Assignment Record – Bishop Anthony Joseph O'Connell

Summary of Case: Born in 1938 in Lisheen, Ireland, O'Connell emigrated to St. Louis, MO in 1959 to attend college seminary. He had been rejected by 36 dioceses and religious orders before being accepted by St. Louis. O'Connell was assigned to St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary in Hannibal, MO, where he was a teacher, spiritual director, dean of students and, for 18 years, Rector. O'Connell was also the diocesan Vocations Director for years, and was a member of the Priests' Senate and Personnel Board.

In 1991 a diocesan youth minister told Jefferson City Bishop McAulliffe that boys were disclosing to her that they were being sexually abused by O'Connell and other priests of the diocese. The youth minister was fired. In 1994 a young man told Kansas City bishop Boland that O'Connell had molested him as a boy St. Thomas. Boland is said to have responded, "We like to keep these things quiet". The accuser soon started to receive secret monthly payments from O'Connell. The Jefferson City diocese settled with one accuser in a "secret agreement" in 1996. This man went public with his accusation in March 2002. O'Connell acknowledged the abuse and resigned a few days later. By 2004 at least nine former St. Thomas seminary students had come forward alleging sexual abuse by O'Connell. Some of the men said they suspected there were dozens of others. Some said the abuse that began while they were boys at St. Thomas, between the 1960s and 1980s, continued into their early adulthoods, including while O'Connell was a bishop.

In June 1988 O'Connell was appointed first bishop of Knoxville, TN. In Nov. 1998 he was appointed bishop of Palm Beach, FL, replacing Bishop Symons, who resigned after admitting to molesting boys. After his 2002 resignation, O'Connell went to live at a Trappist Monastery in South Carolina. He is said to have been free to travel to and from his native Ireland. O'Connell died May 4, 2012.

: March 30,1963
Ordained Bishop: Sept. 8, 1988
Died: May 4, 2012

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Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State Position Notes


Jefferson City bishop was Joseph Mary Marling, C.PP.S (1956-1969), followed by Michael Francis McAuliffe (1969-1997)

1988 St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary


In an April 2002 lawsuit, a former St. Thomas student accused O'Connell of having sexually abused him at the seminary beginning in 1968, when the accuser was 15 years old, and continuing for years. O'Connell was the boy's spiritual advisor.

In March 2002 a man publicly accused O'Connell of having sexually abused him when he was a St. Thomas student in the 1970s, and O'Connell was Rector. The man said he went to O'Connell when he was a ninth-grader for counseling about sexual abuse he had suffered by another priest. He said O'Connell proceeded to sexually abuse him, and that the abuse continued through 12th grade.

Two more former St. Thomas students came forward in the Spring of 2002 with accusations that O'Connell had sexually abused them during their time at the high school seminary.

In 1991 a youth minister in the Jefferson City diocese alerted diocesan officials that youth were confiding to her that they had been sexually abused by some priests of the diocese. O'Connell and two other priests at St. Thomas Aquinas were named as perpetrators.

By 2004 at least nine men had accused O'Connell of sexually abusing them when they were boys. Some of them said the abuse started when they were teenagers and continued into their adult years, including while O'Connell was a bishop. They described O'Connell as "a witty, entertaining and commanding man", with a dominating personality.

In 2004, five of the men who alleged they were sexually abused by O'Connell as St. Thomas students wrote letters to other former students encouraging them to come forward with their own stories of abuse or eyewitness accounts of others' abuse at the seminary. One of the men said he had personally spoken with ten victims of O'Connell. The men said they suspected there were dozens of O'Connell victims, still suffering in silence.

MO Teacher; Spiritual Director; Dean of Students; Rector 1970-1988

This was a high school seminary with 91-40 students.


O'Connell's accusers said O'Connell would have them tell him their sexual fantasies during individual counseling sessions, and to write them down in detail so he could read them. O'Connell's accusers said the sessions lead to "more serious sexual situations."
















The former youth minister said in 2004 that she was concerned that the seminary "was a melting pot that led to abuse and abusers coming out of there."

St. Thomas closed in May 2002.

1969 1988 Diocesan Vocations Director Jefferson City MO    
1970 1988 Diocesan Personnel Board Jefferson City MO    
Priests' Senate Jefferson City MO   O'Connell was appointed Bishop of Knoxville June 7, 1988, and installed Sept. 8, 1988.


Anthony Joseph O'Connell was Knoxville bishop (1988-1998)

1998   Knoxville TN Bishop

O'Connell was appointed Bishop of Palm Beach Nov. 6, 1998. He replaced Bishop Symons, who resigned afer admitting he had molested five boys.

In 1991, a few months after she brought her concerns to diocesan officials that kids were being abused by diocesan priests, including O'Connell, the Jefferson City youth minister was fired. Jefferson City bishop at the time was Michael F. McAuliffe.

