GREENWOOD, Mississippi (AP) — For Joshua K. Love, recovering from beatings and sexual abuse he says he suffered at a Catholic grade school 20 years ago is a matter of day-to-day survival.
Often, you can find him in the shotgun shack he calls home in Greenwood, Mississippi, giving discount haircuts to friends and family members.
On some days, you might find him walking through the neighborhood, catching up with his sister’s kids to give them rides way up high on his shoulders, or help them dunk a basketball.
Or you might find him in his front yard, teaching his 11-year-old son, Joshua K. Love Jr., how to spar with a makeshift punching bag hung on a string from the branch of a tree.
“I tell my son I want him to be a better man than I am,” he says. “I don’t want him living my broken dreams.”
In quite moments, you might find Joshua on his front porch, sitting in his “thinking chair,” a classroom desk and attached chair he salvaged from a dumpster.
“I guess there’s a child inside of me that still wants to sit there and learn,” he says.
Joshua Love, now 36, says he was abused at St. Francis of Assisi School by two Franciscan friars, Brother Paul West and the late Brother Donald Lucas.
He never graduated and today he can’t read or write well enough to pass the state exam required for a barber’s license. Joshua’s cousin, La Jarvis Love, and his younger brother, Raphael Love, also say that West molested them.
West, now 59, declined to answer questions from the Associated Press. Lucas died in 1999, an apparent suicide. But the Jackson diocese has found the allegations against them credible.
Two years ago, Joshua told church officials about the alleged abuse by West and Lucas.
Then, the leader of the Wisconsin-based Franciscans that sponsored the two friars, the Rev. James G. Gannon, paid Joshua $15,000 to ensure he would never file a lawsuit and would keep the alleged abuse secret.
Joshua regrets signing the document.
Now, with help from Mark Belenchia, an advocate for victims of sex abuse by Catholic officials, Joshua is telling his story. And he’s met with a local attorney who says he will to get the settlement thrown out and work for fairer compensation.
But for Joshua, recovery is still a matter of day-to-day survival.
“I believe in God. I pray. I repent,” he says. “And I do not give up because I don’t want God to give up on me.”
Nearly two decades after the U.S. Catholic Church vowed to eliminate sexual misconduct by clergy, Pope Francis and his bishops are still reckoning with the crisis of abuse, cover-up and the failure to hold church leaders accountable. To read more Associated Press reporting on the church’s greatest credibility crisis since the Reformation, see The Reckoning.