He's one of the most notorious pedophilic-priest shufflers in American Catholic history: Manuel D. Moreno, former bishop of the Diocese of Tucson.
Moreno resigned last year after serving Southern Arizona for 21 years, a period during which Moreno settled 11 lawsuits alleging child molestation by Tucsonan priests for $14 million. During his tenure, Moreno also offered refuge to seminary classmates accused of sexual misconduct, like Patrick Ziemann (former bishop of Santa Rosa, Calif., who resigned in 1999 after accusations arose that he kept a priest as his personal sex toy) and Robert Trupia (nicknamed "Chicken Hawk" by his fellow priests). At the time of Moreno's resignation, 17 more sex-abuse lawsuits awaited Tucson-area parishioners, inching the current Tucson Catholic hierarchy toward the once-unimaginable brink of bankruptcy.
Moreno is in failing health, preparing to meet his maker. Perhaps that explains why Moreno is now openly admitting his complicity in the Tucson sex-abuse scandal. In an extraordinary June 2 deposition taken by Costa Mesa, Calif.-based attorney John Manly, who's currently representing alleged sex-abuse victims in Tucson, Moreno acknowledged rumors that have been whispered about by sex-abuse victims for years but had been studiously ignored by Tucson-area Catholics.
In the course of the two-hour deposition, held in Pima County Superior Court, Moreno acknowledged, among other things, that he'd allowed priests he knew were child molesters to take kids on trips to Disneyland, where priests would then molest them.
This shocking revelation involved Kevin Barmasse and Juan Guillen, two priests who are listed as sex molesters on the Tucson diocese's Web site. In the case of the former, Manly asked Moreno if he remembered a Los Angeles archdiocesan official pleading the following: "Manny, We've this problem with this new priest, Kevin Barmasse. He got picked up by the sheriff (for an incident with a boy in Long Beach). The attorney general wants him out of town. We'll pay his stipend, but would you please take him?"
"Do you remember that (conversation)?" Manly asked Moreno.
"I just cannot remember," Moreno--who, earlier in the deposition, had affirmed the occurrence of the conversation--responded softly. "If somebody said that they did, then it's my problem that I forgot. Maybe it's psychological. Maybe it's denial."
Whether the discussion between Moreno and the Los Angeles prelate took place, one thing is certain: Moreno allowed Barmasse to take children on diocese-sponsored trips to Disneyland, despite knowledge of Barmasse's past. In one such visit--according to a lawsuit filed by Manly against Moreno, Barmasse, and the Diocese of Tucson--Barmasse rented a condo in San Diego after spending the day at Disneyland in 1988 with a 17-year-old Tucson boy. Court papers describe how the priest "invited plaintiff to have evening prayer one night alone in his room." Reflection soon turned into assault as Barmasse "removed much of the plaintiff's clothing and his own, then straddled plaintiff and rubbed plaintiff's back and buttocks with his hands and aroused penis."
Moreno also told Manly that he knew about the predatory Guillen, who's currently serving a 10-year sentence for repeatedly molesting two brothers. In one instance, according to an Aug. 22, 2002, Yuma Police Department report, Guillen allowed a group of altar boys to sleep in his room at Immaculate Conception Church in Tucson during the summer of 1994 before they took a bus to Disneyland the next morning. During the night, Guillen stripped a 14-year-old boy and "attempted to anally penetrate (the victim). He tried in several positions, but was unable to and finally stopped and put (the victim's) pants back on." Two weeks after the Disneyland trip, the report continued, Guillen "masturbate(d the victim) with one hand. Guillen gave oral sex to (the victim) until (the victim) ejaculated in his mouth."
By the time of this molestation, Tucson diocesan officials already knew about Guillen's predilection for boys. A diocesan memo written by Monsignor Richard W. O'Keeffe on Aug. 3, 1992, opined that Guillen would "profit from this 'apparent wrongdoing,' as reported by concerned people," referring to parishioners who informed O'Keeffe that Guillen was spending too much time with the same boy--whom he'd later attempt to sodomize.
Moreno was unavailable for comment, but in his final years as Tucson's bishop, Moreno expressed regret for condoning pedophilia with several letters and homilies to parishioners asking for forgiveness.
Nevertheless, even the moderate religion Web site Beliefnet.com called Moreno one of the nine worst bishops in the country, lambasting him for lording over a sex abuse-plagued diocese in which "officials protected one another, lied to a victim's family, failed to counsel victims, destroyed statements, did not notify child protective authorities and were uncooperative with police."
At the conclusion of Manly's deposition, Moreno once again exhibited repentance.
"As you sit here today," Manly asked Moreno, "is there anything with ... any of the other cases that you would do differently, if you could turn back the clock?"
Moreno stumbled a bit, then said, "Well, I wish we could have avoided them as much as possible. I wish they had been the holy priests they're supposed to be. Perhaps I could have been more strict in that. I don't know."