The Catholic Church settled two sexual abuse cases in the Mississippi Delta involving black men for significantly less money than the national average and that offered to white victims, according to The Associated Press.
In January, the Rev. James G. Gannon, an official representing the Franciscan religious order, offered Southhaven, Miss., resident La Jarvis D. Love a settlement of $15,000 over allegations of physical and sexual abuse by a Franciscan friar at a Catholic grade school, according to the AP.
“He said if I wanted more, I would have to get a lawyer and have my lawyer call his lawyer,” Love told The Associated Press. “Well, we don’t have lawyers. We felt like we had to take what we could.”
The settlement also included a confidentiality agreement, despite the fact leaders of the church in America prohibit non-disclosure agreements in sexual abuse settlements.
In 2006, the Diocese of Jackson settled a lawsuit with 19 sexual abuse victims, 17 of them white, for $5 million, with each victim getting an average of $250,000, and payouts elsewhere have been even higher, with a settlement in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese getting an average of $500,000 per claimant, according to the AP.
The Franciscans also reportedly tried to settle with Love’s cousin Joshua by offering him up to $10,000 to cover the cost of a used car, with Joshua eventually agreeing to sign a confidential agreement awarding him $15,000.
“They felt they could treat us that way because we’re poor and we’re black,” Joshua told the AP.
The agreements are reminiscent of the secret settlements church officials often reached with victims before 2002, when an investigation by the Boston Globe brought national attention to clerical sexual abuse, according to the AP.
Gannon acknowledged to the AP that the settlements were less generous than they could have been, but told the AP that the Loves’ race or class “absolutely” did not affect the size of the settlements.
He added that the Franciscans did not intend to enforce the confidentiality clauses, and said that as to why they were included in the first place, “the lawyers put it in there. I can’t give you a good answer on that.”