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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.

Confirmed Cases: 27900

Reported Deaths: 1082
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds215239
DeSoto137316
Madison122234
Jones106949
Neshoba96069
Lauderdale88278
Rankin84112
Forrest81442
Scott75015
Harrison7448
Copiah56615
Leake54819
Jackson53316
Holmes52741
Wayne52112
Washington4969
Lee49316
Oktibbeha48624
Yazoo4736
Leflore47249
Lowndes45311
Warren44317
Lincoln43534
Lamar4197
Grenada3805
Monroe36729
Pike36712
Attala35223
Lafayette3524
Newton3289
Sunflower3066
Covington3025
Bolivar27713
Panola2706
Adams26718
Chickasaw25918
Tate2577
Jasper2506
Marion24811
Pontotoc2476
Noxubee2458
Pearl River24432
Winston2435
Clay24210
Claiborne23610
Simpson2303
Smith20611
Clarke20124
Marshall2013
Coahoma1866
Kemper17614
Union1759
Walthall1724
Yalobusha1617
Carroll16011
Lawrence1591
Itawamba1278
Calhoun1244
Humphreys1239
Tippah12311
Webster12310
Montgomery1222
Hancock12013
Jefferson Davis1064
Tallahatchie1043
Prentiss983
Greene927
Jefferson923
Wilkinson919
Tunica893
Amite822
George743
Choctaw714
Quitman680
Tishomingo681
Perry614
Alcorn561
Stone521
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena71
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 38442

Reported Deaths: 947
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4387142
Montgomery383999
Mobile3697134
Tuscaloosa204938
Marshall153710
Lee118937
Shelby108223
Madison10577
Morgan9813
Walker86723
Franklin85213
Dallas8198
Elmore81314
Baldwin6869
Etowah62513
Butler60427
DeKalb6025
Chambers58127
Tallapoosa56369
Autauga54511
Unassigned52025
Russell4840
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4446
Houston4344
Limestone4090
Cullman4003
Pike3995
Colbert3685
Bullock3629
Coffee3532
Barbour3231
Covington3087
St. Clair3042
Hale29321
Marengo28611
Wilcox2808
Sumter27612
Calhoun2705
Talladega2677
Clarke2665
Escambia2636
Dale2440
Jackson2382
Winston2333
Blount2141
Chilton2112
Pickens2116
Marion20312
Monroe1972
Choctaw19212
Conecuh1804
Bibb1711
Macon1708
Randolph1709
Greene1667
Perry1451
Henry1303
Crenshaw1233
Lawrence1010
Washington1007
Cherokee747
Lamar711
Fayette671
Geneva670
Clay582
Coosa551
Cleburne291
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