Priest Steps Aside from Lakeview Parish after Allegation of Sexual Misconduct
By Carlos Sadovi
The Chicago Tribune
December 9, 2013
The pastor of a Lakeview Roman Catholic parish has agreed to step aside after an allegation this week that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor 20 years ago while he served as pastor of an Orland Park church, officials said today.
Rev. Michael W. O'Connell has served at St. Alphonsus Parish, 1429 W. Wellington Ave., since July 1, 2012, said Archdiocese Spokeswoman Susan Burritt.
A single allegation of sexual misconduct was presented to the Archdiocese of Chicago last week. It is alleged that O'Connell engaged in the misconduct 20 years ago while he served as pastor of Our Lady of the Woods Parish in Orland Park, said Burritt.
O'Connell agreed to step aside from his role as pastor of St. Alphonsus and has agreed to live away from the parish until an investigation has concluded, according to a statement by the Archdiocese of Chicago. O'Connell decided to step aside from his duties at the request of Cardinal George, officials said.
The allegation was received by the Archdiocesan Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review and was reported to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the Cook County State's Attorney's office, officials said.
In compliance with the requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Archdiocese has begun its own investigation, according to the statement.
O'Connell, who was ordained in 1983, had served in Our Lady of the Woods Parish in Orland Park from 1997 until 2012 when he took over the Lakeview parish, Burritt said.
He has not been removed from active ministry, but has stepped away from day-to-day responsibilities at the church and according to church law, remains pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish.
"The Archdiocese of Chicago takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and encourages anyone who feels they have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious or lay employee, to come forward," according to the statement.
According to his biography on the St. Alphonsus Parish website, O'Connell was ordained to the priesthood on May 7, 1983.
He served at St. Michael Parish in Orland Park from 1983 until 1989, and the Church of St. Mary in Lake Forest from 1989 until 1993. From 1993 until 1997 he engaged in doctoral studies in the Theology of Evangelization at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
In addition to his Roman degrees, O'Connell holds a License in Sacred Theology from the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein and the Masters of Divinity. According to his biography, he entered the seminary system of the Archdiocese of Chicago at the college level in 1975.
He was born in Chicago and raised in the northwest suburbs, according to the website.
Complete information about reporting clerical sexual abuse can be found on the Archdiocesan web site at www.archchicago.org.