Group Asks SLU to Seek out Abuse Victims/ SLU High Graduate Tries to Give Letter to Biondi

By Tim Bryant
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
December 17, 2003

A man who settled a sex abuse claim against a retired Jesuit priest for $185,000 said Tuesday that St. Louis University has an obligation to find others who may have been victims decades ago.

But a security officer blocked an attempt by Tom Kevin O'Connor to enter DuBourg Hall to hand a letter about his concerns to university President Lawrence Biondi. The officer promised to deliver it to Biondi's office there.

In October, the Missouri Province of the Jesuits paid O'Connor, 49, of Charlottesville, Va., a $185,000 settlement over claims he was molested by the Rev. John J. "Jack" Campbell.

O'Connor, a 1972 graduate of St. Louis University High School, was the 13th man to bring credible allegations of sexual abuse against the Campbell, a Jesuit official has acknowledged.

In the letter to Biondi, members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told Biondi he is obligated "to actively search for victims" of Campbell "and offer them help and justice."

"It is also your obligation, we believe, to urge that any victims or witnesses to these crimes report what they know to law enforcement," the letter also said.

The university, in a written statement, said SLU and Campbell had no connection. "Campbell was never an employee of the University," the statement said.

O'Connor countered that much of the abuse he suffered from Campbell occurred at a SLU dormitory on Lindell Boulevard, where the priest lived and conducted counseling sessions.

"SLU had and has a responsibility regarding the actions, behavior and conduct of Father Jack Campbell while living and counseling on the SLU campus," O'Connor stated.

O'Connor is the first person to go public with claims of abuse by Campbell, who now lives under supervision in a Jesuit retirement center in Denver. Campbell, 83, has neither admitted nor denied the allegations but said he does not remember any incidents, the Rev. Timothy McMahon, provincial of the Missouri Province of the Jesuits, has said.

Campbell was in residence at the St. Louis University High campus but was not teaching at the school when O'Connor was enrolled there, Jesuit officials said. Campbell often led retreats at 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 high school graduation, Campbell sexually molested him during counseling appointments in the rectory of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church at Grand and Lindell boulevards.

"I was here and I was abused on this campus," O'Connor said Tuesday as he stood outside the church.

Including the payment to O'Connor and his lawyer, Patrick Noaker, of St. Paul, Minn., about $575,000 in settlements and doctors' bills have been paid to people who alleged abuse by Campbell over the past 14 years, a spokesman for the Jesuits has said. Campbell was removed from public ministry in 1989 and lost his priestly faculties, including the authority to celebrate Mass.

As O'Connor spoke with reporters, SNAP leader David Clohessy put fliers on several cars parked along Lindell. "In The 70's, A Serial Molester Lived Across The Street," said the flier. It urged anyone abused by Campbell to contact a support group and to call authorities.

In the letter to Biondi, SNAP said it suspects there are more victims of Campbell.

"Research tells us that for every victim that comes forward there are probably 10 more trapped in silence," the letter said. "For many victims, who have suffered for decades in secrecy, all it would take for them to step forward and begin to heal is someone asking the question 'Have you been harmed by this priest?' "


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