New Lawsuit Filed Against the Diocese of Biloxi

A new sexual abuse and cover up case has been filed against a Mississippi diocese. We hope that this brave survivor’s decision to come forward will encourage others who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes in the Diocese of Biloxi to make a report of their own.

According to the filing, Robert McGowen was abused in the rectory of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hattiesburg, MS by Fr. John Scanlon from 1984-1985. Mr. McGowen alleges that Fr. Scanlon verbally, sexually, and emotionally abused him when he was 12 to 13 years old and argues that “the Diocese of Biloxi wholly failed to conduct an adequate investigation” into Fr. Scanlon. Had they done so, he argues, Fr. Scanlon never would have been in a position of authority over children.

Fr. Scanlon is now deceased and Mr. McGowen now lives in Arkansas.

As part of his lawsuit, Mr. McGowen is demanding that the Diocese of Biloxi release a list of accused clergy, lay employees, and volunteers “accused of abuse or infliction of emotional distress on minors.”

We applaud this courageous survivor and are grateful for his push towards justice and transparency. We hope that others who experienced sexual abuse – whether by Fr. Scanlon or others within the Diocese of Biloxi – will call independent sources of help like therapists, law enforcement and support groups like ours. And we hope that Attorney General Jim Hood is paying close attention the news surrounding the catholic dioceses in Mississippi and will soon launch an investigation of his own.

CONTACT: Mark Belenchia, SNAP Mississippi ([email protected], 601-953-2535), Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant