Catholic Diocese responds to questions about children’s safety after employee arrested on child porn charges

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MADISON, Ala. - John Martin was on staff at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church when he was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with possession and dissemination of child pornography.

WHNT News 19 is taking action to get answers from the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham about Martin's role at the church and what interactions he had with children.

Father O'Kennedy of the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church made a brief statement earlier in the week, stating in part that "We have seen nothing that would lead us to believe the charges being made against him. We are stunned by the accusations."

The Diocese responded to our questions today with the information that John Martin had been working in the parish for about three years. His primary role was working with adults and he had no responsibilities which put him in contact with any children in the parish or school.

The Diocese did disclose that Martin had recently been asked to help with a youth trip to Ohio. The parents and the youth in attendance were all contacted and there were no complaints about Martin's behavior during the retreat.

John Martin (Photo: Madison County Jail)

John Martin (Photo: Madison County Jail)

"Concern for the safety of all the children within our diocese is our priority." says Bishop Robert Baker. "I have been in contact with Father O'Kennedy since these allegations were brought to my attention and we have been working together to make sure that anyone who may have any information on these accusations can feel safe to talk to us and the authorities as well. My thoughts and prayers go out to those children depicted in the photos."

Father O'Kennedy has spoken to all of his parishioners who have had concerns privately and during his daily Mass homilies. Father O'Kennedy plans to address his parishioners directly this Sunday during all of the Masses.

"We continue to be vigilant when it comes to the protection of our children." said the Diocese in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of these egregious acts. We will continue to pray for the parishioners of this parish, this man and his family and for everyone who has been affected."

According to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the full investigation, including analysis of the computers, will likely take months. The Secret Service has agreed to assist with the analysis of the computers.

Investigators say they're not sure at this time if any local children were in the pictures and videos Martin had on his computers, but urged parents to discuss the matter with their children and call the Sheriff's Office if they have information about this case. That number is (256) 722-7181.