Local

New list shows 14 priests ‘credibly accused of sexual abuse’ were assigned to Coast churches

More than 1,000 children identified in priest abuse case, PA grand jury finds

A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released August 14 says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses.
Up Next
A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report released August 14 says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses.

The Catholic Diocese of Jackson on Tuesday released a list of 37 clergy accused in sexual abuse cases, and 14 of them were assigned to Coast churches.

The bishop of the diocese, Joseph Kopacz, publicly apologized during 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, 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.

They 14 clergy who served on the Coast are:

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

George Broussard

Born: 1935 Ordained: 1966

Current Status: Left Ministry 1975; Deceased 2007

Assignments: St. Clare, Waveland; St. Peter, Jackson; Diocesan Chancellor; St. John, Gulfport

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1969-1974 – multiple locations

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2002

Nelius Downing

Born: 1883 Ordained: 1914

Current Status: Deceased prior to accusation

Assignments: Sacred Heart, Canton; St. Patrick, Meridian; St. Mary, Natchez; Our Lady of the Gulf, Bay St. Louis; St. Elizabeth, Clarksdale; St. Michael, Biloxi

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1939 – Meridian

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

John Leonard

Born: 1920 Ordained: 1948

Current Status: Deceased prior to accusation 2003

Assignments: St. Paul, Vicksburg; St. Francis, Shaw; St. Mary, Batesville; St. John, Sardis; Our Lady of Victories, Cleveland; All Saints, Belzoni; St. Mary, Yazoo City; Our Lady of the Gulf, Bay St. Louis

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1952-56 – Bay St. Louis

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2004

Paul Madden

Born: 1946 Ordained: 1970

Current Status: Retired; Incardinated in diocese in Peru

Assignments: Society of St. James, Peru; St. John, Crystal Springs; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Saltillo, Mexico; St. Mary, Natchez; Holy Family, Jackson; St. Alphonsus, Ocean Springs

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1973 – Ireland

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1993

Kevin Reid

Born: 1934 Ordained: 1958

Current Status: Left ministry in 1976; Deceased

Assignments: Holy Trinity, Columbia; Our Lady of Fatima, Biloxi; Immaculate Heart of Mary, Greenwood; Our Lady of the Gulf, Bay St. Louis

Date(s) of alleged abuse:1961-66 – Bay St. Louis

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2002

Ivan Siekman

Born: 1946 Ordained: 1975

Current Status: Left ministry 1990; Faculties removed 2003

Assignments: Sacred Heart, Biloxi

Date(s) of alleged abuse:1972-73 – Bay St. Louis

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2003

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

Three others are accused of abuse while serving in the Jackson Diocese:

Gerald Swift, Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity

Born: 1916 Ordained: 1946

Current Status: Deceased 2007

Assignments: Immaculate Conception, Camden; Annunciation, Kiln; Sacred Heart, Louisville

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1978 – Kosciusko

Date(s) abuse was reported: 2002

Ernest Hill, Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity

Born: 1922 Ordained: 1951

Current Status: suspended 1994; Deceased 2003

Assignments: Immaculate Conception, Camden; Annunciation, Kiln

Date(s) of alleged abuse:1992 – Indiana

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1994

Daniel O’Hanlon – Diocese of Springfield, Ill.

Born: 1897 Ordained: 1923

Current Status: Deceased prior to accusation 1969

Assignments: St. Michael, Biloxi; St. Charles Borromeo, Picayune; St. Mary, Jackson

Date(s) of alleged abuse: 1966-67 – Biloxi

Date(s) abuse was reported: 1993/2002

3 others

In January, the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi named three priests credibly accused during their assignments to Coast churches. All three were prohibited from the ministry and allegations were reported to authorities, the diocese said.

The diocese identified them as former priests Jose Vazquez Morales, Jerome J. Axton and Vincent The Quang Nguyen. Morales was accused in 2015 of misconduct with an adolescent boy in Laurel, and is serving a 10-year prison sentence. Axton was accused of misconduct with an adolescent girl in Biloxi during the mid-1980s; and Nguyen with adolescent girls in Biloxi in 1989, the diocese said.

In the 1992 directory for the diocese, Reid and Siekman are the only two priests listed under “priests on leave.” In the 1993 directory, Axton’s name was added to that category.

The Boston Globe’s famous investigation, chronicled in the movie “Spotlight,” detailed how many of the accused priests had been listed in directories as on “’sick leave,’ ‘absent on leave,’ and ‘awaiting assignment.’”

A photo of James Taylor appears in Gulf Pine Catholic’s Diocesan 15th Anniversary issue in 1992. He is listed as active clergy and residing at Sacred Heart in Pascagoula. He also is listed as having served as pastor at St. Joseph in Moss Point, in addition to the assignments listed by the Jackson diocese. His ministries are listed as judge, defender of the bond and mission board.

‘Especially egregious’

Kopacz said in a letter released Monday that he is “truly, deeply sorry” for any pain the list may cause.

“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.

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 the 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related stories from Biloxi Sun Herald

Margaret Baker is an investigative reporter whose search for truth exposed corrupt sheriffs, a police chief and various jailers and led to the first prosecution of a federal hate crime for the murder of a transgendered person. She worked on the Sun Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hurricane Katrina team. When she pursues a big story, she is relentless.


  Comments