Sex Abuse Victims Publicize That Ex-Priest, an Alleged Pedophile, Lives in City of Westlake Village
By Daniel Wolowicz
Thousand Oaks Acorn [California]
November 3, 2005
BILL SPARKES/Acorn Newspapers DISTRIBUTING INFORMATION—Mary Pincher, a volunteer with Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), distributes leaflets informing residents of the 3100 block of Lindero Canyon Road that a former priest and alleged child molester lives nearby.
"Warning! Alleged child molester lives near you."
The words on the flyer left little doubt as to why members of a group called Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) recently went door-todoor to speak with residents living on the 31000 block of Lindero Canyon Road in Westlake Village.
Members and supporters of the priest abuse survivors' group handed out the flyers to notify residents that one of their neighbors, Kevin Barmasse, is a former priest accused of sexual abuse.
The group's actions raised the question as to how far the public can go in its quest to draw attention to accused sex offenders. Barmasse has never been convicted of any sex abuse charges and his name is not listed on the Megan's Law website, an Internet resource that carries the names of sex offenders.
In a report made public last month by the Los Angeles Archdiocese, Barmasse was listed as one of 26 priests accused of sexual abuse. The 155-page document was an addendum to "The Report of the People of God: Clergy Sexual Abuse Archdiocese of Los Angeles 1930-2003," which was released by the L.A. Archdiocese in 2002.
According to the report, Barmasse made sexual advances toward five males between the ages 17 and 20 while he served as an associate pastor at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Tucson, Ariz. in the mid '80s.
Barmasse was first accused in August 1983 of molesting a boy while serving as a priest at the St. Pancratius Church in Lakewood, Calif. The accusation led church officials to transfer Barmasse to the Tucson diocese later that year.
After the accusations of abuse at St. Elizabeth in Tucson, Barmasse spent two years as a patient at the St. Luke Institute, a psychiatric hospital in Maryland dedicated to the treatment of Catholic clergy.
According to the report, Barmasse was discharged from St. Luke Institute in 1992, the same year the L.A. Archdiocese revoked his privileges and barred him from giving sacraments as a priest.
"He has been on inactive leave since 1992," said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese. "That means he has no permission to function as a priest and he has no relationship with the archdiocese."
This, however, brings little comfort to Mary Grant, founder of the SNAP regional office.
Grant said she became frustrated with church officials who continued to move Barmasse from parish to parish even after multiple sex abuse allegations were made against him.
Megan's Law passed in 1995 after the rape and murder of 7year-old Megan Kanka by a previously convicted child molester. The family hadn't known the molester lived nearby. Megan's death sparked the family to successfully push for new legislation to make the location of sex offenders available to the public.
SNAP feels the Catholic Church too often protects its accused priests and keeps them at arm's length from the law.
"(Barmasse) is not a registered sex offender," Grant said, "so we want to reach out to unsuspecting neighbors and alert them that they have an alleged sex offender living in their neighborhood."
Mary Jane McGraw, a SNAP supporter, said Barmasse came out of his condominium while she was handing out fliers. McGraw said a neighbor recognized Barmasse and approached him as he got into his car to leave.
"She came out with the voice of a mother just making it really clear he was not wanted within eyesight of her home," McGraw said.
None of the people handing out the fliers said they had been abused by Barmasse.
Barmasse didn't answer the door when an Acorn reporter tried to speak with him about the fliers.
Contrary to popular belief, people cannot post pictures of registered sex offenders publicly. To do so is a violation of privacy rights and is a misdemeanor, said Tim Cooley, a detective with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department. Residents are not at liberty to "force the person to move," Cooley said.
Police, however, are required to post pictures of "high-risk" and "serious" sex offenders in the community where they live or work. And real estate agents must disclose in sales agreements if there are any sex offenders living near the homes they are selling.
Because Barmasse was never convicted of sexual abuse, the group handing out fliers didn't break the law, Cooley said.
Authorities say the only recourse that accused sex offenders might have against those who circulate fliers or post their names in the community is to file a civil suit against them. But police say lawsuits in these types of cases are rare.
"It was not an easy decision to leaflet in Mr. Barmasse's neighborhood because you don't want to be part of a witch hunt," McGraw said. "But the church has almost forced many of us into this position because of their refusal to report these men."
The 50-year-old Barmasse was born in Buffalo, N.Y. He was ordained in Los Angeles in 1982.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's office recently brought molestation charges against Michael Wempe, a former pastor at St. Jude's Catholic Church in WestlakeVillage.
The Wempe case goes to trial in January, officials said.
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