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: 96677

Reported Deaths: 2911
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7143160
DeSoto559460
Harrison388374
Jackson350570
Madison331089
Rankin330679
Lee273670
Forrest248973
Jones248779
Washington225977
Lafayette219139
Lauderdale2059125
Bolivar184566
Oktibbeha179952
Lamar171635
Lowndes158058
Neshoba1579104
Panola149930
Sunflower147146
Leflore141081
Warren140750
Pontotoc127816
Pike124051
Monroe123568
Copiah119133
Scott117627
Coahoma116329
Marshall110617
Lincoln110253
Holmes109859
Grenada109036
Yazoo106230
Simpson104646
Tate100437
Union99824
Leake96038
Adams94137
Wayne90421
Pearl River89253
Marion86535
Prentiss86217
Covington82722
Itawamba82621
Alcorn82011
George78013
Tallahatchie77321
Newton77224
Winston74219
Tishomingo69038
Chickasaw68424
Tippah67117
Attala66725
Walthall60126
Clarke60046
Clay59518
Hancock58722
Jasper57515
Noxubee55116
Smith53415
Calhoun52112
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46420
Yalobusha43514
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38817
Humphreys37715
Quitman3775
Stone37412
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll31912
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2273
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
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