Response to Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

Bishop Joseph Kopacz Statement Regarding the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report of Clergy Sexual Abuse:

“The recently released Pennsylvania Grand Jury report detailing cases of sexual abuse going back to the late 1940’s in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, including Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Allentown, Scranton and Erie brings to light more horrific behavior within our church. The report is a stark reminder to all to whom children and young people are entrusted, starting with me in the Diocese of Jackson, that we must redouble our efforts to create safe environments for all vulnerable children of God, younger and older.  Likewise, we must recommit ourselves to exposing past abuse and encouraging victims to come forward.  We must never tire of healing and reconciling the pain that victims and families have suffered through the behavior of church personnel, especially the ordained.  All perpetrators of sexual abuse must be removed from ministry. Because I served in the Diocese of Scranton during the relevant period and am referenced in connection with my handling of three complaints of abuse, I feel it is essential — in keeping with our commitment to transparency — that you be informed of my role in those cases.

I was the Vicar for Priests for eight years in the Diocese of Scranton from 1998 to 2006 during the time that the sexual abuse crisis exploded on the scene.  As the Vicar, it was my responsibility to respond to all allegations of sexual abuse that involved clergy, along with other diocesan officials. Tragically, during that period, I was called upon to respond far too many times to such allegations.  Of those, the report references three instances where I was tasked with responding to the complaints of parishioners.

In the first reference, the victim initially confided in me that she had been abused but stated that she wanted it to be held in confidence. I kept that confidence and made no report. Though her request to maintain the confidentiality of her report was documented in a prepared memo that was available to the Grand Jury, the Grand Jury report excludes this fact.  The report does however confirm that once she removed the restriction of confidentiality, I and other diocesan officials quickly acted to report the abuse to civil authorities and remove the offending priest from ministry.  In the second reference, which involved a deceased priest who had been removed from ministry, the victim requested counseling and I arranged for him to receive counseling. In the third reference, I questioned the offending former priest and despite his denials (and the fact that he had previously been removed from ministry), reported this additional allegation to local authorities.

Forged in the fire of the abuse crisis, the vast majority of dioceses in the United States, including the Diocese of Jackson, have worked hard during the past 16 years to be faithful to the Promise to Protect and the Pledge to Heal, the document we know as the Dallas Charter. The fostering of safe environments in our ministries is now the norm, and the steadfast support for victims of sexual abuse who struggle for healing and hope in their lives, has been an unflagging commitment.

The full document is available through the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website. The Charter directs action in all the following matters:

  • Creating a safe environment for children and young people;
  • Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors;
  • Making prompt and effective response to allegations;
  • Cooperating with civil authorities;
  • Disciplining offenders;
  • Providing for means of accountability for the future to ensure the problem continues to be effectively dealt with through the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board.

It is my great hope that anyone who has been abused by a member of the clergy or an employee or volunteer of a church come forward. Our victim’s assistance coordinator, Valerie McClelland, a licensed social worker, is available to assist in making a report. You can contact her at (601) 326-3728. Suffering has no statute of limitations.  Sexual abuse is an evil and a crime that wreaks havoc, destruction and despair, and the enemy, the Evil One, loves it, because it is shrouded in darkness, lies and shame. It unleashes the power of hell upon victims and their families and it often spreads from one generation to the next unless the cycle is broken by the light of truth, healing and reconciliation.

With my brother bishops, I offer my apology for the grave sin of sexual abuse and I pledge to continue the needed work to create and maintain a safe environment within our parishes, schools and service centers.”

Most Rev. Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop, Diocese of Jackson

Statement Regarding the Removal from Ministry of Deacon Rick Caldwell

Statement Regarding the Removal from Ministry of Deacon Rick Caldwell

On June 24, 2018, the Diocese of Jackson became aware of a report of inappropriate sexual contact by Deacon Rick Caldwell with a minor female occurring in the early 1980s. The alleged conduct occurred many years before Caldwell joined the Church and became a deacon.  After an investigation into the allegations, the Diocese has concluded that the claims are credible.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for Protection of Children and Young People has a zero tolerance policy and requires the removal from ministry of any priest, deacon or other religious upon determination of a credible claim of sexual misconduct with a minor. Accordingly, Deacon Caldwell’s faculties have been suspended as of July 24, 2018, and he has been removed from ministry.  He is no longer free to function as a Deacon. The allegation of abuse has been reported to civil authorities by the Diocese.

The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children.  Sexual misconduct by church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The Diocese is committed to ensuring that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel.  The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the church.

Over the past thirty years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program.  The Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. Beginning in 1986, the Diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims.  The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a Diocesan Fitness Review Board and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.

Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so.  The Diocese of Jackson places no deadline or time limits on reporting.  The Victim Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan and Vicar General, Fr. Kevin Slattery are available to assist in making a report.  The contact number for the Victim Assistance Coordinator is 601/326-3728.  The contact number for the Vicar General is 601/969-2290.

For more information about the Diocesan policies and procedures, you can visit the diocesan website at www.jacksondiocese.org.

 

Statement Regarding Allegations against former Bro. Paul West

Statement Regarding Allegations against former Bro. Paul West

An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by former Brother Paul West, OFM while in ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Greenwood has been brought forward to the Diocese of Jackson Fitness Review Board.  The allegation has been considered and found to be credible.

Parish assignment included serving as a Brother at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Greenwood from June 1993 – November 1998.

The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children.  Sexual misconduct by church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The Diocese is committed to ensuring that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel.  The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the church.

Over the past thirty years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program.  The Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. Beginning in 1986, the Diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims.  The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a Diocesan Fitness Review Board and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.

Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so.  The Diocese of Jackson places no deadline or time limits on reporting.  The Victim Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan and Vicar General, Fr. Kevin Slattery are available to assist in making a report.  The contact number for the Victim Assistance Coordinator is 601/326-3728.  The contact number for the Vicar General is 601/969-2290.

Statement Regarding allegations against Rev. Timothy Crowley

Statement Regarding allegations against Rev. Timothy Crowley

An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Rev. Timothy Crowley while in ministry at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Chatawa has been brought forward to the Diocese of Jackson Fitness Review Board.  The allegation has been considered and found to be credible.

Parish assignment included serving as Pastor at St. Teresa of Avila Church, Chatawa from 1968-1970. He is deceased.

The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children.  Sexual misconduct by church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The Diocese is committed to ensuring that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel.  The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the church.

Over the past thirty years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program.  The Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. Beginning in 1986, the Diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims.  The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a Diocesan Fitness Review Board and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.

Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so.  The Diocese of Jackson places no deadline or time limits on reporting.  The Victim Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan and Vicar General, Fr. Kevin Slattery are available to assist in making a report.  The contact number for the Victim Assistance Coordinator is 601/326-3728.  The contact number for the Vicar General is 601/969-2290.

Bishops release statement on abortion bills

Joint Statement of Bishops Kopacz and Louis F. Kihneman, III 

The Catholic Bishops of Mississippi, Most Reverend Joseph R. Kopacz, Bishop of Jackson, and Most Reverend Louis F. Kihneman III, Bishop of Biloxi, have authorized the release of the following statement regarding last week’s U.S. Senate vote protecting unborn human life and the upcoming Mississippi Senate vote:

Last week the United States Senate sought to pass the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” This proposed law, which cleared the House of Representatives in 2013, 2015, and 2017, would prohibit abortions at 20 weeks and beyond after fertilization. Once again, the Senate failed to pass this into law, this time by nine votes. We Catholic Bishops of Mississippi wish to reaffirm the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death. With Pope St. John Paul II, we recognize abortion as “a most serious wound inflicted on society and its culture by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders.”

We regret that this golden opportunity to protect innocent human life has once again passed us by, and we express deep sadness. We remind our representatives, once again in the words of Evangelium Vitae, that “they have a duty to make courageous choices in support of life, especially through legislative measures.” We ask continued prayer for a culture of life to prevail in our society, and we urge those who voted against this legislation — especially those who are Catholic — to reconsider. Here in Mississippi, our House of Representatives is to be commended for voting to protect unborn human life after 15 weeks of gestation, and we hope and pray that the state Senate will, in tum, enact such protection.

Sincerely yours in Christ,                                                   Sincerely yours in Christ,

Joseph R. Kopacz                                                               Louis F. Kihneman, III
Bishop of Jackson                                                                Bishop of Biloxi

 

Joint Letter download here

Unborn Child Protection Act download here

 

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)
Maureen.smith@jacksondiocese.org

Bishop Kopacz, remembering MLK, calls for just immigration reform, end to prejudice

When tens of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians were forced from their homes in the 1970s, Catholic Charities across the nation, including the one right here in Jackson, Mississippi, welcomed them.

When thousands of boys in the Sudan faced the choice of being forced into a murderous militia or fleeing for their lives, again, Catholic Charities opened the door, offering a new home, counseling to ease the burdens of what they had witnessed and families to walk with them on their new journey.

As drug wars and civil strife destroyed the fabric of the simple agrarian cultures in Central America, driving families northward, Catholic Charities smoothed their transition into new communities. As the evil of war, prejudice and violence spreads from one global region to another, we stand ready to welcome the stranger.

