Come to the Stable

The Stephen Spalding Foundation

Anthony J. O'Connell

The bedrock of Come to the Stable/The
Stephen Spalding Foundation is one of
memory, sorrow, and pain.  Consequently,
the Foundation intends to rectify to some
degree the damage that pedophiles like
Anthony J. O’Connell, have caused by
creating a safe harbor, a secret garden,
if you will, for survivor/victims and their
loved ones to enjoy. 
The pedophile who
is a religious figure inflicts deep and
enduring pain with long-term harm
comparable to the trauma of incest.


Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell (right)

10 May 1938 - 4 May 2012


Such is the case of the Most Rev. Anthony J. O’Connell, who resigned as bishop of Palm Beach , Florida, on 8 March 2002, after admitting that he had molested boys at St. Thomas Seminary in Hannibal, Missouri, where he served as rector for more than two decades. 


O’Connell was assigned to Palm Beach (1998-2002) a decade after he established the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was bishop for 10 years (1988-1998).  In Knoxville he hosted weekend sleep-over parties for boys at his residence called Bunkin’ with the Bish.  Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation has learned that O’Connell molested on minor during his tenure there.


Bishop O’Connell is known to have molested at
least 30-50 students in his care at St. Thomas
Aquinas Seminary during his 25-year tenure as
a faculty member and rector of the college
prep school (1964-1988).  The Foundation has
documented the cases of 14 O’Connell survivor/
victims.  We continue to investigate the seven
additional cases, information provided by family
members and loved ones.


Stephen Spalding (1953-1982) is the first known
O’Connell victim.  Stephen’s mother reported the
crime to the Diocese of Jefferson City in 1968.  
Stephen, who died in his late 20’s, is one of three
known victims from the graduating class of 1971.


St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary (right), Hannibal, Mo.


With dignity and great courage, St. Thomas graduate Christopher Dixon exposed O’Connell’s crimes in 2002.  Christopher joined the St. Thomas faculty following his ordination for the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo. 


Likewise, Matthew Cosby, who is a member of our Board of Advisors - along
with Michael Wegs - stepped forward with courage and equanimity to disclose O'Connell's actions against students in his care.  Matthew is a member of the
St. Thomas Class of 1986. 


The extent of O'Connell's transgressions in Matthew's
case have been documented by
Time Magazine
O'Connell, in fact, induced another St. Thomas alumnus 
Father Brian Driscoll, a member of Matthew's class,
no less to obstruct justice by playing the role of
bagman.  Driscoll, who is O'Connell's protégé and
confidante, succeeded his patron as vocation director
and chief fundraiser for the Diocese of Jefferson City.


Father Brian Driscoll (right).

As Time notes, O'Connell and Driscoll agreed to meet
Matthew anywhere in the United States in order to deliver
a cash payment in exchange for silence:


"[Matthew] was so upset, in fact, that he called O'Connell on March 9 [2002] to confront him.  O'Connell was depressed. Still, [Matthew] says it was obvious that O'Connell, in the conversation, "was trying to control me."  That was evident in
e-mail and phone messages O'Connell left for [Matthew]  over the past two weeks.
In the e-mails, copies of which Time has obtained, O'Connell says, remarkably, 
"I am praying and fasting for you."


The following day, according to Time, O'Connell adds:

"I surely want to seek healing for you and from you."


In response to [Matthew's] demand for a face-to-face meeting, an apology for him and his parents, assistance in finding further therapy, financial assistance to pay for it and financial restitution for the abuse, O'Connell writes:


"I will do some consulting as to how best to do what you ask. In the meantime, for whatever it may be worth, I am offering part of this pain so that it can be redemptive in some way for yourself."


But by this time, [Matthew]  was moving away from reconciliation and toward litigation and O'Connell
could sense it. In a panic, he left three phone messages
last Monday [4 March 2002], the last one not so subtly
urging [Matthew]  not to go public."

