vicariate Apostolic of Alabama and the Floridas[edit]

Michael Portier (1825–1859)

Bishops of Mobile[edit]

  1. Michael Portier (1825–1859)
  2. John Quinlan (1859–1883)
  3. Dominic Manucy (1884)
  4. Jeremiah O'Sullivan (1885–1896)
  5. Edward Patrick Allen (1897–1926)
  6. Thomas Joseph Toolen (1927–1954), title changed with title of diocese; also elevated to Archbishop ad personam in 1954

Bishop of Mobile-Birmingham[edit]

Thomas Joseph Toolen (1954–1969), archbishop ad personam

Bishop of Mobile[edit]

John Lawrence May (1969–1980), appointed Archbishop of Saint Louis

Archbishops of Mobile[edit]

  1. Oscar Hugh Lipscomb (1980–2008)
  2. Thomas John Rodi (2008–present)

Former auxiliary bishops[edit]

Other diocesan priests who became bishops[edit]


High Schools and Middle Schools[edit]

High Schools[edit]

Middle Schools[edit]

Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School – Montgomery[47]

Elementary Schools[edit]

  • Christ the King Catholic School Daphne
  • Corpus Christi School Mobile
  • Little Flower Catholic School Mobile
  • Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School, Holy Spirit Montgomery
  • Most Pure Heart of Mary School Mobile
  • St. Benedict Catholic School Elberta
  • St. Dominic School Mobile
  • St. Ignatius School Mobile
  • St. Joseph Catholic School Tuskegee Institute
  • St. Mary Catholic School Mobile
  • St. Patrick School Robertsdale
  • St. Pius X Catholic School Mobile
  • St. Vincent de Paul Day Care Mobile[47]

Private Schools[edit]

These are independent schools within the territory but not under the administration of the Archdiocese of Mobile.

  • Resurrection Catholic School Montgomery
  • St. Joseph Child Development Center Fort Mitchell

