Catholic Parents Must Stand up to Church Leaders and Reject Them for Sex Abuse Cover-ups

By Mark Belenchia
Clarion Ledger
October 11, 2019

Former Diocese attorney Frank Vollor referred to me as having a vengeance. I take issue with that assessment.

I and many other survivors of sex abuse do have grievances.

I will continue working to expose the Catholic Church’s wrongdoing. Using phrases like “we’re sorry”, “please forgive us”, “we will pray for you” — without accountability — are hollow and calculated diversions. I will not debate Vollor on different legalese, he is the attorney. I won’t cloud the issues by referring to Mississippi Code or speculate as to how and why there is no police report on file. I will not discuss the legal expungement process. All of that is nothing more than ‘gaslighting’ and I stand behind my previous statements.

In this Aug 29, 2019 file photo, Mark Belenchia, center, says that he wants federal authorities to investigate the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Miss., over the way the diocese settled abuse claims for three men in the Mississippi Delta. Belenchia is the volunteer coordinator in Mississippi for SNAP, Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. (Photo: Emily Wagster Pettus/AP)

Let’s discuss the facts. The Jackson diocese fitness review board now in place has deemed the allegations against Brother Paul West credible. Father James Gannon, the Franciscan prelate, has deemed them credible as well. Raphael Love, a 9-year boy, reported West to officials in 1998. At that time, West left Greenwood and had psychological testing done in St. Louis.

Despite these allegations, only a year later, West started teaching fifth grade at a Catholic school in Little Chute, Wisconsin and taught there for 11 years. If the diocesan fitness review officer or other diocesan officials would have followed up on West for just one year, 5th graders would not have been exposed to an accused rapist for more than a decade.

The Franciscan Order and the Jackson Diocese were more concerned with the church’s reputation than they were with the safety of children. If their priorities had been guided by morality instead of fear, Catholic children everywhere would be safer today. All Catholic school children should be protected by the church leadership from diocese to diocese and state to state.

When the Loves came forward, they were served secret non-disclosure agreements by Gannon. These agreements had been forbidden by church policy since 2002. Valerie McClellan, the victim assistance coordinator for the diocese of Jackson, was present at the meeting when Gannon served Joshua Love a NDA. If Gannon would have followed church guidelines he would not have used ‘secret agreements’ when dealing with the Loves.

And if the Diocesan attorney, Stephen Carmody, would have gotten his facts correct in a letter to the district attorney of Leflore County, the Greenwood Police would not have believed that West was dead and their investigation could have begun in March. Instead, law enforcement believed that they were getting the truth from church officials.

The Catholic Church has enjoyed instituitional privilege for way too long. This institution does not have a good record when it comes to handling sex crimes committed by its clergy. The church has mishandled allegations and then proceeded to cover up information about children being molested and harmed. This scourge has been going on for decades around the country and will continue until all the facts are brought to light.

In closing, I would like to make a very important point, all of this involves children’s well-being. And for Catholic parents, the majority of this horrible activity has taken place against Catholic children. Your children. It is time you come out of the pews and reject the leaders who took part in this activity and continue to defend it to this day.

It is time you demand better for your children.








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