A support group for victims is admonishing the bishops of four Catholic dioceses for their “callous secrecy” about the death of a bishop who once worked at each location.
Leaders of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) are writing to the bishops of Knoxville TN, Jefferson City MO, Charleston SC and Palm Beach FL and urging them to disclose the death of Bishop Anthony O’Connell. O’Connell and “aggressively reach out” to “others he may have hurt.”
O’Connell, who died last week, is the first Catholic bishop in America to resign after the church’s abuse and cover up scandal began making international headlines in 2002. As best SNAP can tell, since his death, there has yet to be any announcement from any of the dioceses in which O’Connell worked or spent time.
“It’s hurtful and irresponsible for bishops to do with a predator’s passing exactly what most of them have done with a predator’s crimes – keep silent,” said SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris.
SNAP wants these dioceses to publicize O’Connell’s death for three reasons, according to SNAP Director David Clohessy.
“When a predator dies, often victims - who may still feel intimidated and helpless - will finally feel safe enough to report the crimes, expose the wrongdoing and start their recovery. It comforts those who worry that their perpetrators may still be hurting kids. And it reassures victims and parishioners that bishops are honoring their repeated promises to be ‘open’ about clergy sex crimes,” Clohessy said.
In SNAP’s letter to the four bishops, the group is calling on them to inform parishioners and the public about O’Connell’s death and beg others “who may have seen, suspected, or suffered his crimes to speak up so that more of the truth may be revealed and so that more healing can take place.”
“We don’t want anyone to be suffering alone,” said Clohessy. “The sooner we find someone who was abused, the sooner they can begin to heal from the abuse.
O’Connell, a native of Ireland, was ordained a priest in the Jeff City diocese, where he headed the now-shuttered St. Thomas Seminary in Hannibal for years. He became a bishop first in Knoxville and later in Palm Beach. For the last decade, he’s been living in an abbey in South Carolina.
Though he wasn’t in active ministry in South Carolina, SNAP fears he may still have molested kids there.
“Time and time again, Catholic officials claim they’re overseeing suspended child molesting clerics,” said Clohessy. “Then, years later, we learn that they assaulted kids even when after they’d been suspended and were supposedly being monitored.”
A change of location, Dorris stressed, is no “cure” for pedophilia.
“When a pedophile priest or bishop is freed up from their daily duties, arguably, it potentially gives them much more time to scheme and plan and ingratiate themselves with families in new locations who are unaware of their crimes elsewhere,” she noted.
A copy of SNAP’s letter to the four bishops is below: