Diocese: A geographic area under the care of one bishop.
Diocesan priests– Men ordained to serve in a particular diocese. The diocese provides them with seminary formation and oversight. These priests take a vow of obedience to their local bishop and his successors.
Extern priests– these are priests who were ordained for one diocese, but are serving in another for a period of time. The diocese where they were ordained provides them with formation and oversight.
Religious Order priests or deacons – these men are ordained and take vows to serve the Church through a particular religious community such as the Franciscans, Jesuits or Dominicans. Their religious community provides them with seminary formation and oversight. Many orders have a particular charism such as teaching, hospital work or social justice work. This takes these men across the country and across the world to serve. The religious order must respond to allegations involving their priests, brothers or deacons, although the diocese does report these cases to local law enforcement.
Religious Order Brothers– these are lay men who take vows to serve in a particular religious community. They are not ordained. The religious order provides for their formation and oversight. While the diocese will report a case of abuse involving a brother to law enforcement, it is the order’s responsibility to respond to the report.
Permanent Deacons– these are men ordained to service in a local diocese. They are not priests and can be married. The diocese provides for their formation and oversight and they fall under the authority of a local bishop.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Why are cases from the Diocese of Biloxi on this list?
A: The Diocese of Jackson once encompassed the entire state. In 1977, the state was split into two dioceses: Jackson and Biloxi. The Diocese of Jackson holds the archives from the beginnings of both dioceses and so any case from the Diocese of Biloxi from before 1977 will appear as part of the history of the Diocese of Jackson. The Diocese of Biloxi has released a list of cases from 1977 to the present. It can be found in the news feed on the homepage of the diocesan website.
Q: One of the priests on the list married us, heard my confession, baptized me or my child – is that sacrament still valid?
A: Yes. The grace of a sacrament comes from God, not from the priest conferring it. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1127-1128) “Celebrated worthily in faith, the sacraments confer the grace that they signify. They are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit. As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power. This is the meaning of the Church’s affirmation that the sacraments act ex opere operato (literally: “by the very fact of the action’s being performed”), i.e., by virtue of the saving work of Christ, accomplished once for all. It follows that “the sacrament is not wrought by the righteousness of either the celebrant or the recipient, but by the power of God.” From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it, independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”
Q: I have been abused by a member of the clergy or church employee, but I never came forward. What can I do?
A: The Church is committed to healing and reconciliation. It is never too late to come forward and seek help. You can call our Office of Child Protection at 601-960-8471 and/or our Victim’s Assistance Coordinator Valerie McClellan at 601-326-3728. We will provide counseling and can keep your case confidential. You can also report to law enforcement.
Q: What happens when an allegation is brought forward?
A: When an allegation is made, it triggers a number of responses. First, if the victim is a child – even if the abuse is just a suspicion – the case is turned over to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services and the Office of Child Protection. Cases from the past are handed over to the local district attorney.
Victim/survivors are all offered professional counseling at no cost. A person making a report does not need to give his or her name to the diocese to receive this service. Valerie McClellan is the victims’ assistance coordinator for the diocese. She can offer counseling based out of Jackson. If the reporter lives out of state, she can arrange for a counselor in their community. The goal is to offer a healing opportunity to the victim/survivor and his or her family.
McClellan will gather as much information about the abuse as possible and, with the victim’s consent, turn it over to the diocese. The diocese hires a private investigator to begin to look into the case and the accused is removed from active ministry or suspended while the investigator prepares a report for the independent fitness review board.
The fitness review board meets without the bishop present and deliberates on what actions to recommend to the bishop. When the allegation is judged to be credible the abuser is removed from ministry as soon as possible. If a case is deemed credible, the diocese will inform law enforcement or the district attorney in the county where the abuse happened. The bishop withdraws faculties from an ordained accused minister at this time.
The diocese prepares a statement to be read at Masses or other parish gatherings in the communities where the alleged abuser has served. The statement will never name a victim, but will name the alleged perpetrator and encourage other victims to come forward. These statements are also posted to the diocesan website.
As new credible allegations surface, they will be added to this list. Anyone with a credible allegation can contact our Office of Child Protection at 601-960-8471 and/or our Victim’s Assistance Coordinator Valerie McClellan at 601-326-3728.
Q: What constitutes a credible allegation of abuse?
A. The review board declares an allegation credible if after investigation, it is found to be specific and believable. Credible allegations are turned over to civil authorities for investigation. The Diocese of Jackson does not determine if an action is a crime. Law enforcement or the local district attorney does that. Inclusion on this list is not an indication that someone has been charged or convicted of a crime.
Q: I believe I know a person who should be included on this list.
A: The Diocese of Jackson wants to hear from anyone with knowledge of abuse. You can call our Office of Child Protection at 601-960-8471 and/or our Victim’s Assistance Coordinator Valerie McClellan at 601-326-3728 Because a number of religious order clergy have served in the Diocese of Jackson, it is possible that someone who served here was accused of abuse in another diocese. We have made every effort to present a complete list. New information will be added as it is investigated.
Q: What is the church doing now to prevent abuse?
A: The Diocese of Jackson, along with dioceses across the United States, have built strong safeguards and Safe Environment Programs to prevent future abuse. You can read more about our policies here and about our response to the current crisis here.