Remember the

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - Tennessee




Composite list of links on Anthony J. O'Connell.  Click here.  

2019 update:  Re-branding of the diocese.  This is a picture that is in the necrology of priests at the back of the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville.  it was in the notebook of deceased priests as late as last summer.  In January 2019, it was found in the drawer underneath the necrology.  Click here to see how the diocese of Knoxville continues to minimize the crimes of O'Connell.  How many boys did he molest in Knoxville?  

Anthony J. O'Connell assignment record.  

Early press on the resignation of O'Connell

Bishop Caught Up in Scandal Is Recalled as an Ideal Cleric.  Sam Dillon of the New York Times - March 2002  Click here

Bishop quits, admits abuse Palm Beach leader details '70s sex case. Amy Driscoll, Miami Herald. March 9, 2002 Click here,

Where a fallen bishop goes to heal. John Lantigua  April 18, 2004  Click here.

Basic information on Anthony J. O'Connell from  Click here.

From Florida at installation of O'Connell - The O'Connell clan is coming with new bishop.  Marian Dozier January 9, 1999  Click here.

Ex-seminarian's charges lead to removal of priest  - Dawn Fallik - St. Louis Post Dispatch March 8, 2002  Click here.

Suit Says Bishop in KC Knew of Abuse / cover-up  Kansas City Star April 19, 2002   Matt Stearns and Judy L. Thomas Click here.  

Editorial: Problem Priests - Out of the 16th Century  St. Louis Post Dispatch April 4, 2003  Click here.  

Religion in the News -Times Daily By Jill Barton Associated Press July 18, 2003   Click here.  
Six Abuse Cases Reported by Palm Beach Diocese - Palm Beach Post February 28, 2004 Click here.  

Accuser Decries Bishop's 'Plantation' Life - John Lantigua Palm Beach Post May 17, .2004.  Click here.

Ex-Palm Beach Diocese Bishop Settles Two Lawsuits - Palm Beach Post July 29, 2004.  Click here.  

Former Students Describe Pattern of Abuse at Missouri Seminary - Kansas City Star November 14, 2004.  Click here.

Knoxville's Most Wanted - Metro-Pulse November 16, 2006.  Click here.  

Bishop who resigned because of sex abuse dies  May 11, 2012   Click here.  

Anthony J. O'Connell's victims speak

Click here to read the first of a three-part series exposing what O'Connell's victims have tried to tell us for so long.  Read the very thorough investigative reporting of Phillip O'Connor in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Secrets, sins and silence - 11/14/04
Coming to terms, confronting the church - 11/15/04
Woman told of allegations by students at seminary - 11/15/04
Dad is haunted by family friend's abuse of son - 11/15/04
As scandal breaks, the search for truth begins - 11/16/04

Composite chart on O'Connell

1963  Ordained

1963-88J  efferson City MO priest, seminary teacher, and rector

1988-98  Knoxville TN bishop

1998-2002  Palm Beach FL bishop

2002  Admits abuse and resigns

2002- 2012  Palm Beach FL emeritus

05/2012  Dies
Accused in 2002 of sexually abusing a student from 9th through 12th grade at St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary in Hannibal, where O'Connell was rector.

Complainant had gone to O'Connell because of prior abuse by another priest. O'Connell admitted the abuse and another similar case and resigned.

Others came forward, totaling 9 by 2004, when 2 of 3 cases were settled.

O'Connell moved to the Trappists' Mepkin Abbey near Moncks Corner SC.

Beginnings of SNAP's work in Tennessee

The mismatch between what was true and what was being allowed to become the story of the diocese about Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell was the genesis of SNAP of Tennessee.  

"When I saw the disconnect between what was revealed at O'Connell's resignation and what was allowed to become the narrative believed by the people in the pews of the diocese of Knoxville, I knew there was a cover-up," says Susan Vance, SNAP of Tennessee's founder.  "I started SNAP of Tennessee because of the incongruous behavior of Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz, his vicar general Xavier Mankel, and his Chancellor and communications director, Father (now bishop) James "Vann" Johnston.  

It started at the grassroots level

Vance asked at a parish meeting that the name of O 'Connell be taken down from the St. Mary's new building dedicated to O'Connell, the Bishop O'Connell Family Life Center.  There was immediate outcry.  There were statements of "He was such a good man. Can't we just forget this?"  Other such inane statements were heard throughout the next months including the statement that many believed that O'Connell really did not molest.  They said that he just said he molested so he wouldn't embarrass the men who had brought the allegations.  Such ingrained resistance to the truth was heard in all corners of the diocese of Knoxville.  Without the initiative of Bishop Kurtz to stop this freight train from going any further down the wrong track, these lies became the narrative believed by the people and heard by our children.  Any victim of O'Connell while he was bishop of Knoxville would have been silenced by this tidal wave of adults who believed the lies.

