Problem Priests Were Sent to Arizona
By Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic
February 4, 2013
Two allegedly abusive priests who served in Arizona came from the Los Angeles Diocese, where they had abused prior to their transfers, documents show. The information comes from the Los Angeles Archdiocese’s court-ordered release of more than 12,000 pages of files on 124 priests who had been accused of abuse.
The two priests who came to Arizona were Lawrence Lovell, who served in the Phoenix Diocese, and Kevin Barmasse, who was sent to the Tucson Diocese.
The file on Lovell is small. Lovell was a member of the Claretian religious order, not a diocesan priest. The Claretians have not released his full file.
He served in Prescott; San Gabriel, Calif.; and Phoenix before an allegation surfaced in California in 1985.
He immediately was removed from ministry. Later, allegations surfaced in Prescott and Phoenix.
He currently is in prison after pleading guilty to cases in Yavapai and Maricopa counties.
The file on Barmasse is far more detailed.
It shows his entire history, including a reassignment to Tucson as a result of the first allegation in Los Angeles in 1983.
Barmasse served in Tucson until 1991, when he was sent to a therapy center.
It is unknown whether Tucson Bishop Manuel Moreno knew of the allegations against Barmasse. A statement from the diocese to its parishioners says he did, but Bishop Gerald Kicanas, Moreno’s successor, says no records exist to indicate whether Moreno knew anything.
“When the diocese accepted him for ministry in 1983, the diocese was aware that an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor had been made against him while he served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” Tucson officials said in a document for which the date is redacted.
The first allegations in Tucson came in August 1991, Kicanas said, months after Barmasse went to St. Luke Institute, a therapy center.
Besides going into Barmasse’s assignments and future in great detail, the documents also show great concern about legal exposure for the archdiocese.
In 1986, then-Monsignor Thomas Curry of Los Angeles, who as a bishop resigned over this past weekend for his role in the cover-up, wrote to Cardinal Roger Mahony, who succeeded Cardinal Timothy Manning in 1985. He said Barmasse’s victim was close to 18 years old.
“So Kevin should not return for another two years,” Curry wrote, “by which time the period for filing lawsuits will have passed.”
Two years later, Moreno told Barmasse that he was willing to take him into the Tucson priesthood, only to be dissuaded by Los Angeles officials, who wanted to send Barmasse to St. Luke.
In May 1991, a letter from the Los Angeles priest in charge of clergy assignments to St. Luke makes the first mention of allegations in Tucson. He does not provide details.
Those came in August 1991, in a memo to Manning from the Rev. Timothy Dyer, who had replaced Curry as vicar for priests. The memo mentions “inappropriate approaches” to five young men during a trip to California; back rubs that “turned in to genital fondling”; and the promise of “financial favors if this young man would help relieve Fr. Barmasse’s ‘loneliness.’”
In 1998, a memo shows, Los Angeles officials still were concerned about possible criminal liability.
“The statutes of limitations have been substantially reworked,” Monsignor Richard Loomis wrote to Mahony. “The archdiocese is clearly ‘on notice’ regarding Barmasse’s problems.”
Barmasse officially had his permission to serve as a priest removed in 1992; he was laicized in 2006. Several civil cases were filed against the Diocese of Tucson in regards to Barmasse’s violations. All were settled in the diocesan bankruptcy case in 2004, Kicanas said.
No criminal charges ever were filed against Barmasse. He currently resides in suburban Los Angeles.