Victims Blast Bishops in Sc, Fl, Tn & MO over Predator Prelate
By David Clohessy
May 17, 2012
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:
We are leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Our mission is to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
We are writing you to today to encourage openness about the death of your brother bishop, Anthony O’Connell. As you are surely aware, O’Connell worked and/or spent time in your diocese.
Bishop O’Connell was the first Catholic bishop in America to resign after the church’s abuse and cover up scandal began making international headlines in 2002. According to court records, he abused at least two kids. Others have come forward since he admitted his crimes. We expect this number to continue to grow.
As far as we know, you have not yet made any explicit publicizing of his death, whether in your church bulletins or on your diocesan website. We are strongly encouraging you to take this simple step, and also to aggressively reach out to victims. We are asking you to do this for three very important reasons.
First, when a predator dies, some of his victims will feel less intimidated. They will not have to fear seeing him again, or worry about what would happen if he knew they were going to come forward. These people who have been suffering in silence for so long may now feel emboldened, and find the courage and strength to come forward and report their abuse. This is a crucial first step in their healing process.
Second, it can also provide some level of comfort to those who have already come forward. They too will be able to breathe easier and live in less fear. For these victims, who have already showed their courage by coming forward once, the passing of the man who caused them so much pain may help them in their quest for normalcy and healing. And they will no longer have to worry “Is he or she molesting a kid right now?”
Third, by making this public announcement you will be able to reassure victims and parishioners that you are honoring bishops’ decade-old promise to be “open and honest” about clergy sex crimes.
Child sex abuse is very rarely a one-time occurrence, and a change in location is certainly no “cure” for pedophilia. We believe that there are likely others in your own diocese who may have seen, suspected, or suffered crimes from O’Connell. We are urging you to do everything in your power to help us find those who were abused. The sooner they are found, the sooner they can begin to heal. And we are urging you to take one simple, compassionate step toward consoling others who were abused, by disclosing O’Connell’s death.
Executive Director, SNAP
314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Outreach Director, SNAP
314 503 0003 , SNAPdorris@gmail.com