No response is a red flag

The meeting at St. Mary's Oak Ridge at which Vance had requested the removal of the name of O'Connell was in late March or early April.  Nothing had been done by December 13. 2002 when Cardinal Law resigned.  Vance faxed the local media about the name of a pedophile still on the building in Oak Ridge and that they could tie that story to the resignation of O'Connell's friend, Cardinal Bernard Law.  Thus began the public debate in the media and elsewhere about removing the name.

Bishop Joseph Kurtz would not make a public statement or take a definitive stand on the issue.  His silence spoke volumes about what the diocese was going for - a re-Oconnellization of the diocese where O'Connell would be turned from sinner-to-saint or "good man just misunderstood." 

"I decided that I had to find out what was going on to make the bishop and the priests have such a strange and incomprehensible response to a pedophile," says Vance.  "It could not have been an accident.  It had to be orchestrated and carried out masterfully by Bishop Kurtz, Father Xavier Mankel, and Father James "Vann" Johnston."  

It was Kurtz/Mankel/Johnston ambivalence and impotence in this matter that led to the formation of SNAP.  It was their crime of silence that hurt all the victims of O'Connell who were molested by him in Knoxville while he was bishop.  An entire millennial generation is owed an apology from every adult who let this happen, not just Kurtz/Mankel/Johnston but all of the adults who let these men cloud their minds with absurd ideas about the actions of pedophile, Anthony J. O'Connell. 

Good intentioned people led astray

All you have to do is read the story below about the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women celebrating O'Connell's 40th anniversary as a priest in March 2003 to realize the depths that Kurtz/Mankel/Johnston and all the priests allowed the diocese to sink.  

In March 2003, the Knoxville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women had an insert in all church bulletins across the diocese of Knoxville calling for a celebration of the 40th year anniversary of Bishop Anthony O'Connell as a priest.  This was one year after O'Connell resigned in Palm Beach, Florida, admitting the abuse of boys.  The actions of the DCCW shows just how poorly the people of the Diocese of Knoxville were instructed on the actions of O'Connell.  A global pall of stupidity was put over the entire Diocese by the 2nd bishop of Knoxville, Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz, his vicar general Father Xavier Mankel, and his chancellor Father James "Vann" Johnston. There was no intention of Kurtz/Mankel/Johnston to tell the truth to the people and stop the lies about O'Connell from becoming the story believed by the Catholics. This remains so under the direction of the 3rd bishop of Knoxville, Bishop Richard F. Stika.  Stika used O'Connells name twice in his remarks at the 2018 dedication of the new Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville.  Stika also allowed the Purgatorial Society to have the following insert in the book of deceased priests of the Diocese of Knoxville.  The Purgatorial Society page can also be found here.  

First Meeting with Bishop Kurtz which began the Journey of SNAP in Tennessee

  • SNAP leaders met with Bishop Kurtz in March 2003. Click here to read the letter sent prior to the meeting with the bishop.
  • David Clohessy also sent a letter to Bishop Kurtz as a preparation for the March 2003 meeting with Bishop Kurtz. Click here to read David's letter.
  • We have tried to get the images of Anthony O'Connell off of walls in churches and schools in the diocese of Knoxville.  The diocese has remained insensitive to the requests of victims to do so.  Here is the first correspondence that we had on the issue. 

    David Clohessy requests that the images of first bishop and admitted child molester, Anthony J. Connell be removed. Click here to read the letter sent Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz

    Bishop Kurtz responded that the images of O'Connell will stay up on walls of churches, schools, youth ministry offices, chauncery buildings, etc. Click here to read Bishop Kurtz's response to David Clohessy.

    The story of Knoxville's obstinacy in keeping the images of O'Connell on the walls, etc. gained national attention in the National Catholic Reporter in May 2006.   

    Christopher Dixon wrote a letter to the Knoxville News Sentinel to express the viewpoint of a victim/survivor of Anthony J. O'Connell on having pictures/portraits/busts, etc. allowed to remain on display in the Diocese of Knoxville.  His letter was printed on May 1, 2004.  (By the way, there are no images of Anthony J. O'Connell on display in the diocese of West Palm Beach according to the director of communications for that diocese.)  Click here to read Chris's letter.  (I have lost the link here but will get it back from the archives of the Knoxville News Sentinel.)  

