Bishop Who Resigned Palm Beach Post over Sex Abuse Dead at 73

Catholic News Service
May 8, 2012

Bishop who resigned Palm Beach post over sex abuse dead at 73

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (CNS) -- Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell, whose admission of inappropriate conduct with high school seminarians decades ago led to his resignation as head of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Fla., in 2002, died May 4 at Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner. The Irish-born bishop had lived under supervision at the abbey since his resignation. His funeral Mass was May 7, also at the abbey. Bishop O'Connell died after a long illness, less than a week before his 74th birthday. A priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., he had been bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., before being named Palm Beach bishop in 1998. At the time of his resignation, he publicly acknowledged inappropriate conduct with minors while he was at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, the Jefferson City diocesan high school seminary in Hannibal. He was spiritual director there in 1968-70 and rector from 1970 to 1988. "It always hung over me," he said at the March 8, 2002, news conference announcing his resignation. "I don't think I have ever preached without being conscious (of it). I certainly have been powerfully motivated in my preaching." The Jefferson City Diocese paid $125,000 in a settlement to a former seminarian in 1996. Two other ex-seminarians received out-of-court settlements in cases involving Bishop O'Connell in 2004. Bishop O'Connell's resignation came less than two months after the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston. But he was the second Palm Beach bishop to resign over sex abuse allegations. In June 1998, Bishop J. Keith Symons admitted to molesting five altar boys during the 1970s and resigned.


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