Mississippi Congressman Calls for Department of Justice Intervention into Clergy Abuse Case, SNAP Applauds and Echoes the Call

A Mississippi congressman is calling for intervention by the Department of Justice into a case against a Franciscan brother who is accused of abusing three young boys in Mississippi. We applaud the efforts by the congressman and his office and hope that his call for change will lead to a full investigation of this troubling case. 

Despite being the subject of a major AP News investigation last year, the case against Br. Paul West has not appeared to move forward. Br. West is accused of abusing two brothers and their cousin in Mississippi and taking them across state lines in order to sexually assault them. Now this delay has attracted the attention of Congressman Bennie Thompson who has written to the Department of Justice to “investigate this issue in the effort to secure justice for these survivors and to help prevent future cases of child sexual abuse.”

We have been confused and dismayed at the lack of progress in Mississippi for this case which is a clear violation of federal law and, to best of our knowledge, is still within the statute of limitations. As far as criminal statute of limitation laws go, Mississippi has some of the strongest protections in the nation, but in this case the criminal law has not been taken seriously. The Mississippi Attorney General’s office has known about this case for over a year, yet nothing of significance has taken place. Paul West has been accused of rape and other violations but has never been questioned by Mississippi authorities. Why? Strong laws are useless if they are not going to be enforced.

We are grateful to Congressman Thompson for using his statute and power to bring more attention to this case and hopefully compel federal and state authorities to look into what happened here and what can be done to secure justice for the victims and ensure this dangerous abuser – who is still alive and free in Wisconsin today – will not be able to hurt more children.

It is well documented that the Diocese of Jackson and the Franciscan Order knew of Paul West and his criminal behavior but did nothing to stop him from teaching 5th graders in WI for 11 more years after they discovered his crimes. We remain hopeful that the pressure from Congressman Thompson’s office will lead to the arrest of Br. Paul West and help safeguard children who live near him. 

CONTACT: Mark Belenchia, SNAP Mississippi (msbelenchia@gmail.com, 601-953-2535), Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 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 SNAPnetwork.org)


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