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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: 497790

Reported Deaths: 9917
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34102530
DeSoto31839398
Hinds31837622
Jackson24314377
Rankin21881388
Lee15427234
Madison14525279
Jones13772241
Forrest13412250
Lauderdale11937314
Lowndes10934185
Lamar10470135
Pearl River9431237
Lafayette8454138
Hancock7697126
Washington7365156
Oktibbeha7111129
Monroe6727174
Warren6642176
Pontotoc6609101
Neshoba6606205
Panola6460131
Marshall6386132
Bolivar6266145
Union596094
Pike5784152
Alcorn5633101
Lincoln5417134
George491879
Scott470998
Tippah465381
Prentiss464181
Leflore4627143
Itawamba4596104
Adams4570119
Tate4546109
Copiah445191
Simpson4421116
Wayne438572
Yazoo438586
Covington427394
Marion4216107
Sunflower4215104
Coahoma4115104
Leake407787
Newton380879
Grenada3692108
Stone358464
Tishomingo356391
Attala330289
Jasper328265
Winston313191
Clay306375
Chickasaw296767
Clarke290694
Calhoun277945
Holmes266987
Smith262550
Yalobusha232647
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217763
Greene215548
Lawrence211140
Perry204755
Amite203954
Webster201645
Noxubee185340
Montgomery179056
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167438
Tunica158639
Benton147438
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131237
Humphreys129038
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104539
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 813481

Reported Deaths: 15179
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1139971910
Mobile722271323
Madison51970686
Shelby37279341
Baldwin37069540
Tuscaloosa34934599
Montgomery33953725
Lee23142240
Calhoun22142470
Morgan20639372
Etowah19758496
Marshall18245300
Houston17302405
St. Clair15912337
Cullman15306290
Limestone15202198
Elmore15075284
Lauderdale14143294
Talladega13715272
DeKalb12569259
Walker11085366
Blount10094174
Autauga9893146
Jackson9789180
Coffee9182189
Dale8859181
Colbert8789200
Tallapoosa7044195
Escambia6732127
Covington6682179
Chilton6587160
Russell625958
Franklin5930105
Chambers5559142
Marion4955126
Dallas4882199
Clarke472782
Pike4719105
Geneva4564126
Winston4473101
Lawrence4264117
Bibb421686
Barbour355475
Marengo334089
Monroe330262
Randolph327063
Butler324794
Pickens313882
Henry310965
Hale309187
Cherokee299957
Fayette290679
Washington250951
Cleburne246958
Crenshaw243575
Clay240367
Macon230562
Lamar215846
Conecuh185652
Coosa178538
Lowndes173761
Wilcox167438
Bullock151744
Perry138040
Sumter131038
Greene125544
Choctaw86927
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A cold front passing through our area overnight will bring into our area some of the coolest temperatures of the season so far. We will see most of the highs this weekend only in the upper 60s to lower 70s. While overnight lows will drop off down into the 40s Saturday night.
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