Three Mark Anniversary of Bishop's Resignation

By Jeff Haldiman
News Tribune [Jefferson City MO]
March 9, 2007

Thursday marked the five-year anniversary of a former priest from the Jefferson City Catholic Diocese resigning after admitting to molesting a teen-ager years earlier.

To mark the event, three people - members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP, along with a lay Catholic reform group known as Voice of The Faithful, VOTF - stood outside the Jefferson City Chancery offices on West Main Street in what they called an effort to "prod" Catholic officials to monitor and disclose information about admitted and allegedly abusive bishops.

"I have felt alienated, but I want to reclaim our church," said Bob Swart, a member of SNAP from St. Louis and victim of abuse.

"This is not what the church is about," said VOTF member Kim Dillion of Columbia. "We're upset with the cover-up problem."

"We want the bishops to admit the wrongs and remember that our church is for all the people," said VTOF member Helen Manson of Holts Summit.

The three who came out Thursday are all still Catholics, but say the number of those in the pews has decreased because they are becoming disillusioned over the priest scandals.

They also said there were no accusations about the Jefferson City Diocese, at this time.

The Rev. Anthony J. O'Connell, was bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach at the time he resigned in 2002.

O'Connell admitted to the allegations leveled by Christopher Dixon, a former student at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal. O'Connell was the rector there at the time.

Dixon said the two touched inappropriately in bed after he sought out O'Connell for counseling. Dixon said the abuse began in 1977, when he was 15, and continued to 1980.

The Jefferson City Diocese paid Dixon $125,000 in a 1996 settlement, and he promised not to pursue further claims against the diocese, O'Connell and two other priests. The diocese did not admit any wrongdoing.

The other priests were the Rev. Manus Daly, who allegedly abused Dixon at the seminary, and the Rev. John Fischer, who allegedly began abusing Dixon at a Catholic school when he was 11. Daly was removed from a Marceline church and Fischer was removed from the priesthood in 1993 after allegations involving other children.

Dixon was a priest for five years before he was diagnosed with depression in 1995.

He said the depression came after he was assigned to work at the Hannibal seminary under Daly - a move that brought back memories of abuse.

He later left the priesthood.



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