Mural of First Memphis Bishop Removed After Abuse Allegations

A painting of former Bishop Carroll Dozier was removed from the Upstanders Mural, across from the National Civil Rights Museum.

The Upstanders Mural when it showed Bishop Carroll Dozier (far left).
The Upstanders Mural when it showed Bishop Carroll Dozier (far left). (photo: Courtesy of artist Nelson Gutierrez)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After being included several months ago on a Virginia list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, the first Catholic bishop of Memphis was removed from a mural in the city over the weekend.

On Saturday, a painting of former Bishop Carroll Dozier was removed from the Upstanders Mural, across from the National Civil Rights Museum. It was replaced by an image of Jose Guerrero, co-founder of the social service organization Latino Memphis.

Memphis’ first Catholic bishop has been replaced on a mural downtown months after he was included in a list of clergymen accused of molesting children. — WREG News Channel 3 (@3onyourside) September 9, 2019

Last February, the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, where Bishop Dozier was ordained, released a list of clergymen with “a credible and substantiated claim of sexual abuse against a minor.” Bishop Dozier’s name was on the list.

The original 2016 mural and the new addition were created by Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit organization that provides educational material to counteract racial prejudice. The purpose of the mural is to commemorate the efforts of Memphis’s social activists, including Lucy Tibbs, T.O. Jones and Sheldon Korones.

“When we conceived of creating a mural on the outside of our building, our aim was to celebrate Memphis’ leading historical figures who have made invaluable contributions to bringing our communities together and moving forward across racial, ethnic, cultural and religious boundaries. It was in that spirit that we included Bishop Dozier,” reads a statement from Facing History and Ourselves.

“Given the allegations against Bishop Dozier, we have decided, that in the best interests of our students, schools and communities, to replace Bishop Dozier with another Memphis historical figure,” the statement reads, according to WREG.

After serving as the first bishop of Memphis from 1971 to 1972, when he resigned due to poor health, Bishop Dozier died in 1985. According to KAIT 8, the bishop was known for supporting the poor and opposing racism, which had earned his place on the mural.

Along with the release of the list of those accused, Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond issued a statement denouncing sex abuse. He apologized on behalf of the Church and called for “an independent and comprehensive review” of the files of those facing allegations, the Diocesan Safe Environment Office and the Diocesan Review Board.

“To those who experienced abuse from clergy, I am truly, deeply sorry. I regret that you have to bear the burden of the damage you suffered at the hands of those you trusted,” he said.

“Together, let our prayers guide us with God’s grace. I ask you to pray for the healing of the victims and their families. I ask you to pray for the Church. Be assured I will do all in my power to restore your trust and to make our Church an authentic witness to the Gospel now and throughout our journey to eternal life.”

French founder of the Communaute de l'Arche (Arch community) Jean Vanier gestures during a press conference in central London on March 11, 2015, in which he was announced as the winner of the 2015 Templeton Prize.

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