Former Memphis bishop accused of sexual abuse

Former Memphis bishop accused of sexual abuse

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Carroll Dozier, the first Catholic bishop of Memphis, has been named on a list of priests accused of child sex abuse.

The Richmond, Virginia Diocese, where Bishop Dozier was ordained as a priest, released the list.

Bishop Dozier led the Memphis Diocese from 1971 until 1983. He helped the poor, fought racism and opposed the Vietnam War.

The oldest priest in Memphis, a man hired by Bishop Dozier, is stunned by the sex abuse revelation.

At age 87, Father David Knight knows the Memphis Diocese and its first Bishop well.

"Dozier was the best bishop we've ever had,” Father Knight said.

Father Knight despises the Catholic church’s history of sex abuse.

"I think it's one of the most horrible things there is,” Father Knight said.

But it's inconceivable to him that Bishop Dozier's name appears on a list of priests in Richmond, Virginia accused of sexually abusing children.

"I have no problem believing bad things about bishops,” Father Knight said. "I can believe anything bad about anybody, but Dozier...no!"

Pope Paul the 6th named Dozier bishop when Memphis split from the Nashville Diocese in 1971.

Bishop Dozier led the Memphis Diocese for 11 years, making national headlines for giving general absolution and forgiveness to Catholics in large crowds at auditoriums instead of privately in a confessional.

"He wanted us to go to the poor,” Father Knight said. “He wanted to bring about racial justice, not just racial, but social justice. And he was a leader!"

Bishop Dozier's name appeared last week on a list released by the Bishop of Richmond, priests that Virginia church officials say have "a credible and substantiated claim of sexual abuse against a minor."

The allegation against Bishop Dozier was made to church officials after his death in 1985.

"Awareness of Jesus allows us to embrace our brothers and sisters with a new love,” Father Knight said.

Father Knight struggles with the accusation made against his former boss.

“When you see that, you should say to anybody, especially those who wrote the story: prove it!" Father Knight said.

It’s startling news about a Bluff City bishop known for this motto:

"A good Samaritan on the banks of the Mississippi. Is this not what we, this new Diocese of Memphis...wish to be? By the grace of God so shall it be."

A number of lawsuits were filed against the Memphis Diocese starting in 2004.

Most of the allegations were about priests in the 1970′s and 80′s when Dozier was Bishop. He was never among those named.

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