Cousins Filed Federal Lawsuit in New York for Sexual Abuse
Two cousins filed a federal lawsuit in New York this November, containing allegations that they were both sexually assaulted as children by Franciscan missionaries. The lawsuit, according to the Associated Press, claims that in addition to suffering the abuse, “Catholic officials pressured them into signing settlements that paid them little money and required them to remain silent about the alleged abuse.”
Court Document Allege Catholics Violated Church Policy with NDA
The documents state that in 2018, church officials came to the brothers in an attempt to prevent them from sharing their stories of abuse or pursue remedies in court. This request, the lawsuit claims, is a direct violation of the promise made by American bishops in 2002 that they would abandon the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs). “The confidentiality provisions contained in the disputed agreements were intended to silence” the two men “in direct contradiction” to the U.S. Catholic Church’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
NDAs were a favored tool the Catholic church used to maintain the shroud of secrecy around church sexual abuse.
The Allegations in The Lawsuit Detail Abuse in Multiple States
LaJarvis and Joshua Love, now 36, claim that they were “repeatedly abused by Franciscan brothers Paul West and the late Don Lucas while they were enrolled in a Catholic grade school in Greenwood, Mississippi.” They also allege that West abused them on road trips from Mississippi to New York, where they attended Camp Alvernia in Centerport, on Long Island. The suit also contains allegations of abuse in a New York City hotel. Rape, sexual assault, and encouraging the boys to perform sexual acts on each other, are some of the specific claims the cousins make in their complaint.
The crossing of state lines is what prompted the filing in Federal court. The lawsuit also contains claims that West and Lucas violated the Mann act, by transporting minors across state lines to engage in sexual activity.
The Cousins Dispute the Fairness of Settlement “Negotiations”
The Love cousins reported their abuse separately to the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi. The diocese has a list of clergy members credibly accused of sexual abuse, and West and Lucas are on it. It is unclear if others have accused them of sexual abuse because the list does not include the names of accusers.
According to the lawsuit, Joshua love was offered 10,000 in a meeting between him, The Rev. James G. Gannon, leader of the Wisconsin Franciscans, and Valerie McClellan, the victims’ assistance coordinator for the Jackson Diocese. Joshua, who can’t read, states in the complaint that he could not understand the terms of the offer. Gannon raised his offer to 15,000, and he was encouraged to take it.
La Jarvis claims that he was also encouraged to settle for 15,000 and discouraged from seeking counsel. It is well known that victims of sexual abuse by clergy who are represented by attorneys receive well more than the few thousand dollars offered to the Love cousins.
In 2006, the Jackson diocese settled some lawsuits, and among 19 victims, they averaged 250,000 each. More recent settlements in other dioceses have been double that.
Did the Church Take Unfair Advantage of These Sexual Abuse Victims?
Time will tell what the outcome of this case is. Was racism involved? Did the church leaders take advantage of an illiterate victim? Did they prey on these men knowing they needed money or that they would not hire a lawyer? The outcome of this case may pave the way for the reexamination of other settlements between the church and its sexual abuse victims.
Contact Our Lawyers Reviewing Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases in New York and New Jersey
If you were sexually abused by a priest when you were a child, New York, New Jersey, and many other states provide a window during which you may file a lawsuit. Contact our lawyers at Alonso Krangle, LLP to find out if you qualify to collect compensation for clergy sexual abuse. Call us now at 800-403-6191.