As rector of the high school seminary, O’Connell
knowingly employed pedophile priests, including
ordained alumni, who were his former students. 
O’Connell also recruited known pedophile priests
from Ireland to teach at St. Thomas.  Bishop
Michael F. McAuliffe (1969-1997) was well-aware
of these matters and protected O'Connell and Daly,
as well as many other predators employed by
his diocese.


O’Connell, for example, brought the Rev. Manus P. Daly  to St. Thomas to serve as dean of students at Father Daly, who taught at St. Thomas for more than30 years, succeeded O’Connell as rector upon his promotion as the first bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee.  O'Connell was instrumental in rewarding Daly with the tiltle of monsigner.


John R. Gaydos (above, right), bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., continues to protect O'Connell and other pedophile priests working for his denomination
in Mid-Missouri.


Daly was forced to resign as rector in 1995.  He then was transferred to a small Catholic parish in Marceline, Mo., the birthplace of Walt Disney.  In 2002, Daly "retired" to his home in County Donegal, Ireland, rather than undergo therapy or admit responsibility for his actions.  Daly remains a priest with full faculties and privileges.


Father James P. McNally (Class of 1972) and Father Gary Pool (Class of 1973) and two ordained alumni that O’Connell employed at St. Thomas and who have been identified publicly by students in their care who became their victims.


David Bange was molested at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary by O’Connell protégé, McNally.  McNally graduated in 1972 and was ordained in 1980.  David
lives in Jefferson City, where he is married and has
a child. 


Pool’s victim remains identified only as John Doe.


O’Connell allowed known pedophiles to serve on the
diocese’s vocation committee.  The six-member
committee included the Rev. John H. Fischer and
the Rev. John Whiteley, who worked as St. Thomas recruiters throughout O’Connell’s tenure.  Whiteley is a former faculty member.  Fischer molested Christopher Dixon when he was 11 years old. Whiteley molested David Clohessy, among others, during his tenure as associate pastor at St. Pius X Catholic Church, Moberly, Mo.  Clohessy is the executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).   Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation has been contacted by four other Whiteley victims who were elementary school students at St. Pius X.  In addition, O’Connell was a k
ey member of the Jefferson City diocese’s "Priest Personnel Board" during the last 16 years of his tenure as rector of St. Thomas (1972-1988).


The Rev. James P. McNally molested David Bange (above, right) at St. Thomas. An O'Connell protégé, McNally graduated in 1972; was ordained in 1980; and then assisgned to the seminary faculty. McNally succeeded O'Connell as director of vocations the diocese and dean of students when O'Connell was named the bishop of Knoxville, Tenn. Today, Bange lives in Jefferson City, where he is married and has a child. On the wall of his home are a Greek icon and a Greek cross, wedding presents from two of the seven priests who attended his marriage ceremony. David did not want his face photographed.


He drafted known serial predators to serve as board members such as John H. Fischer and the Rev. Donald L. Wallace and St. Thomas students who continue to remain loyal to him: Msgr. Michael Wilbers (Class of 1964), who today is episcopal vicar for the diocese. 


In particular, he helped protect Father Hugh Behan, an Irish priest who was editor of the diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Missourian.  Behan was dismissed from the priesthood after allegations that he had molested a young girl in Missouri.   As bishop of Palm Beach, O'Connell helped Behan secure work as a greeter at Walt Disney World, following his dismissal from the Jefferson City diocese.   The girl's parents, according to media reports, discovered Behan
in his new job during their vacation at the Orlando
Fla., theme park.


O’Connell was protected by his bishop, Michael F. McAuliffe and his successor, John R. Gaydos.  They kept secret all information about O'Connell's past when he was vetted for positions of higher authority within the Church.


As bishop of Jefferson City, Michael F. McAuliffe (above, right, in wheel chair) protected O'Connell for more than 30 years.  McAuliffe celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination
in 2005 with a Mass as the Little Sisters of Poor retirement faciltiy in Kansas City, Mo. Gaydos (second from the left), who succeeded McAuliffe, joined the bishops of Kansas City, Raymond Boland and Robert W. Finn, to mark the event.  McAuliffe died 10 January 2006; Finn has been indicted by the grand jury and will stand trial on corruption charges in September 2012.  Finn and Michael Wegs were students at Kenrick Seminary, St. Louis, in the late 1970's.

