Paul Canonici, Former Catholic Priest Credibly Accused of Sexual Abuse, Dies at 92
By Sarah Fowler
February 19, 2020
|Paul V. Canonici (Photo: Clarion Ledger)|
A former priest who was removed from the ministry after being credibly accused of sexual abuse has died.
Paul Victor Canonici, 92, died Saturday, according to his obituary. A cause of death was not listed.
A native of Shaw, Canonici joined the priesthood when he was 30 years old. Over the course of his tenure, he served as the diocesan superintendent of education, assistant principal and then principal of St. Joseph High School in Madison, as well as the priest for multiple parishes throughout the Jackson metro area.
He retired when he was in his mid 70s. Despite his five decades with the diocese, he's not listed on the church's website of retired priests.
Canonici was removed from the ministry in 2002. He was on the list of those credibly accused of sexual abuse released by the Diocese of Jackson last spring.
According to the church's Charter for Protection of Children and Young People, a priest who has been removed from the ministry "will not be permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to administer the sacraments" and "is to be instructed not to wear clerical garb, or to present himself publicly as a priest."
After the list was released, Canonici spoke with the Clarion Ledger, defending himself and other priests who were credibly accused.
Of the allegations against him, Canonici said at the time, "If there was anything, I was not aware of it. Sometimes people take words or actions that you've done but I'm not really even aware of that."
"It's a terrible thing to do to people," he said of being accused. "The church wants to do the right thing, feel like 'we've got to have transparency' so I really am devastated...I feel this is a cruel thing that is being done to me."
In his obituary, Canonici was identified as "Father." Sebrell Funeral Home in Ridgeland is handling the arrangements and said Canonici's family wrote the obituary.
Mark Belenchia, of Mississippi chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said, since Canonici's death, he's spoken with victims of priest abuse who have been "triggered" seeing the former priest being identified in death as "Father."
"He had his faculties removed in 2002," Belenchia said. "He wasn't a priest."
According to the obituary, Canonici will be buried in Italy.
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