His Mental Health Was Questioned in Seminary, Long before Priest Accused of Sex Abuse
By Francine Knowles
April 30, 2014
Concern was raised in seminary about the late Rev. Donald O’Connor’s mental health before he was ordained a priest in 1964.
In the early years of his priesthood, allegations of sexual abuse began and continued over the years, according to Diocese of Joliet documents, released by attorneys Wednesday on the priest and 15 others, whom the diocese found had credible allegations made against them.
An altar boy said he was taken to a hotel by O’Connor after a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in or around 1966, according to a 2005 document. When the boy woke up, he had no clothes on and found shaving cream on his stomach with a smiley face. Someone else was in the room, but he didn’t know who because he was drowsy. He suspected he was drugged.
Meanwhile a 1980 report disclosed allegations that O’Connor attempted to molest several teenage boys. “Don has forced at least two boys on the bed in the rectory. One fought him off. The other result is vague,” the document said.
By 1980, then-Bishop Joseph Imesch knew of at least five boys that had come forward alleging sexual abuse. But O’Connor wasn’t removed from active ministry until 2002. By that time he’d served at numerous parishes, including St. Bernard in Joliet, Assumption in Coal City, and Sacred Heart in Lombard.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2002 Imesch admitted in a 2002 deposition that he didn’t remove priests when they had credible abuse allegations against them, but rather allowed them to seek therapy and continuing working.
O’Connor died in 2011. He was never charged with a crime.