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Mississippi Catholics offer full confession

Mississippi Catholics finally did something they’ve been asking parishioners to do for centuries — a full confession.

The Jackson Diocese recently released a list of 37 priests and others affiliated with the church in Mississippi that had been credibly accused of sexual abuse against children.

Of those 37, 30 were accused of abuse during their time in Mississippi and seven were accused of committing abuse elsewhere.

Six names on the list had served in the Natchez community in the past. Nearly all of the alleged abuse had occurred decades ago, some as long as 80 years ago.

The church deemed a reported abuse as credible only after an internal, independent review board had completed an investigation.

After literally decades of denial that a problem with sexual abuse at the hands of priests existed at all, the Catholic Church has come a long way to opening up, letting some light be shed on the problem and beginning the healing process.

In making things public the church did the right thing. Further, they went above and beyond by providing the complete history of abusers dating back so many years.

Beyond that, though, the church did something churches typically don’t like to do — it apologized.

In what likely came as surprise to many, Bishop Joseph Kopacz, who leads the Jackson Diocese, publicly apologized for the church’s secretive way of handling these things in the past.

“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.” All of us could take a cue from the church’s public confession.

Most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, probably have a few sins we need to confess and make right by God and by the person we’ve sinned against. It’s probably something a little less awful than child abuse, but sins are still sins.

In the book of Matthew, Chapter 7, Jesus addressed the matter of such hypocrisy.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Sadly, despite this good, logical lesson, we tend to do just the opposite. We’ve become a society with lightning fast reflexes to judge others while ignoring our own problems. Over the last two weeks, public reaction to two news stories from around the state illustrated prime examples of this.

In the Mississippi Delta a mother needed to go inside a convenient store for a minute so she simply locked her three children in the car rather than dragging them inside.

Somehow after she left the car something happened which caused the car to roll into a flooded creek, killing two of her children. Reaction to the story was varied with some people seemingly understanding that it was a poor judgment call, but one that many parents have made. Unfortunately this one ended tragically and some people were ready to hang the grieving mother.

On the Gulf Coast a former cop pleaded guilty to manslaughter after her 3-year-old daughter died after being left in a locked hot car while the cop had sex with her supervisor.

As expected the immediate reaction among most wasn’t kind. The woman, who clearly is troubled and lacks good judgment, was mocked by most.

Most of the loudest critics may also have the biggest personal planks in their eyes as well.

The world, like the Catholic Church, would be a better place if we all just fessed up, came clean and asked for forgiveness.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.