Survivors demand US investigation of Mississippi abuse deals

JACKSON, Miss. — Catholic sex abuse survivors in Mississippi and Wisconsin on Thursday demanded that federal authorities investigate allegations from three black Mississippi men who say they were molested by Franciscan friars during the mid-1990s, when they were as young as 9 years old.

Mark Belenchia, the Mississippi leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement calling for federal law enforcement agencies to “pursue any federal charges that may be possible due to the interstate transmission of the victims for the purpose of rape and exploitation by abusive clergymen.”

“It’s time for the outside authorities to come in and investigate ... find out what we know, what they know and what they’ve covered up — because I guarantee you, they covered it up. It’s just systemic,” he said, in a news conference in front of the offices of the Jackson diocese.

Cousins Joshua Love and La Jarvis Love and a third man, Joshua’s brother, Raphael Love, say they were repeatedly abused by Brother Paul West during the 1990s, when they were elementary school students at St. Francis of Assisi School, in Greenwood, Mississippi. Joshua Love says he was also molested by the late Brother Donald Lucas.

In addition, the alleged victims say they were repeatedly molested by West during excursions to Wisconsin and New York.

The calls for federal action came in response to an Associated Press investigation, which found that a Wisconsin-based group of Franciscans paid Joshua Love and La Jarvis Love $15,000 each to keep silent about their claims and never file lawsuits.

Raphael Love rejected a similar offer.

In Wisconsin, SNAP leader Peter Isely released letters to Matthew D. Kruger, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and Mike Hurst, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, urging them to investigate the Wisconsin-based group of Franciscans that sponsored the two alleged abusers.

“Your office and help are critical in the effort to secure justice for these survivors and to help prevent future cases of child sexual abuse,” Isely said in ea...

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