By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – The Diocese of Jackson announced three abuse investigations the weekend of July 28-29 with bulletin inserts and announcements at the parishes impacted and statements posted to the diocesan website.
On June 24, 2018, the Diocese of Jackson became aware of a report of inappropriate sexual contact by Deacon Rick Caldwell with a minor female occurring in the early 1980s. The alleged conduct occurred many years before Caldwell joined the Church and became a deacon. After an investigation into the allegations, the diocese has concluded that the claims are credible.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for Protection of Children and Young People has a zero tolerance policy and requires the removal from ministry of any priest, deacon or other religious upon determination of a credible claim of sexual misconduct with a minor. Accordingly, Deacon Caldwell’s faculties have been suspended as of July 24, and he has been removed from ministry. He is no longer free to function as a deacon. The allegation of abuse has been reported to civil authorities by the diocese. He was assigned to Vicksburg St. Mary Parish.
An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by former Brother Paul West, OFM, while in ministry at Greenwood St. Francis of Assisi Parish has been brought forward to the Diocese of Jackson Fitness Review Board. The allegation has been considered and found to be credible.
Parish assignment included serving as a brother at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Greenwood from June 1993 – November 1998. The allegation has been reported to civil authorities by the diocese.
An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Father Timothy Crowley while in ministry at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Chatawa has been brought forward to the Diocese of Jackson Fitness Review Board. The allegation has been considered and found to be credible.
Parish assignment included serving as Pastor at Chatawa St. Teresa of Avila Parish from 1968-1970. He is deceased.
The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children. Sexual misconduct by church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The diocese is committed to ensuring that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel. The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the church.
During the past 30 years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program. The diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people.
Beginning in 1986, the diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims.
The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a diocesan fitness review board and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.
Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so. The Diocese of Jackson places no deadline or time limits on reporting.
The Victims’ Assistance Coordinator, Valerie McClellan, and Vicar General, Father Kevin Slattery are available to assist in making a report. The contact number for the Victims’ Assistance Coordinator is (601) 326-3728. The contact number for the Vicar General is (601) 969-2290.
For more information about the diocesan policies and procedures, visit the diocesan website at www.jacksondiocese.org.
By Maureen Smith