Three mid-MO predator priests cited in new abuse report

A new report on Catholic clergy sex crimes and cover-ups by Florida law enforcement officials names three former mid-Missouri clerics among dozens who moved or were sent to the Sunshine state after having been accused of sexually assaulting children in their home dioceses.

They are:

--Bishop Anthony O’Connell, who traveled extensively across Missouri while heading a seminary in Hannibal and in 2002 became the first US prelate to admit having molested boys.

--Fr. Hugh Behan, who worked at Disney World after having been accused of abusing Missouri youngsters.

--Fr. John J. Whiteley, who moved to the Venice area (and then perhaps Miami) after being accused of molesting Missouri children in the 1990s.

Each worked in the Jefferson City diocese, which covers much of north and central Missouri and is headed by Bishop Shawn McKnight  573 635 9127.

“This disclosure by state officials has made kids safer, both in Florida and Missouri,” said David Clohessy, who says he was repeatedly molested by Whiteley while growing up in Moberly. “But it’s tragic that police, prosecutors, parents and parishioners still learn so little about predator priests from the Catholic hierarchy and much more from law enforcement.”

Whiteley’s presence in Florida has “basically gone unreported by the media,” Clohessy said but the presence of Behan and O’Connell in the state has been known for years.

“We suspect there are other abusive priests, brothers, nuns, brothers, seminarians and maybe even bishops who moved from Missouri to Florida that haven’t been publicly ‘outed’ yet,” he claimed.

Behan and Whiteley are on the Jeff City diocese’s list of credibly accused abusive clerics.

The 19 page report, which was released last Friday, took two years to compile and was spearheaded by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of Statewide Prosecutions. It listed more than 170 accused child molesting Catholic clerics in Florida by name.

It confirmed a claim long made by SNAP, that many child molesting clerics ended up in Florida.

“Florida was one of the states to where (accused predator) priests were routinely relocated,” it said, noting that sometimes Florida Catholic officials weren’t even told of the clerics’ troubling crimes.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen other states are conducting similar investigations.

The full report is here$file/Report.pdf

(NOTE – In the Florida report, Whiteley’s name is misspelled as Whitely)


For more info: David G. Clohessy 314-566-9790 (cell)

[email protected]


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