The Lincoln Diocese has removed another priest — and accepted the resignation of yet another — as it investigates the latest in a series of sexual misconduct and abuse allegations rattling the Catholic community.
After pledging earlier this month to be more transparent, Bishop James Conley over the weekend announced he had replaced the Rev. Patrick Barvick — at least temporarily — as pastor at St. Mary's in Davey.
Conley hinted at the reason for Barvick’s removal, but didn’t elaborate.
“I previously instructed Fr. Patrick Barvick that he was not to be alone with females. His behavior concerns me and the Diocesan Review Board,” Conley wrote. “I have asked him to temporarily step aside from his parish while I evaluate this situation.”
The statement didn’t say whether the females were adults or minors, and a diocese spokesman declined to elaborate Monday.
Barvick previously served at St. Joseph’s and Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, and at St. Michael’s in Hastings. He has also taught at Pius X High School, St. Cecilia’s High School in Hastings and at Bishop Neumann High School in Wahoo, according to Neumann’s website.
In Fillmore County, Steve Thomlison resigned as pastor at St. Stephen in Exeter and St. Wenceslaus in Milligan, after Conley met with the priest to “discuss a past incident in the military that was a concern ...”
Conley elaborated slightly when he preached in Exeter and Milligan over the weekend, according to a transcript provided to the Journal Star.
The bishop told parishioners Thomlison had agreed to therapy after the unspecified incident, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after 30 years in the National Guard, where he was a chaplain.
“I want to make it clear that Fr. Thomlison has not been accused of any type of abuse or crime or anything involving a minor or a parishioner,” Conley said, according to the transcript.
The news about Barvick and Thomlison came a week after Conley removed Charles Townsend from St. Peter’s for engaging in an inappropriate but nonsexual relationship with a 19-year-old altar server — and a few days after Conley held a meeting with 500 parishioners from St. Peter’s.
“Their message to me was clear and honest: they desire transparency and objectivity, and that is my promise to you and all the faithful in the diocese as I move forward,” he wrote.
Conley announced he had assembled a panel of senior advisers — members of his own staff and from the Archdiocese of Omaha, and a mental health expert — to help evaluate abuse allegations.
And an outside investigator will examine and evaluate how Conley’s staff responded to allegations of improper behavior by Townsend, and how Conley has responded to allegations of sexual abuse.
Conley’s letter also acknowledged a sexual abuse allegation that surfaced publicly last week, when a 37-year-old Lincoln native told a writer for The American Conservative he’d been attacked by James Benton more than two decades ago.
After the man reported the allegations to the diocese last year, Benton resigned his pastorate, Conley wrote. The bishop also restricted the retired priest from exercising public ministry and prohibited him from being alone with minors.
Benton had been investigated before. He was accused in 2002 of inappropriately touching a minor in the early 1980s, but the allegation could not be substantiated, Conley wrote.