Ex-local clergy on sex abuse list

Published 8:17 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Eleven priests and one deacon who once served in parishes in Warren County were identified by officials with the Diocese of Jackson as being credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

The 12 men were part of 37 clergy members the diocese said were accused of sexual abuse. Thirty were accused of sexual abuse in Mississippi. The others worked in the Mississippi diocese but were accused of abuse in other states.

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The diocese published the list Tuesday on its website as part of the Catholic Church’s international reckoning with allegations of sex abuse that have proliferated around the world.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz, publicly apologized Tuesday at a news conference outside a cathedral in downtown Jackson.

“Every case of abuse represents shattered lives and damaged families and communities,” Kopacz said. “I hope that releasing this list will demonstrate a new level of transparency and a sincere desire to accompany victims of sexual abuse as our God of compassion and justice demands. I apologize to all the victims of abuse, to their families and to the faithful who have been hurt by this scandal.”

The victims in the Jackson Diocese were boys and girls ages 5 to 17, diocese chancellor Mary Woodward said. Woodward said the cases date from 1939 to 1998, and none of the accused clergy are still in active ministry.

Diocesan director of communications Maureen Smith said any further action against clergy members on the list would have to involve the court system.

“I think it’s good this list is coming out,” said the Rev. P.J. Curley, retired pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church.

“Our diocese is showing transparency, but sometimes transparency is not enough,” he said. “The good thing for me as a retired priest in Vicksburg is that the priests on the list are all from the past.

“There isn’t any priest on the list from the present, which tells me that our diocese really is doing a good job in the protection of children, and we priests are being more educated.”

The diocese monitors priests, youth leaders, school teachers and people who have anything to do with young people, and “I think it’s good to know that,” Curley said.

“But the pain is still there, and the anger is still there, and I think we have to have a prayer of forgiveness for the perpetrator and the abuser, and you have to have a prayer of love and concern and care for the abused.

“I’m a follower of Christ, and I have to forgive and I have to give second chances,” he said.

The list, “Is an effort to show we’re transparent and we’re holding accountability for what happened,” said the Rev. Rusty Vincent, pastor of St. Paul Catholic Church. “This is a step in the process.”

“My heart bleeds for all of those victims,” said St. Aloysius principal Dr. Buddy Strickland. “I can’t imagine what they’ve lived with, and for me, it’s unconscionable that that could happen. I pray for them.”

Woodward, members of an independent fitness review board and retired bishops reviewed about 1,400 files from five bishops of the diocese from 1924 to this year, she said.

In some cases, psychologists “treated a priest and deemed him safe to go back into ministry,” the diocese said in a message that accompanied the list on its website.

Any clergy member, employee or volunteer found to be abusing minors from now on will be permanently removed from ministry, the post said.

The diocese also said it provided information about the past abuse allegations to the Mississippi attorney general’s office in 2002, before the current attorney general was elected. The diocese said it gave the attorney general an updated list Monday.

“The crime of abuse of any kind is a sin, but the abuse of children and vulnerable adults is especially egregious,” Kopacz wrote. “First and foremost, it is a sin against the innocent victims, but also a sin against the Church and our communities. It is a sin that cries out for justice.”

The Diocese of Jackson encompasses 65 of Mississippi’s 82 counties and has about 48,000 registered Catholics.

The list of clergy members who served in Warren County included:

• Thomas Boyce

Born: 1941 Ordained: 1966

Current Status: Removed 2002; Deceased 2002

Assignments: St. Mary, Batesville; St. Jude, Pearl; All Saints, Belzoni; St. Michael, Vicksburg; St. Peter, Jackson; St. Alphonsus, Ocean Springs

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1972-1973 – Jackson

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2002

• Bernard Haddican

Born: 1933 Ordained: 1960

Current Status: Retired 1991; Deceased 1996

Assignments: Sacred Heart, Rosedale; Our Lady of Victories, Cleveland; St. Elizabeth, Clarksdale; St. Michael, Vicksburg; St. Mary, Shelby; St. John, Oxford; St. Joseph, Greenville; St. Richard, Jackson; Sacred Heart, Hattiesburg; Our Lady of the Gulf, Bay St. Louis; St. Mary, Natchez

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1964-84 – multiple locations

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1998/2002

• Kenneth Harris

Born: 1912 Ordained: 1940

Current Status: Excardinated to Steubenville Diocese 1955; Deceased prior to accusation 1964

Assignments: St. Joseph, Greenville; St. James, Leland; St. Bernardine, San Berardino, CA; St. Mary, Natchez, Sacred Heart, Hattiesburg; St. Paul, Vicksburg; St. Teresa, Chatawa

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1951 – Steubenville, Ohio

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1998/2003

• Michael Irwin

Born: 1943 Ordained: 1970

Current Status: Deceased prior to accusation 1993

Assignments: St. Mary, Natchez; St. Paul, Vicksburg

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1975 – Vicksburg

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2005

• James Kircher

Born: 1931 Ordained: 1963

Current Status: Removed from ministry 1987; Deceased 2007

Assignments: St. Benedict/ Immaculate Conception, Indianola; Sacred Heart, Canton; St. Mary, Shelby; St. Therese, Jackson; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Lumberton (Seneca); Immaculate Heart of Mary, Greenwood; St. Paul, Vicksburg

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1978-82 – multiple locations

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1986/2002

• Jack Smith

Born: 1941 Ordained: 1970

Current Status: Deceased prior to accusations

Assignments: St. Michael, Vicksburg; Our Lady of the Gulf, Bay St. Louis; St. Joseph, Starkville; St. Alphonsus, Ocean Springs; St. Joseph, Greenville

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1972 – 1980 multiple sites

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2003

• James Taylor

Born: 1927 Ordained: 1954

Current Status: Retired prior to accusation; Deceased

Assignments: St. Mary, Woolmarket; St. Peter, Bassfield; Immaculate Conception, Laurel; St. Michael, Forest; St. Joseph, Woodville; St. Joseph, Greenville; St. Therese, Jackson; St. Paul, Vicksburg; Our Lady of the Gulf, Bay St. Louis; St. Mary, Yazoo City; Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Biloxi; St. Mary, Jackson

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1962 – Woodville

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1998

• Thomas Williams

Born: 1913 Ordained: 1940

Current Status: Deceased prior to accusation 1983

Assignments: Our Lady of Fatima, Biloxi; St. John, Gulfport; St. Francis, Brookhaven; St. Paul, Pass Christian; St. Mary, Natchez; St. Paul, Vicksburg

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1958 – Gulfport

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2002/2012

Permanent Deacons:

• Richard Caldwell

Born: 1957 Ordained: 2016

Current Status: removed from ministry 2018

Assignments: St. Mary, Vicksburg

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1981 – Vicksburg

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2018

Religious Order members:

• Tim Crowley

Congregation of the Holy Spirit

Born: 1917 Ordained: 1939

Current Status: Deceased prior to accusation

Assignments: St. Paul, Vicksburg; St. Teresa, Chatawa

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1968 – Chatawa

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2018

• Patrick Lee

Society of the Divine Word

Born: 1935 Ordained: 1967

Current Status: removed from ministry 1988

Assignments: St. Mary, Vicksburg; Immaculate Conception, Clarksdale; Sacred Heart, Greenville

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1988 – Vicksburg

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1988

• Vance Thorne

Society of the Divine Word

Born: 1921 Ordained: 1954

Current Status: removed from diocesan ministry 1987; Deceased 2004

Assignments: Holy Ghost, Jackson; St. Mary, Vicksburg

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1986

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1986

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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