Catholic abuse case settled cheaply in Mississippi Delta, but lifetimes of scars endure

Published 8:27 am Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Belenchia said he hopes attention devoted to the Loves will encourage other black survivors of abuse by Catholic authority figures to step forward and tell their stories. At a recent national conference held by SNAP in Arlington, Virginia, attendees noted the lack of black representation at the event and voiced concern that many African Americans abused by priests are not being heard or getting the support they need.

Even though Raphael’s 1998 report of abuse was never thoroughly investigated, the Franciscans recalled Brother West from Mississippi later that year and had him evaluated at the St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute, Gannon said. The following year, in 1999, Brother Lucas was found dead at St. Francis Church, an apparent suicide.

Gannon, who is formally known as the provincial minister for the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, would not share the results of West’s evaluation. But he said West asked to leave the order and that the Vatican granted his request in 2002.

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After that, Gannon said, the Franciscans lost touch with West, to the point where Gannon had to hire a private detective to find the former Friar two years ago, so he could let him know about the abuse allegations made by La Jarvis and Joshua.

But the AP found that in 2000, while West was still a Franciscan, he landed a job teaching fifth grade at a Catholic school near his home in Appleton, Wisconsin, about a two-hour drive from the Franciscans’ regional headquarters in suburban Milwaukee.

West held his teaching job at St. John School in the village of Little Chute until at least 2010, according to records reviewed by the AP. School principal Kevin Flottmeyer declined to comment on West’s tenure.

When the AP tried to interview West at his home, the 59-year-old former friar declined to answers questions about his time as a teacher and principal in Mississippi.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, before closing his front door.

‘A dagger in the heart’
In 2014, La Jarvis got married. His wife landed a steady job at a home for adults with special needs, and the couple soon had three children. When his wife’s mother died, the young family moved into her three-bedroom home in Senatobia, Mississippi, a suburb of Memphis.

Suddenly, La Jarvis looked a lot like a middle-class family man. But he didn’t feel that way. Often, while his wife worked, he’d stay home to care for their children and wonder why he wasn’t able to provide more reliable support for his family.

He tried landscaping but never had enough money to keep his mowers and his car running. At times he resorted to robbery and selling drugs and served prison time for those offenses.