Bishops issue joint statement on SB2643 – opens door for unilateral divorce

We, the undersigned, are the Catholic Bishops of the Dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi that encompass the state of Mississippi in its entirety. We are writing in unison to express our concern over Senate Bill 2643, specifically its 13th addition that in effect is opening the door to a process of unilateral divorce that is subject to abuse on many fronts.

For the past 50 years the State of Mississippi rightly has codified the compelling grounds that protect the rights of the injured party in a marriage to petition for divorce. Desertion, chronic drug and/or alcohol abuse, spousal domestic abuse, intellectual disability and mental illness do erode and can devastate the bond of marriage. The rights and wellbeing of the injured spouse and family members must be upheld in such cases. With regard to mental illness this current bill painstakingly addresses the safeguards that must be in place in order to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the mental illness undermines one’s capacity for marriage. These precautions are prudent and just and well-grounded in jurisprudence that surrounds marriage with the presumption of permanence.

On the contrary, the insertion of the 13th cause at the end of the bill is troublesome because it takes another path, and opens the door for unilateral divorce. As written, it is lacking in any of the intrinsic safeguards that are so evident in the 12th cause on mental illness. Aside from the compelling reasons noted above that can justify divorce, the 13th cause appears to be going down a slippery slope that could erode the institution of marriage and thus undermine the common good of society.

We hope that this bill is voted down in its current form. We thank you for your consideration over this critical matter.

Sincerely yours in Christ,


For PDF of above letter – click here

For text and latest updates to SB2643 visit:

Bishop Kopacz meets Pope Francis

Pope Francis greets Bishop Kopacz of Diocese of Jackson, Miss., during meeting with new bishops at VaticanBishop Joseph Kopacz met Pope Francis on Thursday, Sept. 18. The Holy Father received in audience more than 130 newly ordained bishops from around the world. At the audience each bishop was able to spend a few moments with Pope Francis. Cutline — Pope Francis greets Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz of the Diocese of Jackson, Miss., during a meeting with 138 new bishops from around the world at the Vatican Sept. 18. The pope encouraged bishops to be as vigilant and courageous as sentinels keeping watch over the faith, and as forgiving and patient as Moses. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

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Saltillo pastor, Fr. Benny Piovan, dies

St. John Vianney, patron of priests, pray for us.
We have received news that Fr. Benjamin Piovan, who is pastoring at the mission in Saltillo, Mexico, has died this morning of a heart attack. Please pray for the repose of his soul.

Fr. Piovan was a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He was a native of Padova, Italy and began serving in New Orleans in 1974. Ordained in 1964, he studied with the Sons of Don Bosco, and taught in high schools around the country until being incardinated into the archdiocese.

He was the founding pastor of Ascension of Our Lord Church. He retired from active ministry in 2006 and moved to the mission in Mexico where he had been serving the mission of San Miguel.

Visitation and Funeral Mass will be at Ascension of Our Lord Church 1900 Greenwood Dr., LaPlace, LA.

Aarrangements are as follows:

Visitation: Monday, August 11th, 6:00-9:00 pm

Rosary: Monday, August 11th, 6:30 pm

Wake Service: Monday, August 11th, 7:00 pm

Visitation: Tuesday, August 12th, 9:00 am-12:00 noon

Funeral Mass: Tuesday, August 12th, 12:00 noon

Interment: St. John Memorial Gardens, LaPlace, LA

Freedom Summer

Guest Blogger for this week: Mary Woodward, Vice Chancellor in charge of Archives, Diocese of Jackson

State’s bishops lead church in turbulent times

In light of the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964, we would like to share some portions of Bishop Richard O. Gerow’s notes from the time.

July 1 (Wednesday) Jackson – This morning at 10 o’clock our meeting of ministers convened in our library.  There was a specially large number of Negro ministers.  During the meeting it was proposed that if this group could sit down and talk with the Mayor of Jackson perhaps we could understand each other better.  What the Negro ministers want especially is some means of communication with the civic authorities.  At present they feel that there is as it were an impenetrable wall between them and the Mayor.  They would like at least to be able to talk to him.  I volunteered to telephone Mayor Thompson and attempt to arrange a meeting with him; in fact, to invite him to come and sit in at this meeting.  I phoned.  He was busy in a Council meeting but he would be asked to call us later.  He called after our meeting had dispersed.  He refused absolutely to a meeting of any kind.  I asked him if he would meet with Bishop Brunini, Bishop Allin, and myself.  He said he would be glad to meet with us for a social visit – but not to discuss race.  So our attempt was a failure.

July 3 (Friday)  The Civil Rights Bill has now been passed by the U. S. Congress and has just been signed by President Johnson.  Accordingly, this morning I issued to the press and mailed to all our priests the following statement:

“The Civil Rights Act has been passed by the Congress of the United States.  The people of our beloved Mississippi have the historic opportunity of giving to the world an example of true patriotism in a Democracy.  Each of us, bearing in mind Christ’s law of love, can establish his own personal motive of reaction to the Bill and thus turn this time into an occasion of spiritual growth.  The prophets of strife and distress need not be right.

“Dear Christian, Catholic people, your Bishop calls upon you to accept the action of Congress as loyal Americans and to make a positive contribution to our State by rejecting the spirit of rebellion and by standing for justice, love and peace.”

The Catholic Church  was on the forefront in pursuing and speaking out for justice and dignity for all. For over a year before the act was signed into law, Bishop Gerow joined by his auxiliary, Bishop Joseph Brunini, were in dialogue with the Episcopal and Methodist bishop plus several prominent ministers in the African American community.

This group evolved into the Committee of Concern when churches began to be burned in reaction to the passage of the law and the breaking down of segregation. The Committee of Concern raised donations to help rebuild these houses of worship destroyed by hate, ignorance and intolerance.

These were very turbulent times in our nation and Mississippi in particular. The leadership of the church stepped up in this violent time to remind people of what a true Christian was called to be. Being Christian is not always popular and not always safe, but it is what we are called to be by Christ Jesus.

We offer Bishop  Gerow’s notes as food for thought. With the humanitarian crisis growing on our own border with thousands of children braving treacherous treks across perilous terrain in order to find freedom from violence and oppression, perhaps we should remember the strife and struggles of our not so distant past and pledge to heal rather than hurt again. MTW