In our own nation, Catholics, primarily women religious, answered the call to educate and empower the African American community in a time when they were denied the right to vote, to learn and to have access to equal rights as citizens of the United States. As the Civil Rights Movement took shape, clergy and lay Catholics stepped up. They marched, spoke out and, in some cases, protected the very lives of Civil Rights icons in their homes, convents and rectories. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took refuge at Holy Child Jesus in Canton. Franciscan sisters in Meridian protected another Civil Rights leader from a mob hoping to lynch him. In Natchez, Greenwood and beyond, we find stories of those who worked to advance the movement.

The central theme to this work — all people are made in the image and likeness of God. Reports this week of disparaging remarks made by President Donald Trump regarding people from nations wracked by poverty, natural disaster and civil unrest warrant a strong response. No one asks to be born into poverty, thrust into war or see their homeland destroyed.

As we mark Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it is appropriate to remember and renew our commitment to the poor and vulnerable.

I call again on our lawmakers to forge a just and equitable solution for Dreamers, those brought to this nation as children who are now a part of the very fabric of our nation. I call on them to work out immigration policies with an eye to global justice and mercy. I urge them to put aside politics and be leaders with practical integrity.

In the meantime, in collaboration with the State Department, Homeland Security, the State of Mississippi, State wide agencies and a host of dedicated individuals, Catholic Charities in Jackson will continue its work with unaccompanied refugee minors, ministering to those driven from their homes as Joseph and Mary were driven from Bethlehem. Our Migrant Resource Center will continue to assist those who are here legally and who wish to call themselves Americans, as well as those who are undocumented to uphold their basic human rights.  Our parishes and schools will continue to strive toward our mission to Embrace Diversity, Serve Others and Inspire Disciples.

Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Jackson

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)
Maureen.smith@jacksondiocese.org

The Catholic Diocese of Jackson covers 65 counties in Mississippi and includes 96 parishes and missions, 12 schools and more than 25 service programs administered through Catholic Charities of Jackson, Inc. Bishop Joseph Kopacz is the 11th bishop for the diocese.

Statement regarding death of Cardinal Law

JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson acknowledges the death of Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, Wednesday, Dec. 20, in Rome. He was 86-years-old. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, but will likely take place in Rome.

Cardinal Law served as a priest in the Diocese of then Natchez-Jackson from 1961 – 1973. During his time here, he was a tireless and ardent supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. “While many will criticize his harmful decisions while he was Archbishop in Boston, others, especially here in Mississippi, remember his work as a pastor and an advocate for social justice,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz, bishop of the Diocese of Jackson.

Cardinal Law was ordained for the priesthood on May 21, 1961, after having completed his seminary training at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict, La., and at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, OH.

He was assigned as associate pastor of St. Paul Parish in Vicksburg where he served for two years. In January 1963, Law was appointed as associate pastor of St. Therese parish in Jackson and in addition to his pastoral duties he began studying to become editor and business manager of the diocesan newspaper – The Mississippi Register. He assumed these duties in March of 1963.

During his five-year tenure at the newspaper, Law used his editorial column to address a myriad of issues and topics in society and the church. Most notably he wrote forcefully in opposition to segregation and racial injustices. His March 1964 editorial entitle “Legal Segregation is Dying” won Editorial of the Year from the National Catholic Press Association.

Law also used local TV to conduct an eight-night on-air evangelization mission. Law reached more than 100,000 viewers each night.

He was very active in interracial, interfaith and ecumenical committees and action groups. This earned him the opportunity to be under the watchful eye of the KKK, the Citizens’ Council and the State Sovereignty Committee. It also earned him the opportunity to serve as executive director of the U.S. Bishops’ secretariat on ecumenical and interreligious affairs in Washington, D.C., from 1968-1971. Upon his return, Law was appointed vicar general of the diocese by Bishop Joseph B. Brunini. He served in this capacity until his appointment as Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri on Oct. 23, 1973. He was ordained and installed there on December 5, 1973.

On January 11, 1984, he was appointed Archbishop of Boston and was installed March 23 of that same year. He was elevated to the College of Cardinals on May 25, 1985.

###

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)
Maureen.smith@jacksondiocese.org

The Catholic Diocese of Jackson covers 65 counties in Mississippi and includes 96 parishes and missions, 12 schools and more than 25 service programs administered through Catholic Charities of Jackson, Inc. Bishop Joseph Kopacz is the 11th bishop for the diocese.

Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal bishops release joint statement about Mississippi Museum opening

Joint Statement of Bishops Kopacz, Seage and Swanson

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are honored to join with the good people of our state in the celebration of Mississippi’s Bicentennial, 200 years of statehood. This milestone has already been celebrated in numerous ways across the State, and these celebrations will culminate with the opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum on December 10, 2017. We have no doubt that these two museums will illuminate the history, culture, and numerous achievements of our State, and its people, and will help people everywhere comprehend and put into proper context our past and present, as well as help us better understand the challenges we face in the future.

Born from the racial and other tensions of the 1950’s and 60’s, at various times our predecessors in office spoke with conviction and in one united voice against the variety of forces undermining society and the common good, including violence, racism, bigotry and racial injustice. Once again, we come together to make our voices heard on a subject of weighty importance to our State.

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is the first, publicly funded museum of its type in the country. It will serve as a significant acknowledgement and affirmation by our state not only of its accomplishments but of its sometimes bloody and shameful past. Our hope, indeed our common prayer, is that the Museum will help us move toward individual and collective reconciliation for the hurts, injustices, prejudices, failures, violence and omissions of the past and empower coming generations of Mississippians to do justice and love mercy.

All of us – from the poorest of the poor to those who stride in the corridors of power in Jackson and Washington – must do all in our power to respect the dignity of every human being and constantly strive for justice and peace. Without overlooking President Trump’s provocative statements surrounding racial strife in our nation, our fervent hope is that the President will use his attendance at the opening of the Museums and the Bicentennial Celebration to acknowledge the sacrifice and witness of countless individuals who offered themselves, their souls and bodies, to eliminate injustice and oppression in our State.

Our State’s Bicentennial is a cause for celebration. May it also be an occasion for us to launch new and meaningful efforts of reconciliation and healing.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz         Bishop Brian R. Seage              Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
11th Bishop of the Catholic       10th Bishop of the Episcopal       MS Conference of The United
Diocese of Jackson                   Diocese of Mississippi                Methodist Church

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)
Maureen.smith@jacksondiocese.org

Bishop Kopacz releases statement in solidarity with ‘Dreamers’

Nov. 2, 2017

Dear Friends in Christ,
With the passing of time since September 5 and the rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, those not directly affected can be lulled into sleep that this crisis has passed. All who are directly affected, either personally, or with a family member, friend, or neighbor, know differently. Unless this reality is addressed justly and comprehensively by the United States Congress in March 2018, this presidential decision will mushroom into a crisis for all affected Dreamers, as well as for all whose lives will be adversely impacted, especially family members.
As Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson, I am in solidarity with my brother Bishops throughout the United States, standing with all Dreamers for whom this nation is the only homeland you know. You have lived here for most of your lives, you were educated here, you work here, and many of you have defended our nation in the Armed Services, all of which is to say that you have dreamed here and have been building a life for yourselves while contributing to our nation’s wellbeing. The Diocese of Jackson is in solidarity with you, welcomes you, prays with you and for you, and will advocate for a just legal decision when the United Sates Congress addresses this critical issue of national integrity and identity. You are our brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, members of the Catholic Church and the family of God, and we will labor to uphold your dignity and rightful place in our nation.

Con el paso del tiempo desde el 5 de septiembre y la decisión de la Acción Diferida para Llegadas en la Infancia, DACA, aquellos que no se ven afectados directamente pueden ser arrullados en el sueño de que esta crisis ha pasado. Todos los que se ven directamente afectados, ya sea personalmente o con un familiar, amigo o vecino, saben de manera diferente.  A menos que esta realidad sea abordada justa y exhaustivamente por el Congreso de los Estados Unidos en marzo de 2018, esta decisión presidencial se convertirá en una crisis para todos los Soñadores afectados, así como todas sus vidas se verán negativamente afectadas, especialmente los miembros de la familia.

Como obispo de la diócesis de Jackson, me solidarizo con mis hermanos obispos en todos los Estados Unidos, junto con todos los Soñadores para quienes esta nación es la única patria que conocen. Ustedes han vivido aquí la mayor parte de sus vidas, fueron educados aquí, trabajan aquí, y muchos de ustedes han defendido a nuestra nación en los Servicios Armados, todo lo cual es para decir que han soñado aquí y han estado construyendo una vida para ustedes mismos mientras contribuyen al bienestar de nuestra nación. La diócesis de Jackson se solidariza con ustedes, les da la bienvenida, ora con ustedes y por ustedes, y defenderá una decisión legal justa cuando el Congreso de los Estados Unidos aborde este tema crítico de integridad e identidad nacional. Ustedes son nuestros hermanos y hermanas en el Señor Jesús, miembros de la Iglesia Católica y la familia de Dios, y trabajaremos para mantener su dignidad y el lugar que les corresponde en nuestra nación.

In the peace of Christ,
Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson

Download the statement as a PDF here.