Anthony O'Connell

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Most Reverend

Anthony Joseph O'Connell
Bishop Emeritus of Palm Beach
DiocesePalm Beach
InstalledJanuary 14, 1999
Term endedMarch 13, 2002
PredecessorJoseph Keith Symons
SuccessorSeán Patrick O'Malley
Other postsBishop of Knoxville
OrdinationMarch 30, 1963 (Priest)
ConsecrationSeptember 8, 1988 (Bishop)
Personal details
Born(1938-05-10)May 10, 1938
Lisheen, County Clare, Ireland
DiedMay 4, 2012(2012-05-04) (aged 73)
Mepkin Abbey, Moncks Corner, South Carolina, U.S.
DenominationRoman Catholicism

Anthony J. O'Connell (May 10, 1938 – May 4, 2012) was a confessed child molestor who served as a Roman Catholic cleric, and the first Bishop of Knoxville, Tennessee. He later served as the third Bishop of Palm Beach, Florida.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

O'Connell was born in Lisheen, County Clare, Ireland[1] and studied at Mount St Joseph College in Cork and at Mungret College in Limerick. He emigrated to the U.S. at age 20 and entered Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.


On March 30, 1963, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri.[1][2][3] Following his ordination, he was assigned as Director of Students at St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary in Hannibal, Missouri. He was named Spiritual Director in 1968 and was appointed Rector in 1970.

He served as Director of Vocations for the Diocese of Jefferson City from 1969 to 1988, during which time he molested a number of minor boys. He was a member of the Diocesan Commission for Personnel and President of the Priests' Senate. He was serving as Rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary when he was appointed first Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Knoxville on June 7, 1988, despite knowledge by Diocesan officials that he had molested minor boys at the Seminary.[1][2]

On September 8, 1988, O'Connell was consecrated and installed as the first bishop of Knoxville. Archbishop Pio Laghi served as Principal Consecrator with Bishop James Daniel Niedergeses and Bishop Michael Francis McAuliffe serving as principal co-consecrators. On November 12, 1998, he was appointed the third Bishop of Palm Beach,[1][3] replacing J. Keith Symons, who resigned after being exposed as a child molestor.

Exposure of misconduct[edit]

O'Connell admitted in 2002 that he had molested at least two students of St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary during his 25-year career there.[4]

Stephen Spalding (1953–1982) was the first known O'Connell victim, and became one of three alleged victims from the graduating class of 1971. Spalding's mother reported the crime to the Diocese of Jefferson City in 1968. A Jefferson City priest, Fr. Christopher Dixon, an alumnus and faculty member of St. Thomas, revealed O'Connell's crimes in 2002.[citation needed]

Likewise, four former students, including two identified in media reports as "John C. C. Doe" and "Alexander" have stepped forward to make allegations in regard to O'Connell's actions against students in his charge.[5][6]

The extent of O'Connell's transgressions in one student's case was documented by Time magazine.[7]

O'Connell offered his resignation as Bishop of Palm Beach on March 8, 2002 and his resignation was accepted by Pope John Paul II on March 13, 2002.[1][3]


O'Connell died on May 4, 2012, six days before his 74th birthday, at Mepkin Abbey, Moncks Corner, South Carolina, where he had been living under supervision since his 2002 resignation, following a long illness. His funeral Mass was Monday, May 7, 2012, at Mepkin Abbey.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Bishop Anthony Joseph O'Connell. Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved on April 17, 2010.[self-published source]
  2. ^ a b c Diocese of Knoxville. GCatholic. Retrieved on 17 April 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Diocese of Palm Beach. GCatholic. Retrieved on 17 April 2010.
  4. ^ Ross, Brian; Schwartz, Rhonsa; Schecter, Anna (15 April 2008). "Victims: Pope Benedict Protects Accused Pedophile Bishops". ABC News. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  5. ^ "John CC Doe vs. Most Reverend Anthony J. O'Connell, Most Reverend John Raymond Gaydos, Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2011-07-15.
  6. ^ "Accuser Decries Bishop’s 'Plantation’ Life," by John Lantigua, Palm Beach Post, Sunday, 17 May 2004
  7. ^ Padgett, Tim; Morrissey, Siobhan (22 March 2002). "A Catholic Student's Story". Time. Archived from the original on 28 October 2004. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
  8. ^ "Bishop who resigned Palm Beach post over sex abuse dead at 73". Catholic News Service. 8 May 2012.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Inaugural appointment
Bishop of Knoxville
Succeeded by
Joseph Edward Kurtz
Preceded by
Joseph Keith Symons
Bishop of Palm Beach
Succeeded by
Seán Patrick O'Malley