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Mobile (Archdiocese) [Catholic-Hierarchy]". Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  2. ^ "Mobile, Alabama History | Museums & Historic Homes". Retrieved 2023-06-21.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lipscomb, Oscar Hugh (1967). "The Administration of John Quinlan, Second Bishop of Mobile, 1859-1883". Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia. 78 (1/4): 3–163. ISSN 0002-7790.
  4. ^ "Alabama History Timeline". Alabama Department of Archives and History. Archived from the original on June 18, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  5. ^ Thomason, Michael (2001). Mobile: The New History of Alabama's First City. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-8173-1065-3.
  6. ^ Eaton, Thomas. "Mobile." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 15 January 2019
  7. ^ "Bishop Michael Portier D.D." Archdiocese of Mobile
  8. ^ Benn, Alvin (May 27, 2000). "Church's Face Lift Ongoing: St. Peter's Project to Cost $700,000". The Montgomery Advertiser.
  9. ^ "About". HOLY SPIRIT CATHOLIC CHURCH. Retrieved 2023-06-22.
  10. ^ Eaton, Thomas. "Mobile." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 15 January 2019
  11. ^ "Bishop Dominic Manucy". The Hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
  12. ^ Owen, Thomas McAdory (1921). History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. Vol. IV. Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company.
  13. ^ a b "The History of the Archdiocese of Mobile". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile. Archived from the original on 2009-12-14.
  14. ^ "Bishop Edward Patrick Allen".
  15. ^ a b c d "The History of the Archdiocese of Mobile". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile. Archived from the original on 2009-12-14.
  16. ^ "Archbishop Thomas Joseph Toolen".
  17. ^ Curtis, Georgina Pell (1961). The American Catholic Who's Who. Vol. XIV. Grosse Pointe, Michigan: Walter Romig.
  18. ^ a b "Education". TIME Magazine. September 29, 1941. Archived from the original on September 3, 2010.
  19. ^ a b c "Thomas J. Toolen". Encyclopedia of Alabama.
  20. ^ a b c Poinsett, Alex (March 1980). "God's Mississippi Servant". Ebony.
  21. ^ a b Raymond Arroyo, Raymond (2005). Mother Angelica: The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles. Doubleday.
  22. ^ Dugan, George (December 10, 1976). "Archbishop T.J. Toolen Eulogized By Sheen at Funeral In Alabama". The New York Times.
  23. ^ "Roman Catholics: A Question of Freedom". TIME Magazine. December 24, 1965. Archived from the original on January 15, 2008.
  24. ^ "Archbishop John Lawrence May".[self-published source]
  25. ^ a b c d e "The History of the Archdiocese of Mobile". Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile. Archived from the original on 2009-12-14.
  26. ^ Catholic Directory of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Vol. XXIV, 2003, p. 7
  27. ^ a b Sharp, John (2012-10-18). "Retired Archbishop Lipscomb recalls anti-abortion priest". al. Retrieved 2023-02-03.
  28. ^ a b "Priest Is Scolded on Abortion Ad". The New York Times. Associated Press. 1993-08-18. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-02-03.
  29. ^ "Woman alleges that priest made sexual advances". The Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved 2023-06-22.
  30. ^ "Woman Settles Lawsuit against Archdiocese, by Brendan Kirby, Press-Register [Alabama], February 3, 2007". Retrieved 2023-06-22.
  31. ^ a b "29 Mobile Catholic clergy named in sex abuse list". al. Dec 6, 2018. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  32. ^ "Database of Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse". Retrieved May 30, 2021.
  33. ^ Wilkerson, Rachael (2019-11-08). "Local catholic priest charged with sexual abuse". WPMI. Retrieved 2023-06-22.
  34. ^ a b Ingram, Tom (2023-08-14). "Disgraced Mobile priest wrote in letter Jesus told him to leave with former student". WKRG News 5. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  35. ^ a b Vargas, Ramon Antonio (2023-08-18). "Alabama priest 'groomed young girls' before fleeing to Italy with 18-year-old". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  36. ^ Poole, Summer (2023-08-14). "TIMELINE: Former priest Alex Crow travels to Italy with 18-year-old". WKRG News 5. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  37. ^ Poole, Summer (2023-07-26). "Priest 'abandons assignment' in Archdiocese of Mobile, reported to District Attorney". WKRG News 5. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  38. ^ "Statement from the Archdiocese of Mobile regarding Fr. Alex Crow". Twitter. Retrieved 2023-07-27.
  39. ^ Christian, Gina (28 July 2023). "Alabama priest interested in demonology abandons post, reported to DA for leaving country". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  40. ^ Ristaneo, Robert; Beasley, Lacey (2023-07-26). "Archdiocese of Mobile announces now-defrocked priest 'abandoned his assignment'". Fox10 News. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  41. ^ HAMRICK, KYLE (2023-07-26). "Diocese defrocks priest, alerts DA he went to Europe with girl". Lagniappe Mobile - Something Extra for Mobile. Archived from the original on 26 July 2023. Retrieved 2023-07-27.
  42. ^ Das, Amrita (2023-07-28). "Who is Alex Crow? Mobile priest defrocked after abandoning duties". Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  43. ^ Christian, Gina (2023-07-28). "Alabama priest reported to DA for leaving the country with recent high school grad for an exorcism". America Magazine. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  44. ^ Kennedy, Haylee (2023-07-29). "Disgraced Mobile Priest and 18-year-old girl found in Italy". WKRG News 5. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  45. ^ a b Flynn, J.D. (2023-08-17). "The canonical case against Fr. Alex Crow". The Pillar. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  46. ^ Wiering, Maria (2023-08-17). "Disgraced Alabama priest Father Alex Crow says he is 'married' to 2023 high school graduate; calls their relationship 'Jesus' will'". The Dialog. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  47. ^ a b c "School district overview for Archdiocese Of Mobile:". Retrieved 2023-06-22.

External links[edit]

30°41′21″N 88°02′46″W / 30.68917°N 88.04611°W / 30.68917; -88.04611