Ex-Catholic school principal sentenced to 45 years for sex crimes

WTOK [Meridian MS]

April 14, 2022

By Jacob Gallant

[From WLBT]

A former teacher and principal at St. Francis School in Greenwood will face 45 years in prison, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch announced Thursday.

Paul West, 62, was convicted of sexual battery and gratification of lust following a trial in Leflore County.

The Catholic Diocese says West served as teacher and principal at the school from July 1993 until October 1998, when he first faced an allegation of sexual misconduct. The Diocese says West was reported to Greenwood Police Department after the allegation and subsequently removed from the ministry.

The Diocese released a statement on West’s conviction, which says in part:

The Diocese of Jackson is committed to protecting children. Sexual misconduct by Church personnel violates human dignity and the mission of the Church. The Diocese has dedicated substantial time and resources to ensure that children being served by the Church are not at risk of sexual abuse by Church personnel. The spiritual well-being of all victims, their families, and others in the community is of particular concern to the Church.

Over the past thirty years, the Diocese of Jackson has developed and implemented a safe environment program. The Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for its priests and deacons as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other Church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. Beginning in 1986, the Diocese implemented a written policy and procedure regarding reporting and handling of sexual misconduct claims. The policy was updated in 1994 with the addition of a Diocesan Fitness Review Committee and again in 2002 so that it would reflect the mandates of the Bishops’ Charter.

Anyone who has been a victim of abuse or exploitation by clergy, religious or lay church personnel and has not yet reported it is encouraged to do so. The Victim Assistance Coordinator, Erika Rojas, is available to assist in making a report. The contact number for the Victim Assistance Coordinator is 601.326-3736.Catholic Diocese of Jackson

West was among 37 clergy members the Diocese of Jackson reported to the attorney general’s office in 2019.

West molested cousins Joshua Love and La Jarvis Love when they were students at the school.

The Associated Press reported in 2019 that the Catholic order of Franciscan Friars settled sex abuse cases by secretly paying Joshua Love and La Jarvis Love $15,000 each and requiring them to keep silent about their claims. The cash payments to the men, who are Black, were far less than what other Catholic sex abuse survivors have typically received since the church’s abuse scandal erupted in the United States in 2002.

“They felt they could treat us that way because we’re poor and we’re Black,” Joshua Love told the AP about the settlements he and his cousin received.

According to The Washington Post, the Catholic Diocese of Jackson settled 19 lawsuits in 2006 for a total of $5 million–an average payout of $263,000.

Joshua Love says he was also sexually abused by Donald Lucas, a second Franciscan brother who died in 1999 of an apparent suicide.

After being removed from the ministry in 1998, AP discovered that West began teaching fifth grade at a Catholic school near his home in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 2000, and remained on the job until at least 2010.

West must serve his sentence without possibility of parole and is required to register as a sex offender upon release.

SNAP Mississippi, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, sent WLBT a statement condemning the actions of the Diocese that says, in part:

The abuse that the Love experienced was awful enough, but what makes this story so much worse is how these he and his family were treated by Catholic officials in the aftermath of that abuse. Meager settlements were offered to all three victims on the condition that they sign non-disclosure agreements, a stipulation that violated the USCCB’s 2002 Dallas charter.

You can click here to read their full statement.