One of O'Connell's accusers said that in 1994 he told Kansas City bishop Raymond J. Boland about the abuse, and Boland 's response was "We like to keep these things quiet." O'Connell's accuser said that he soon started to receive monthly payments from O'Connell. Other accusers quietly received payments from O'Connell as well.

O'Connell's March 2002 accuser received a settlement from the Jefferson City diocese in 1996, in a "secret agreement". O'Connell was one of three priests who had been accused by the former St. Thomas student.


Anthony Joseph O'Connell was Palm Beach bishop (1998-2002)

2002   Palm Beach FL Bishop O'Connell resigned as Palm Beach bishop March 8, 2002, after admitting to having sexually abused a former high school seminary student in the 1970s. O'Connell stated at the time of his resignation that "there may be one other person of a somewhat similar situation."
2002 2012 Mepkin Abbey Moncks Corner SC  

Three days after his resignation, O'Connell went to live "a life of seclusion and prayerful penance" at Mepkin Abbey. He is said to have traveled frequently to Ireland, his native country.

O'Connell died May 4, 2012


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1964-2003)

Ex-seminarian's charges lead to removal of priest, By Dawn Fallik, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 8, 2002
Bishop quits, admits abuse, Palm Beach leader details '70s sex case, By Amy Driscoll, Miami Herald, March 9, 2002
Forgive me Father, but it is you who sinned, By Mary Jo Malone, St. Petersburg Times, March 12, 2002
Worker's Warnings on Priests LED to Her Firing, By Stephen Kurkjian, Boston Globe, April 5, 2002
Suit Says Bishop in KC Knew of Abuse, Catholic Clergy Accused of Cover-Up, By Matt Stearns and Judy L. Thomas, Kansas City Star [Kansas & Missouri], April 19, 2002
Turbulent Year for Diocese, Church, By Mary McLachlin, March 9, 2003
Editorial: Problem Priests, Out of the 16th Century, St. Louis Post-Dispatch [St. Louis MO], April 3, 2003
Abuse Lawsuit Dismissed against Former Palm Beach Bishop [Two Other Suits Allowed to Go Forward], By Peter Franceschina , Sun-Sentinel [Palm Beach FL], April 21, 2003
Religion in the News, By Jill Barton, Associated Press, carried in Times Daily [Florida], Downloaded July 18, 2003
Place of Honor for a Pedophile, By Dan Moffett, Palm Beach Post, January 11, 2004
Six Abuse Cases Reported by Palm Beach Diocese, By Elizabeth Clarke, Palm Beach Post, February 28, 2004
Former Seminarians Want Alma Mater Investigated, Faculty Accused of Sexual Abuse, By Dennis Coday , National Catholic Reporter, May 14, 2004
Accuser Decries Bishop's 'Plantation' Life, By John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post, May 17, 2004
Palm Beach Post Series, Palm Beach Post Editorial, May 21, 2004
Ex-Palm Beach Diocese Bishop Settles Two Lawsuits, By Sonja Isger, Palm Beach Post [Florida], July 29, 2004
Former Students Describe Pattern of Abuse at Missouri Seminary, Associated Press, carried in Kansas City Star [Missouri], November 14, 2004
Secrets, Sins and Silence, By Phillip O'Connor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch [Hannibal MO], November 13, 2004
Seminary Students Told Counselor of Abuse, By Phillip O'Connor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Missouri), November 15, 2004
Series: Secrets, Sins and Silence the Untold Story of Sexual Abuse at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Third of a 3-Part Series, By Phillip O'Connor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2004
Clergy Abuse Victims Seek Treatment Center of Their Own, Associated Press, carried in Belleville News-Democrat, October 24, 2006
Knoxville's Most Wanted, Metro Pulse [Knoxville TN], November 16, 2006
Three Mark Anniversary of Bishop's Resignation, By Jeff Haldiman, News Tribune [Jefferson City MO], March 9, 2007
" International Traffic in Catholic Priests Who Abuse", By Richard Sipe and K.K. Murray, SNAP [United States], April 17, 2007 list of U.S. Bishops Accused of Abuse, April 14, 2008
Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops, By Brian Ross and Rhonda Schwartz, ABC News, April 15, 2008
'Irish Tragedy' Investigates Abuse by Priests, By Susan Hogan/Albach, Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 12, 2008
A Cancer That Spread to the West, By Donal Lynch, Irish Independent, February 1, 2009
Following the Trail of Sexual Abuse in the Us..., Tribune, February 7, 2010
An Irish (catholic) Tragedy, By Matt C. Abbott, Renew America, February 17, 2010
Advocacy Group Marks Date of Seminary Closing, News Tribune, May 8, 2012
Bishop Anthony Joseph O'Connell, The Catholic-Hierarchy, May 9, 2012
Former Missouri Priest and Bishop Who Resigned in a Sex Abuse Scandal Is Dead, By Deb Peterson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 9, 2012
Come to the Stable, The Stephen Spalding Foundation

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates O'Connell's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on July 17, 2012