An inadvertently disclosed e-mail reveals that 21 priests and two other church officials in the Catholic Diocese of Jackson have been accused of sexual misconduct with children over the past 60 years, a court brief says.
The brief is based on information in the e-mail mistakenly sent from a legal assistant for diocese attorneys to the attorney for three brothers suing the diocese for $48 million over alleged sexual abuse by a priest some 30 years ago.
Church officials said those named in the e-mail are no longer in the priesthood or diocese, and some have died.
The information in the e-mail prompted Marcie Fyke, attorney for the brothers, to file the brief asking the state Supreme Court to force the diocese to produce the church’s secret files.
Diocese attorney J. Jeffrey Trotter said Wednesday he couldn’t comment. In court papers, Trotter said, “I requested that she (Fyke) return or destroy the file and make no use of the information since it was inadvertent disclosure of confidential and privileged information.”
The diocese is seeking sanctions against Fyke, saying she violated ethical rules. It also seeks Fyke’s removal as an attorney in the case.
Information in the e-mail also was posted on the Web site of SNAP, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. The group bought an advertisement appearing May 25 in The Clarion-Ledger, airing allegations. The group also protested outside the Catholic Diocese last week.
The diocese alleges Fyke gave the information to her clients, who provided it to the group. SNAP officials say the information came from a public court record.
Fyke said she asked for the documents back from her clients after finding out they were sent to her office in error.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kenneth Morrison of Chicago, Thomas Morrison of Jackson and Francis Morrison Jr. of Texas. It is set for trial in August in Hinds County Circuit Court.
The diocese filed an emergency petition earlier this year with the state Supreme Court saying the trial court has no jurisdiction in church matters. A ruling is pending.
In Mississippi, seven suits involving about 20 plaintiffs have been filed alleging priest sex abuse, according to SNAP.
The Catholic church is engulfed in controversy nationwide over allegations it transferred priests accused of sexual abuse to other parishes instead of removing them. The local lawsuit accuses the diocese of following the same course.
Suits in Mississippi claim Cardinal Bernard Law, ex-head of the Boston diocese, knew of sexual abuse by priests when he served in Jackson in the 1960s.