Franciscans face federal lawsuit in the case of former Brother Paul West, SNAP calls this an important step forward in the fight for survivor justice
A new federal lawsuit alleges discrimination and racial disparity in the treatment of Raphael Love, a Black clergy sexual abuse victim. We are pleased to learn about this action against the Franciscans of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who operated under the authority of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in Wisconsin and the Diocese of Jackson in Mississippi. Just last week the Archdiocese of Milwaukee announced that it would refuse to cooperate with the Wisconsin Attorney General's investigation into abuse by Catholic clergy and other Church leaders.
Raphael and his cousins, La Jarvis Love and Joshua Love, fell prey to Brother Paul West in the 1990s, when the Franciscan was a teacher in Mississippi. Raphael and his grandmother reported the abuse to Church and secular authorities in 1998 with no result.
Despite having been informed of the abuse allegations, the Franciscans allowed Brother West to teach 4th and 5th graders at St. John Nepomucene Catholic School in the Green Bay Diocese until at least 2010. Brother West was eventually arrested in August of 2020 in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, and faces addiitional charges in Leflore County, Mississippi, where he is currently awaiting trial.
The abuse that the Loves experienced was awful enough, but what makes this story so much worse is how these victims were treated by Catholic officials in the aftermath of that abuse. Meager settlements were offered to all three victims on the condition that they sign non-disclosure agreements, a stipulation that violated the USCCB’s 2002 Dallas charter. We find it deplorable that the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi, settled sexual abuse cases in 2006 for an average amount of $250,000 to 19 victims, 17 of whom were white, while the total compensation paid La Jarvis and Joshua both was only $30,000. Raphael declined the offer.
It is clear to us that discrimination exists against Black clergy abuse survivors and other cultural groups. While we understand that barriers to recognizing and reporting abuse are more common within these communities, we are horrified but not surprised that the Catholic Church would treat the most vulnerable in this fashion. We applaud Raphael for having the courage to hold the Franciscan order accountable. We are also grateful to La Jarvis and Joshua for their bravery in speaking out.
Anyone who has information regarding Catholic abuse in Wisconsin is encouraged to call the Attorney General's hotline at 1-877-222-2620
CONTACT: Peter Isely, SNAP Wisconsin ([email protected], 414-429-7259), Mark Belenchia, SNAP Mississippi ([email protected]), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])
(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 SNAPnetwork.org)