    Christopher Dixon was a priest who was abused by O'Connell while he was at St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary.  He reported this to the Diocese of Jefferson City, MO, in late 1994.  A settlement was made in 1995 where Dixon was given $125,000 and signed a decree silencing both himself and the Diocese of Jefferson City, MO.  The bishop of Jefferson City at the time Bishop Michael McAuliffe who failed to report O'Connell to the police.  How many boys were molested by O'Connell during this time in Knoxville?  O'Connell's tenure in Knoxville as bishop continued until 1998 when he received a promotion to Bishop of Palm Beach, Florida.   Here are some points to look at when thinking about how our children were not protected by the church:
    1.  Dixon reported in 1994/95 when O'Connell was a sitting bishop of Knoxville.  If he had been reported to the proper authorities he would have been removed as bishop of Knoxville and boys in Knoxville and Palm Beach, FL, would not have been in danger from O'Connell.  
    2.  Who knew about Dixon's allegations against O'Connell?  Bishop Michael McAuliffe of the diocese of Jefferson City, MO.  He was an old friend of O'Connell.  He attended the installation of O'Connell as bishop of Knoxville (The images was found on Page 40 of the East Tennessee Catholic diocesan newspaper for September 8, 1998).  Bishop McAuliffe also was at the 10th anniversary celebration of the diocese of Knoxville in 1998 after he knew of the allegation against O'Connell and the silencing of Chris Dixon.  Children were left unprotected by the church.  
    3.  Who was Bishop McAuliffe's superior (the prelate who was above McAuliffe on the organizational chart of the church)?  Archbishop Justin Rigali of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO.  
    4.  Who was with Archbishop Rigali when the allegation was brought to the diocese of Jefferson City?  Father Richard F. Stika, personal secretary to Rigali, master of ceremonies for the cathedral and Chancellor of the archdiocese of St. Louis.
    5.  Does it make sense that McAuliffe would have told his immediate superior about the allegation against O'Connell since it was an inflammatory situation - a current bishop being accused of molestation of an under-aged teen?  In other words, would McAuliffe have told Rigali as a definite CYA measure?  The answer is ______.  

    Letter sent to Bishop Kurtz on 5th anniversary of the resignation of Bishop O'Connell

    The people of East Tennessee are still being duped by the diocese of Knoxville.  Lies about Bishop Anthony O'Connell are pervasive and allowed to fester on purpose by the diocese.  They do not really want the people to know the truth. They still allow pictures of Anthony O'Connell to remain in places of prominence.  This is a travesty and a slap in the face of victims.   Here is the letter.    Information links.  Click here.

    MAY 6, 2004 -- Alleged abuse victims ask Alumni to seek help 

    The Associated Press is reporting on the nationawide push to get victims of Anthony J. O'Connell to come forward and get help.  Click here to read the article.
    Another link to the article

    Press release from five of O'Connell's victims 

    Press Release from May 6, 2004, by five former seminarians abused by O'Connell can be found here.


    Click here to view the letter that was sent out by five victims of Anthony J. Connell on May 6, 2004.  Click here for letter in Word format.  Click here for webpage version of letter.

    MAY 1, 2004  - Chris Dixon writes the Knoxville News Sentinel 

    Christopher Dixon wrote a letter to the editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel on May 1, 2004.  He expressed his feelings on the keeping of the pictures of O'Connell on the walls of churches and schools in the diocese.  (I will look into the archives of the Knoxville News Sentinel to retrieve that letter.) 


    John Lantigua, Staff writer for the Palm Beach Post, went to Mepkin Abbey after finding out that Anthony J. O'Connell has been there since a few days after resigning as bishop of Palm Beach on March 8, 2002.  O'Connell admitted molesting teenaged seminarians.  Click here for the article.  Click here for webpage version of article.


    The following information is written by Mike Wegs, a victim/survivor of Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell. 

    Here is an introduction to Mike in his own words:
    "I was affiliated with the Diocese of Jefferson City for more than 10 years (1967-1979):  one-fifth of the history of this Church in Missouri.  In addition, I want to state publicly that the allegations of sexual misconduct that I brought in a John Doe lawsuit against Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell are valid (Doe v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, et al., CV302-142CC).  Marion County Court Judge David Dardin ruled in my case: churches can be held to the same standard as any other entity that is in the position of caring for children."

    Here are links to information.  Please know that some of this information is disturbing so read this with that fact in mind. 

    Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell and St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church  . . . Read the letter that Mike wrote for publication in one of the local newspapers.  Neither the secular nor the diocesan papers would print this letter. 

    Open letter to Bishop Joseph E. Kurtz of the Diocese of Knoxville from Mike Wegs and Timothy Link, another victim/survivor of O'Connell. . . Neither the secular nor the diocesan papers would print this letter. 

    Letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory requesting the removal of Cardinal Law of Boston.  Written by Mike Wegs.

    The Sound of Rachel Weeping by Mike Wegs.  A gripping account of victim's pain and the corruption that causes it.