O’Connell was promoted to bishop of Knoxville and Palm Beach by his close friend Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston.


As bishop of Springfield, Missouri, Law sent his high school seminarians to St. Thomas for a rigorous college prep  education.  O’Connell, in turn, recommended the Pontifical College Josephinum to St. Thomas students interested in pursuing college and theology studies for  the priesthood.

Law was instrumental in O’Connell’s appointments
as bishop of Knoxville and Palm Beach due to his
position as one of seven members of the Vatican
Congregation of Bishops. This Roman Curia
committee oversees the selection of new worldwide,
pending papal approval. It also schedules the papal
audiences for bishops.


In addition to the Congregation of Bishops, Law is a
member of the Congregations of Oriental Churches,
Clergy, Divine Worship and Discipline of the 
Evangelization of Peoples, Institutes of Consecrated Life
and Societies of Apostolic Life, Catholic Education, Bishops as well as the Pontifical Council for the Family.  This is a large number of organizations for any cardinal to be involved in and is partly due to residing in Rome. Law retired in 2011 as archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.


Bernard Francis Cardinal Law (above, right), former archbishop of Boston, Mass., was O'Connell's friend and patron. Protected by the Vatican, Law today lives in Rome where here received a prestige assignment as archpriest at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Law retired in 2011.


He and O’Connell remained close friends throughout their final days together.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, labeled the actions of Bishop Gaydos and Bishop McAuliffe 
and the promotion of O'Connell "a travesty."


Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation

The goal of the foundation is to acquire property comparable with those retreats, estates, and institutions that take in pedophile priests today.  For example, the admitted pedophile and former bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee (1988-1998), and Palm Beach, Florida (1998-2002), O’Connell, now resides on 3,200-acre plantation, a few miles north of Charleston, South Carolina.  The Colonial-era property, now known as Mepkin Abbey, was the winter of home of Henry Luce (founder of Time magazine) and his wife, Claire Boothe Luce (diplomat and playwright), who left the estate to a religious order. They are buried on the grounds.


Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, on 23 April 2002, rebuked the American hierarchy for the sex abuse scandal enveloping the Catholic Church in the United States. He was emphatic when he stated:


"The Church, Herself, is viewed with distrust. . . .  The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society. . . .  It is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern.  People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young."

Clearly, a reprimand of biblical proportion is required, based on the following passage:

"I assure you, unless you change, and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.  Whoever makes himself lowly, becoming like [a] child, is of greatest important in that heavenly reign.

"Whoever welcomes one such child for my sake welcomes me.  On the other hand,
it would be better for anyone who leads astray one of these little ones who believes in me, to be drowned with a millstone around his neck in the depths of the sea.  What terrible things will come on the world through such scandal!. . . .   See that you never despise one of these little ones. I assure you, that their angels in heaven constantly behold my heavenly Father’s face." (Matthew 18:2-10)


Pope Benedict XVI

During his Good Friday homily in March 2005,
Benedict XVI expressed his horror at the priest
pedophile scandal.


"How much filth there is in the church, and even among
those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely
to God."  He later likened the church to "a boat about
to sink, taking in water on every side."


Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation
hopes you will support our campaign to create a refuge
for survivor/victims that meets the specifications of the
homes available to members of the clergy the Roman
Catholic Church and other religious denominations. 
Your support is appreciated.


William F. Buckley: The Writhings of Bishop O’Connell . . .

Donna Cox: A Woman of Courage. . .

Where a Fallen Bishop Goes . . .

Bishop O'Connell's Plantation Lifestyle . . .

Why Ex-Bishop Is Free . . .

See also . . . .

The Rise and Fall of St. Thomas . . .

"Debriding" Victims of Sexual Abuse . . .

Five Dioceses Agreed to Help One Sexual Abuse Victim . . .

The Tree of Life . . .

Please Help Us with Your Contribution . . . .