Ex-priest in Arizona Prison Named in LA Abuse Case
By Michael Clancy
January 25, 2013
A former Diocese of Phoenix priest imprisoned in Arizona is one of 14 priests whose files were released this week in a Los Angeles court case involving sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Lawrence Lovell is serving a 14-year sentence for abusing children in Yavapai and Maricopa counties. He is imprisoned at the Central Arizona Correctional Facility in Florence.
His file included a letter from his superior in the Claretian religious order, a report of his history in the Los Angeles area, a list of actions taken against him, and a letter from a parent accusing Lovell of molesting his children.
What it does not include is Lovell’s full clerical history, including assignments in Prescott and Phoenix.
The memos released Monday, including the Lovell information, are from personnel files for 14 priests submitted to a judge in a case against one of the priests, the Rev. Nicholas Aguilar Rivera.
They are the first abuse files released by church authorities in Los Angeles. Files of dozens more accused priests, including possibly more information on the 14 already identified, are expected to be released in the coming weeks as part of a 2007 settlement agreement with more than 500 victims in Los Angeles.
The initial release has sparked outrage, with calls for prosecutions of Cardinal Roger Mahony, who retired last year, and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry. They oversaw many of the cases, and the documents show they worked in tandem to cover up numerous abuse cases.
Patrick Wall, an investigator and former priest who has been active in attempting to force release of the documents, said the diocese has fought releasing records for at least 10 years.
The Lovell file is not comprehensive because religious-order priests are not under the direct control of diocese bishops.
Lovell served in the Phoenix Diocese before he went to Los Angeles, and he was reassigned to Phoenix after he left the West Coast. He was accused and convicted of crimes stemming from both his assignments in Arizona. He was accused in Los Angeles but never brought to trial in Los Angeles because of the California statute of limitations, which placed a three-year limit on bringing charges against individuals.
Most of the Lovell activity, including the move from Sacred Heart Parish in Prescott to San Gabriel Mission near Los Angeles and back again to Arizona, occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Cardinal Timothy Manning presided over the Los Angeles church at the time. Bishop James Rausch led the Phoenix Diocese during the first move, and Bishop Thomas O’Brien was in charge in 1984, when Lovell returned to an assignment at St. Anthony Parish in Phoenix.
No communication from the Los Angeles Archdiocese or the Claretian order to Diocese of Phoenix officials was included in the file. A call to Claretian order headquarters requesting additional information was not returned.
The first letter in the Lovell file, from the Rev. Frank Ferrante, Claretian provincial, to Monsignor John Rawden, chancellor of the LA Archdiocse, is dated Dec. 18, 1985. The letter notes that Ferrante had spoken about the matter to Cardinal Roger Mahony, who replaced Manning in 1984.
It includes a summary of events that took place in October, when a member of the San Gabriel parish approached Ferrante with “a serious problem involving Fr. Larry’s relationship with one of her children.”
Lovell already had been reassigned to Phoenix at the time.
He traveled to Los Angeles the next day to meet with Ferrante.
Ferrante noted that he removed Lovell from ministry, required Lovell to enter a residential program “specifically designed to help him with his illness,” and asked an outside child-abuse organization to meet with the pastor of St. Anthony in Phoenix regarding the allegations. He said he also learned that Lovell’s case in San Gabriel had been referred to police for investigation.
Lovell was indicted in 2003 in both Yavapai County, where he was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Prescott, and in Maricopa County.
He reached plea agreements in both cases, pleading guilty to single counts of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor.
At the time of his sentencings, which took place in 2004, Lovell was married with stepchildren in New Mexico, where he was working as a case manager at the University of New Mexico Mental Health Center. He never had been restored to the priesthood, and he was laicized in 1992.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-6840.