Amid nearly complete and callous - silence by Catholic officials in Missouri, Tennessee and Florida, Bishop Anthony O'Connell passed away last Friday. http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/boconnell.html
Ten years ago last month, O’Connell became the first Catholic prelate to admit molesting a boy after the US clergy sex abuse and cover up scandal began attracting national attention.
(Back in 1998, Palm Beach Bishop J. Keith Symons admitting molesting boys. Ironically, in January of 1999, O’Connell was promoted to be Palm Beach’s bishop. It’s the only known instance in which one child molesting bishop replaced another.)
In April 2002, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the story of St. Louisan Chris Dixon’s settlement with the Jefferson City diocese, which stemmed from the abuse he suffered at the hands of O’Connell and two other priests Fr. John Fischer and Fr. Manus Daly. All three were on the staff of St. Thomas seminary in Hannibal, which O’Connell headed for years, where the crimes took place.
From Missouri, O’Connell went on to become bishop in Knoxville Tennessee and bishop of Palm Beach. He’s been living at a monastery in South Carolina for several years.
We hope O'Connell's passing brings some long-overdue and well-deserved comfort to the dozens who were hurt by his wrongdoing. At least now, O'Connell can't hurt any more kids.
And we hope that Catholic officials in all four states MO, TN, FL and SC - will aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes. It’s possible that he molested in South Carolina even after leaving Florida. It’s very likely that there are others who have been hurt by O’Connell who are still suffering in shame, silence and self-blame. And it’s possible that others who helped ignore or hide his crimes might still be prosecuted.
Finally, it is disappointing that church officials in all four states have apparently kept silent about O’Connell’s passing. (We checked diocesan websites in each and found nothing.)
A full decade ago, bishops pledged to be 'open' about clergy sex abuse. But increasingly, they're keeping quiet about deaths of notorious predators, even though they know such news would bring comfort to some of their victims. It's more of the same - putting their selfish public relations consideration above the healing of deeply wounded victims