Former Franciscan brother under current criminal investigation in Wisconsin

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

August 27, 2019

A lengthy Associated Press investigation published today about a former member of a Wisconsin based Catholic religious under who is under current criminal investigation for multiple acts of felony child sexual assault in Mississippi, Wisconsin and New York State is raising troubling questions as to the treatment of racial or economically disadvantaged survivors of clerical child sex offenders by Catholic church officials.

Over the past nine months, church officials of the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption Province, headquartered in St. Francis, Wisconsin, have been actively soliciting secrecy agreements from African American victims of Paul West, 59, a former Franciscan, in exchange for financial settlements which are among the lowest in the United States. The settlements were brokered by church officials of the Jackson, Mississippi diocese. The secrecy agreements are not only in direct violation of the US Bishops policy on abuse but appear to have been engineered to mislead these victims into believing that West could no longer be prosecuted. The criminal statute on West’s alleged offenses, however, are currently active in both Mississippi and Wisconsin.

Fortunately, because these courageous victims have come forward, West is finally being investigated in both states, including in Milwaukee and Outagamie Counties, where West allegedly transported children across state lines for the purposes of committing criminal sex acts, a federal crime that should also trigger and investigation by the US Department of Justice.

There are likely many more victims of West, who was the principal of a traditional black Catholic “mission” school in Mississippi. The allegations against him, which the order has confirmed as credible, include “beatings, rape, and other sexual violations” beginning when the victims were as young as 10.

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