L.A. Archdiocese settles priest abuse case for $1.9 million
The children in the parish knew him only as Father Larry.
One of those children, referred to in court documents as John BR Doe, was an altar boy at San Gabriel Mission Church from 1982 to 1984 when, he said, the priest sexually abused him.
As a teen, Doe told church officials what he’d suffered. Years later, he would learn that Father Larry — Lawrence Lovell — had been convicted of child molestation in 2003 and sentenced to 14 years in prison. And he would find a redacted version of his own account on the internet, detailing the abuse he said Lovell carried out when he was a child.
He’d also learn he wasn’t Lovell’s only victim.
“It’s been 35 years since I’ve been dealing with this,” he said.
On Tuesday, attorneys representing Doe, now 47, announced a $1.9-million settlement with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Lovell and the Claretian Missionaries, where Lovell served as a priest. The complaint, filed in September 2018, is the first case settled with a Catholic diocese in the state since the passage of Assembly Bill 218, a law that expanded the time frame for filing child sexual abuse allegations.
“Since the law came into effect about three weeks ago, it opened all these avenues for survivors to get justice through the civil justice system,” said Alex Cunny, Doe’s attorney.
The legislation was introduced after a series of other abuse allegations against priests were made public, as well as the 2018 sentencing of former U.S. Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar for molesting young athletes.
Previously, a lawsuit had to be filed within eight years of a claimant reaching adulthood or within three years of “delayed reasonable discovery,” the time after someone recognizes the damage suffered because of an abuse. Under the new law, a person has until the age of 40 to come forward. The law also increases the window after delayed reasonable discovery to five years.
A teenage Doe alerted church officials more than six years after his abuse began. According to the lawsuit, authorities paid for six months of counseling before Doe was hospitalized for suicide-prevention treatment.
Now married and a father of four children, all of whom have been baptized in the Catholic church, Doe decided to take action.
Lovell served in the Phoenix Diocese before moving to Los Angeles and returned there after leaving L.A. in 1984. He was removed from the ministry in 1986 and placed on three years’ probation after being convicted in L.A. of abusing a 14-year-old boy.
In 2003, he was indicted on charges of sexually abusing children in Arizona’s Yavapai County, where he’d been assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in Prescott, and in Maricopa County. He took plea deals in both cases.
According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, Lovell is set to be released in March 2021.
Doe, who works as an electrical supervisor for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said he believed the settlement payout was the closest he’d get to a direct apology for the abuse he’d suffered. For years, he said, he fought depression and bipolar disorder. He said he finally felt at peace and hoped other potential victims would come forward too.
“We don’t have to be in the shadows, and we don’t have to hide in our rooms anymore,” he said. “We can look outside and see sunshine.”
Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.
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