Churches of all faiths must do more to protect

Published 9:17 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Though it is too little too late, at least the Catholic diocese in Jackson is now erring on the side of transparency when it comes to allegations of abuse by clergy.

The diocese on Tuesday released the names of 37 clergy who it says have been credibly accused of abuse against children. One was assigned to St. Francis in Brookhaven.

Thomas Williams died before the allegations against him were made. The alleged abuse occurred in 1958 in Gulfport. It was reported in 2002 and 2012.

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Just as horrific as the abuse was the diocese’s refusal to take the allegations seriously. Allowing priests to continue serving — and abusing children — after credible allegations were made is unforgivable in the eyes of many.

“Every case of abuse represents shattered lives and damaged families and communities,” Joseph Kopacz, bishop of the diocese, 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 abuses and cover-ups will be a stain on the Catholic church for years to come, maybe always. Reports of abuse from other churches and denominations underscores that this problem is not unique to Catholicism.

Our churches, no matter the faith, should be places of love, hope and peace, not places where monsters take advantage of children.

The diocese in Jackson has promised to permanently remove any clergy member who is found to be abusing minors. It also said it is taking steps to prevent abuse, including screening and educating employees and volunteers.

All churches should do the same. A simple background check will go a long way toward preventing future abuse. All churches should also demand justice for victims, even when the accused is one of their own. Anything less is unacceptable.