Former Missouri Priest and Bishop Who Resigned in a Sex Abuse Scandal Is Dead

By Deb Peterson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
May 9, 2012

Bishop Anthony O'Connell in a photo that ran in the Post-Dispatch in 2004.

IN PASSING: Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell, a former rector of the shuttered St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary in Hannibal, Mo., and self-confessed sexual abuser, died Friday.

Catholic News Service reported on the website's daily news briefs site yesterday that O'Connell died at Mapkin Abbey, in Moncks Corner, S. C., after a long illness. He would have been 74 tomorrow.

A Funeral Mass was said for him on Monday at the Abbey.

O'Connell was a native of Ireland who emigrated to the U.S. when he was 20 and entered Kenrick Seminary here. He resigned as the Bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., in 2002, a day after he admitted in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he had sexually abused a teenage seminary student at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal, Mo., in the 1970's.

O'Connell was the first prelate to resign after the church's child sex abuse scandal made national headlines in 2002. The Jefferson City Diocese gave Christopher Dixon, the student who accused O'Connell of abusing him for three years, $125,000. In the secret settlement, Dixon had to promise that he would not pursue further claims against the diocese, O'Connell and two other priests he accused of abuse. The diocese did not admit to Dixon's allegations in the settlement.

O'Connell was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City in 1963 and was then assigned to be director of students at St. Thomas Aquinas. He was appointed rector there in 1970.

In 1988, O'Connell was made bishop of the newly created Diocese of Knoxville, Tenn., and in 1998, he was appointed the third bishop of Palm Beach, Fla. St. Louisan Richard Stika is now the bishop of Knoxville.

Time magazine documented the extent of O'Connell's transgressions in the case of one of the students at St. Thomas Aquinas.



Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.