March 19, 2019 10:33:00 AM
JACKSON -- A Catholic diocese in Mississippi is releasing names of clergy members it says have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz said the Diocese of Jackson is publishing the list Tuesday on its website. It's part of the international reckoning of clergy abuse allegations that have shaken the Catholic church.
The Jackson bishop said in a letter released Monday that he is "truly, deeply sorry" for pain that be caused by the list.
"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 bishop said he encourages anyone who has been sexually abused by a clergy member or church employee to come forward. He wrote that the diocese has a legal duty to report the cases to law enforcement, and "helping victims find healing and wholeness is our moral imperative."
He also said the church is taking steps to prevent abuse, including screening and educating employees and volunteers.
The Diocese of Jackson encompasses 65 of Mississippi's 82 counties and has about 48,000 registered Catholics.
In January, the only other Catholic diocese in Mississippi, the Diocese of Biloxi, released the names of three clergy members it said had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct against minors since the diocese was founded in 1977. It said all three were prohibited from the ministry and allegations were reported to authorities. One was accused in 2015 of misconduct with an adolescent boy in Laurel, and the Biloxi Diocese said he is serving a 10-year prison sentence. Another was accused of misconduct with an adolescent girl in Biloxi during the mid-1980s; the third, with adolescent girls in Biloxi in 1989.
A grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania last year identified nearly 300 "predator priests" going back nearly 70 years, and it accused Roman Catholic church leaders of covering up the abuse. The Associated Press reported that in the final four months of 2018, Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States released names of more than 1,000 priests and others accused of sexually abusing children.
More information has been released since then. In January, 14 Catholic dioceses in Texas identified 286 priests and others accused of sexually abusing children.
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