Two Black Men Are Suing A Catholic Church After Claiming Race Played A Part In Receiving Considerably Less In Sexual Assault Settlement
In comparison, white sex abuse survivors were paid upwards of $5 million.
August 28, 2019 at 12:15 am
Update (November 25, 2019): La Jarvis and Joshua Love have filed lawsuits in New York claiming a Catholic church pressured them into accepting meager financial payments and signing nondisclosure agreements despite their claims of sexual abuse.
The two men are now filing charges in New York because of the recently passed Child Victims Act, which allows victims of sexual abuse to file charges regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred. The law, which came into effect in August, has led to hundreds of lawsuits filed against the Catholic Church, which has paid more than $300 million in settlements last year.
In their lawsuit, the men say West abused them during a road trip from Mississippi to New York for a catholic summer camp.
They’re lawsuit also states the priests violated the Mann Act, which makes it illegal to move children across state lines for transporting minors.
The two cousins, who received $15,000 each, say their settlements pale in comparison to other payouts the Catholic Church has given victims of sexual abuse.
"They felt they could treat us that way because we're poor and we're Black," Joshua told the Clarion Ledger.
According to The Philadelphia Tribune, the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, gave 17 white sexual abuse victims more than $250,000 each for claims against their priests.
The 36-year-old cousins from Mississippi said they were abused at St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood, Mississippi, by Franciscan brothers Paul West and Don Lucas. Joshua’s younger brother also claims he was abused by the same priests.
La Jarvis told The Clarion Ledger that Reverend James Gannon, the leader of a group of Wisconsin-based Franciscan friars, gave him the $15,000 during a meeting at an IHOP restaurant.
"He said if I wanted more, I would have to get a lawyer and have my lawyer call his lawyer. Well, we don't have lawyers. We felt like we had to take what we could," La Jarvis said.
Joshua said he was told something similar after receiving his payment. During his meeting, he told the reverend that as a child Brother West would give him two options: either take a beating or allow the older man to touch his penis.
West was removed from the school in 1998 and moved back to his hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, in 2000, where he taught a fifth-grade class until 2010.
Original (August 28, 2019): Paid only $15,000 each from a prestigious Catholic group to remain quiet about sexual abuse allegations, two Black men from Mississippi are finally coming forward.
According to the Associated Press, La Jarvis Love and his cousin, Joshua Love, were paid by the Franciscan Friars to settle their abuse claims. In comparison to payouts typically received in light of the Catholic church’s abuse scandal since 2002, the cousins' settlement amounts are extremely less than other sexual abuse survivors.
Though an official church order denies that race and socioeconomic class impacted the size of the settlements, claims dispersed to other survivors in the same area have been considerably more. CBS News reports that in 2006, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson settled lawsuits with 17 victims who were white, paying them $5 million.
In the 1990s, the Love cousins, as well as Joshua’s brother, Raphael, were reportedly abused by Brother Paul West when they attended St. Francis of Assisi School as elementary students in Greenwood, Mississippi. According to Joshua, the accused clergyman often asked if he would prefer to be molested or beaten.
Rev. James G. Gannon, the leader of the Franciscan Friars who met with La Jarvis, said he believes all three men were abused and recognized that the settlement amounts are less than typical payouts.
“We’ve hurt them tremendously and no amount of money would ever account for what happened to them,” he said.
La Jarvis remembers his secret sit-down with Gannon: “He said if I wanted more [money], I would have to get a lawyer and have my lawyer call his lawyer. Well, we don’t have lawyers. We felt like we had to take what we could.”
As for Joshua, he is regretful about going through the underhanded deal.
“They felt they could treat us that way because we’re poor and we’re Black,” he said.
Raphael, who is now 30, is serving two life sentences in Tennessee for a double homicide he committed at 16. He said he rejected the payout offer because he needed more money to hire an attorney to appeal his conviction.
Mark Belenchia, Mississippi leader of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and a sexual abuse survivor, said the secret agreements undermine the church’s policy on protecting children.
“The church is only focused on its image and management of the on-going cover-up. That is why it's critical for law enforcement to investigate fully without interference from the church.”