Priest in 2nd child abuse investigation won’t be alone with kids: archdiocese

By Francine Knowles
Chicago Sun-Times
April 22, 2014

Father Michael W. O'Connell discusses his reinstatement to active ministry and pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago after allegations of sexual misconduct against him were determined to be unfounded.

A Chicago Catholic priest, who became the subject of a second child abuse allegation on Monday, will remain in active ministry but will not be alone with children, the archdiocese of Chicago said Tuesday.

The Rev. Michael W. O’Connell was reinstated last week to active ministry as pastor of St. Alphonsus Catholic Parish on the North Side after a sexual abuse allegation lodged against him in December was deemed unfounded following investigations by the Cook County Sheriff’s office and the archdiocese.

“This morning, a person with information regarding alleged abuse of a minor that happened 15 years ago, met with officials from the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for the Protection of Children and Youth,” archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Burritt said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

“The Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review will review the limited information provided and discuss the matter with the Independent Review Board for its advice,” the statement said.

“Unless there is further information that warrants additional action,” O’Connell will remain in active ministry, the archdiocese said, noting that he “has agreed not to be present in the parish school or alone with a child, until these issues are resolved.”

On Monday, the sheriff’s office said the investigation had resumed. A spokeswoman declined to say what prompted the new investigation but it came as a former Illinois resident appeared at a news conference Monday held by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. The man, who refused to identify himself, alleged he witnessed O’Connell behaving improperly at a south suburban gym years ago and said he reported the incident to police on Monday.



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