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Delta priest sex-abuse victims accuse church of low-balling settlement due to race



Catholic Cathedral in Jackson, Miss. Photo by Ken Lund -

A Catholic priest sex-abuse case in the Mississippi Delta was settled for far less than other cases, an Associated Press investigation has revealed.

Payments of $15,000 each, reportedly made in secret, were made to two African American Mississippi men. Cousins Joshua Love and La Jarvis Love claim that Brother Paul West sexually abused them when they were attending the St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School in Greenwood, Miss., in the 1990s. Joshua Love says a second priest, now deceased, also abused him. The cousins are now in their mid-30s.

“They felt they could treat us that way because we’re poor and we’re black,” Joshua Love told the AP about the settlement.

The Franciscan Friars have denied that race factored into the settlement amount.

In Mississippi, payments to victims have been considerably higher. In a 2006 settlement, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson paid 19 victims an average of $250,000 each. That diocese includes Greenwood. Only two of those victims were African American.

Nationwide, settlements have been even higher. In a 2018 case in Minnesota, victims received an average of $500,000 each. In 2007, the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego settled with 144 victims for a total of $198.1 million. That settlement averaged $1.375 million per victim.

All told, Catholic dioceses in the United States had paid out at least $4 billion to abuse survivors by 2018, and some 18 Catholic organizations have filed for bankruptcy relief after settlements.

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