Mississippi Catholics have conflicting views of Law

Mississippi Catholics have different views of Cardinal Bernard Law, who died in Rome after being admitted to hospice care. He was 86.

Posted: Dec 20, 2017 10:48 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Catholics have different views of Cardinal Bernard Law, who died in Rome after being admitted to hospice care. He was 86.

Around the world, many remembered Law on Wednesday as the disgraced former archbishop of Boston whose failure to stop child molesters in the priesthood triggered the worst crisis in American Catholicism.

The Clarion-Ledger reports the knowledge of his cover-ups, however, conflict with the man people in Mississippi knew as a champion for civil rights.

Janna Avalon, former editor of Mississippi Catholic, remembers Law as a purveyor of social justice. She says during the civil rights movement, Law often wrote editorials encouraging Catholics to stand up for equal rights.

"He was a wonderful editorial writer so he got into lots of issues that some of the other newspapers around were timid about getting into," Avalon said. "He was not timid at all about how he spoke to Catholics about our obligations for social justice."

Law's friend, Mary Woodward, director of the Office of Liturgy and Worship for the Diocese of Jackson, said Law had "great concern for the poor and marginalized" and fought against racism and segregation.

"When he was here he was pretty much on the front lines of the civil rights movement," Woodward said.

After the death of Medgar Evers, Law was one of the first at the family's side, she said.

Law served as a priest in the Diocese of then Natchez-Jackson from 1961-1973. He served in that capacity until his appointment as Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri on Oct. 23, 1973. On Jan. 11, 1984, he was appointed Archbishop of Boston and elevated to the College of Cardinals on May 25, 1985.

"During his time here, he was a tireless and ardent supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. While many will criticize his harmful decisions while he was Archbishop in Boston, others, especially here in Mississippi, remember his work as a pastor and an advocate for social justice," said Bishop Joseph Kopacz, bishop of the Diocese of Jackson, in a statement.

Avalon said Law was particularly passionate about voting rights. His "forward thinking" played a large role in his involvement in the creation of the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, she said.

All of his work in Mississippi was overshadowed, however, when a Boston Globe investigation revealed Law had covered up numerous predatory priests who preyed on members of their congregation, molesting and raping children.

"All the issues in Boston that seems to take away some of the positivity of his career made people here sad," Avalon said. "He inherited all of that but that's not to say we didn't have problems here as well. It was not just in Boston that there were problems, but Boston became the open door to show those difficulties in the church.

"I think he had seen what was going on. Personally, I don't think the bishops knew exactly what to do back them so they shifted folks around rather than what they started doing in 2001 and dealing with the massiveness of the problem."

Woodward had lunch with Law shortly after he resigned in 2002 in Boston.

"He always expressed concern and remorse and regret for what happened, but we all make bad decisions, and I think he carried the burden of the church on his shoulders very gracefully."

The Law Woodward knew was "one of the kindest, most prayerful people you would ever meet."

"He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it," she said. "In spite of everything, he was still a good priest and a good Christian man that always just wanted to serve the Lord and serve people in sometimes very difficult circumstances. He'll be remembered for that which is unfortunate.He's not the monster people make him out to be. Just a very kind, good person."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 539829

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798271529
Mobile41261809
Madison35132506
Tuscaloosa25915455
Shelby25294249
Montgomery24705593
Baldwin21392310
Lee15987172
Calhoun14569319
Morgan14422280
Etowah13918353
Marshall12275225
Houston10641282
Elmore10147206
Limestone10065151
St. Clair9946245
Cullman9761194
Lauderdale9457243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8339176
Walker7260278
Autauga7001108
Jackson6836112
Blount6771139
Colbert6320135
Coffee5578118
Dale4876113
Russell445138
Chilton4369113
Franklin426282
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394777
Chambers3590123
Dallas3568153
Clarke351461
Marion3137101
Pike311977
Lawrence302698
Winston275773
Bibb264564
Geneva254078
Marengo249665
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale223978
Butler219069
Fayette212662
Henry189643
Cherokee184645
Randolph182442
Monroe178141
Washington167739
Macon161150
Clay157157
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143236
Lowndes140553
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter104932
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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