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  Jesuits Pay $185,000 to a Former Student
He, 12 Others Say They Were Molested
By Priest Who Led Retreats Here

By Patricia Rice
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
October 23, 2003

The Missouri Province of the Jesuits has paid a $185,000 settlement to a former St. Louis University High School student who alleges he was molested in the 1970s by a now-retired Jesuit priest.

Tom Kevin O'Connor, 49, who now lives in Charlottesville, Va., is the 13th man to bring credible allegations of sexual abuse against the Rev. John J. "Jack" Campbell, now 82, a Jesuit official acknowledged Wednesday.

O'Connor is the first one to go public with his accusations.

Campbell, who lives under supervision in a Jesuit retirement center in Denver, could not be reached for comment. Campbell has neither admitted nor denied the allegations, but said he does not remember any incidents, said the Rev. Timothy McMahon, provincial of the Missouri Province of the Jesuits.

Campbell was in residence at the high school campus, but was not teaching at the school when O'Connor was enrolled there, Jesuit officials said. Campbell often led retreats at area high schools and the White House Jesuit Retreat Center in south St. Louis County

O'Connor alleged that for two or three years before and after his graduation from the high school in 1972, Campbell sexually molested him "as therapy" during counseling appointments in the rectory of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church at Grand and Lindell boulevards.

The allegations against Campbell and the recent settlement with O'Connor were made public Wednesday by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group. The group held a news conference on the sidewalk outside the high school, on Oakland Avenue across from Forest Park.

Including the latest payment two weeks ago to O'Connor and his lawyer, Patrick Noaker, of St. Paul, Minn., about $575,000 in settlements and doctors' bills have been paid to victims of Campbell's alleged abuse over the last 14 years, a spokesman for the Jesuits said Wednesday.

Campbell was removed from public ministry in 1989 and lost his priestly faculties, including the ability to say Mass, said McMahon, who addressed reporters inside the high school minutes after the SNAP event.

Seven times during the news conference, once with his voice breaking, McMahon apologized on behalf of the Jesuits and as an alumnus of the high school for the broken trust, harm and ensuing anger that O'Connor and others experienced.

As part of the settlement, both McMahon and the Rev. Paul Sheridan, president of the high school, also had to write letters of apology to O'Connor.

O'Connor said in a telephone interview Wednesday that when he was a sophomore at the high school, he needed someone to talk to about what he saw as overwhelming family and school responsibilities.

Campbell, whom O'Connor used to call his "second father," was a family friend who occasionally had dinner with the O'Connor family in their St. Louis Hills home. "My father really enjoyed Father Jack's wit and stories," O'Connor said.

At the time his father was retired from the FBI on medical disability. "My parents thought that Father Jack could do no wrong," O'Connor said.

On his own, O'Connor hitchhiked to see Campbell, in an office of the rectory of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church, he said. St. Louis University officials said Wednesday that Campbell was never on its faculty or staff.

After months of counseling, the priest initiated what he termed an experimental psychological therapy in which the two engaged in mutual masturbation, O'Connor said. O'Connor said the practice revolted and nauseated him, but the priest told him it would cure his insecurities.

"Basically I didn't want to tell anyone because I didn't want to hurt Father Jack," O'Connor said.

The Jesuits' Missouri Province has no outstanding allegations against Campbell or any other Jesuits, in or out of court, McMahon said.

Meanwhile, Sheridan on Wednesday called an assembly of the school's 1,054 students in the gym to tell them about O'Connor's allegation.

"They were very sober; everyone is hurting today," Sheridan said. Counseling will be available to the student body, he said.

Sheridan also sent home a letter to students' parents: "As president of SLUH and as a Jesuit priest, I am shocked, saddened and hurt. I am sure you feel the same. I sincerely offer my apologies to those of our SLUH family who were victimized by this priest."

He requested that anyone who knows of other sexual abuse involving high school personnel to call him at the high school, 314-531-0330, or the Rev. Phil Steele of the Missouri Provincial office, 314-361-7765.

 
 

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