Former Franciscan Cleric Arrested for Multiple Child Sex Crimes in WI and MS – Time for Federal Justice Officials to Investigate

St. Louis (MO)
SNAP Network

September 2, 2020

A former Franciscan brother whose sexual abuse of impoverished black children in Mississippi made national news last year has been arrested and charged in two states on multiple charges of child sex assault. According to the AP, West was first charged in Appleton, Wisconsin last month and was extradited Wednesday to Mississippi where he faces additional charges.

According to the criminal complaints and at least three of his victims, after sexually abusing them in Mississippi, West brought them to Wisconsin and New York state where he further assaulted them. Both West and his religious order, the Franciscan Friars of the Assumption, who are headquartered in Franklin, Wisconsin are also subject to a civil case filed in New York state. All the victims were students at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic grade school in the 1990’s, also known as a Catholic “mission school”, where West was principle when they were abused.

The arrest is particularly noteworthy for the disturbing evidence of racial bias in how the Franciscan Friars treated his victims when they reported him to church authorities. According to the AP, the current Provincial, Fr. James Gannon, not only required the victims to sign secrecy agreements in exchange for compensation – a clear violation of the US Bishops policy since 2002 – two of the victims were offered a paltry $15,000 each, far below the average compensation for non-black survivors. One victim was first offered $10,000 towards a used car. Gannon also appears to have deliberately misled victims as to the criminal statute of limitations, telling them that West could no longer be prosecuted for his crimes. During these conversations, none of the victims were represented by legal counsel.

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