22 Mississippi Priests Accused Of Abuse, Documents Suggest

The Arizona Republic/June 5, 2003
By Nena Baker

Jackson, Miss. -- At least 18 plaintiffs are suing the Catholic Diocese of Jackson claiming abuse at the hands of at least seven priests.

Now, church documents suggest that 22 priests in Mississippi have been accused of sexually molesting parishioners and youth over several decades.

The new information has been made public by alleged victims of sexual abuse who say the documents were inadvertently forwarded to them by the church's lawyers. They say the papers support their claim that abuse was more widespread than once believed and the church continues to cover it up.

The documents are the subject of a bitter dispute in the state's Supreme Court over whether they should be sealed.

The attorney for the Catholic Diocese of Jackson is asking for the documents back and for the court to discipline the lawyer who published some facts from them in a legal motion.

The church insists that no priest accused of sexual misconduct is in active ministry within the diocese.

Sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy emerged as a national scandal last year after reports that church officials in Boston routinely transferred accused priests from parish to parish.

A trial court ordered the Jackson diocese to turn over information on other priests accused of sexual molestation.

The church is appealing that order.

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