It has emerged that the Franciscan Friars, a Catholic religious order, paid two black men in the Mississippi Delta $15,000 each to keep silent about their sex abuse claims.
According to an investigation by the Associated Press, the payment is $235,000 less than what white victims have received since Catholic sex abuse claims became rife in the United States in 2002.
One of the two black victims, La Jarvis Love, said Rev. James G. Gannon, leader of a group of Wisconsin-based Franciscan Friars, offered him $15,000 to settle his claim that he was abused as a child by one of the Franciscan brothers at the elementary school he attended as a child – St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood, Miss.
“He said if I wanted more, I would have to get a lawyer and have my lawyer call his lawyer,” La Jarvis Love, who is now 36, told the Associated Press. “Well, we don’t have lawyers. We felt like we had to take what we could.”
Love’s cousin, Joshua Love, said he was also abused as a child and was also given $15,000.
“They felt they could treat us that way because we’re poor and we’re black,” Joshua said.
Joshua and La Jarvis Love, including a third alleged victim, Joshua’s brother Raphael Love, mentioned one Brother Paul West as having sexually molested them while they were in the elementary school in the 1990s.
Joshua Love said on some occasions, West asked if he preferred to be beaten or molested. “He gave me the option to whup me or play with my penis,” he said.
The accusations come on the back of years of allegations of abuse by officials of the Catholic Church against minors, as well as, claims that the church has tried to cover up such accusations.
In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, pledging to respond to abuse allegations in an “open and transparent” manner.
Pope Francis subsequently issued a new law which demands Catholic church officials worldwide to report sexual abuse claims and any cover-ups that may occur to their superiors.
Gannon, during interviews with the AP, said he believes that both La Jarvis and Joshua were abused and admitted that the settlements are less than generous.
“We’ve hurt them tremendously and no amount of money would ever account for what happened to them,” he said.
Meanwhile, John F. Hawkins, the Jackson civil attorney who represented victims in a 2006 settlement, said he is getting ready to file a lawsuit on behalf of La Jarvis and Joshua Love.
He will argue in the lawsuit that the settlements La Jarvis and Joshua signed are not legally binding, in part due to the “extreme emotional and financial duress” they were under at the time, the AP reports.
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