Thursday, November 15, 2018


The Savannah Morning News listed the names of priests credibly accused over the last 70 years. The list was divided according to diocesan priests, religious order priests and priests who had worked in the diocese but not incardinated.

The only problem, a major problem, was that the paper simply listed the names of the priests without any other attribution such as date of death, etc.

One priest listed was “Joseph Smith.” Our diocese has a Fr. Joseph Smith in active ministry as chaplain to Savannah’s Catholic hospital and my immediate predecessor at St. Anne’s in Richmond Hill.

What the paper did not indicate is that the Joseph Smith they listed was a religious order priest who died in 1952!! Our Fr. Joseph Smith wasn’t  even born in 1952!

This is a letter to the editor in this morning’s paper:


Don’t mistake one priest for another

The story published Nov. 13 under the headline “Savannah bishop names accused” contained less than complete details regarding the names of the priests identified as having been “credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.” And while the article correctly and finally sheds some light on these sex offenders, it did not go far enough. Referencing a website one could go to for additional information was insufficient.

As was reported on both WTOC and WJCL, a greater amount of detail was included. The dates of ordination and dates of death of 10 of the 16 were not included in the print edition of the paper. Had those been included, those reading the article would have known the reference to Joseph Smith is not the same Father Joseph  A. Smith who is a priest of this deanery for over 20 years and presently the chaplain at St. Joseph’s Hospital. That Father Joseph A. Smith, a Savannahian, had previously served at St. James Parish and later as Pastor of St. Anne’s in Richmond Hill. The Joseph Smith mentioned in the bishop’s report died in 1952.

It may not matter who’s at fault but this instance again points to the old adage “you can’t always trust what you read.” And while corrections are important, my friend Father Joseph A. Smith will now carry the burden of those that read the article and may have assumed it was him and never saw the clarification. A good priest, a true man of God, will now bear this burden. What a shame for all concerned.

Walter Corish, Jr., Tybee Island

Editor’s note: We apologize for any confusion caused by the story that appeared in Tuesday’s print edition. The information has been clarified online and we printed a clarification and the full list of the accused priests in Wednesday’s print edition.


Anonymous said...

Did the diocese provide more detailed information to identify the correct Joseph Smith? Did the newspaper ignore that information? Or did the bishop's office simply toss a name out there without explanation. I am curious.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The diocesan webpage account clearly as Joseph Smith as a religious order priest and having died in 1952. The newspaper simply listed Joseph Smith without any qualifying details, especially his death in 1952. The diocese complained to the paper and the paper printed a correction both yesterday and today. The paper also printed what the diocese had which made it clear that the priest in question was dead.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Sloppy work initially by the newspaper but I'm glad they corrected it.