Black victims who received a settlement from The Franciscan Friars order say they were given $235,000 less than what white victims were rewarded for their abuse claims.
Two Black men in the Mississippi Delta who say they were abused by clergymen were secretly paid $15,000 each within the past few months to remain quiet, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, white victims were granted an average of $250,000.
La Jarvis D. Love is one such victim. Rev. James G. Gannon, who heads a group of Wisconsin-based Franciscan Friars, settled an abuse claim Love had against another friar for $15,000, during a meeting at IHOP with Love and his wife and children.
“He said if I wanted more, I would have to get a lawyer and have my lawyer call his lawyer,” Love said to the AP. “Well, we don’t have lawyers. We felt like we had to take what we could.”
And he is not the only one — Black or in his family — who had the same settlement amount. Love’s cousin, Joshua K. Love, told the wire service he regrets taking just $15,000.
“They felt they could treat us that way because we’re poor and we’re black,” the 36-year-old said of himself and his cousin, also 36.
In 2006, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, which includes the Loves’ hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, settled litigation that included 19 victims — two Black and the others white — for $5 million. At average, victims were given $250,000.
An official with the Franciscan Friars order rebutted the idea that the cousins’ race or low-income status had an impact on the payouts they received.
“Absolutely not,” said Gannon to the AP.
Still, he acknowledged the Loves’ payouts were insignificant compared to white victims.
“We’ve hurt them tremendously and no amount of money would ever account for what happened to them,” he said.
The Love cousins, as well as Joshua’s brother Raphael Love, allege they were continuously abused as elementary students by Brother Paul West at St. Francis of Assisi School in Greenwood during the 1990s.
Joshua Love recalled being given the option of getting beaten or molested.
“He gave me the option to whup me or play with my penis,” he said, noting he was also abused by another Franciscan official, Brother Donald Lucas, who has since died.
The Catholic Church has been ravaged by allegations of abuse by officials against minors for years, having been accused of covering up the acts for generations. In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It vowed to react to abuse allegations in a way that was “open and transparent.” In May, The New York Times reported Pope Francis imposed a new law in the church that mandates Catholic officials around the globe must report sexual abuse and any coverups of them that may occur to their superiors.
But regardless of what programs have been launched, the lawyer who represented victims in the 2006 settlement is readying legal action. Jackson, Mississippi-based attorney John F. Hawkins told the AP he plans on filing a lawsuit on behalf of La Jarvis and Joshua Love. He is set to argue that his client’s settlements are not legally binding in part because they faced “extreme emotional and financial duress” at the time the settlements occurred.