The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Childproof 4: Renewed Demand for an Investigation of St.Thomas Seminary Sexual Abuse Scandal



 
Page 4

 

Dear Bishop Gaydos:

Rev. Manus P. Daly, 1982
Yesterday the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issues its 2010 self-audit regarding the sexual molestation
of children by priests
.  The crimes tabulated in the new report, for the most part, are from the same bishops who have concealed who have concealed these crimes for more than a decade. 

In light of these facts, we renew
our earlier request for a full
investigation of OConnell and
the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary
(STAS) tragedy.

The data are inherently suspect.  Consequently, we can either
be reckless, assuming that clergy sex crimes are somehow
magically being reduced, or we can be prudent, assuming that
clergy sex crimes are essentially happening at the same rate,
or a higher rate, than before.
 

Caution, not complacency, is the responsible choice.

We are saddened, but not surprised that church officials still spend twice as much onpredators as victims ($11 million vs. $6.5 million)
and more than four times as much on their lawyers as on victims
($28 million vs. $6.5 million).
 
Scandal Forces Diocese into High-Risk Insurance Pool
Frankly, we do not believe that only 34 percent of the settlements nationwide are covered by insurance. You yourself have stated publicly that the diocese has relied on wealthy patrons to cover the legal and medical costs of settlements.

The diocese, in fact, has been forced into a high-risk self-insurance program because
of the range and the scandal
in Mid-Missouri.  The inability
to obtain insurance coverage prompted the Catholic Church
to become self-insured in 1988 when it launched the National Catholic Risk Retention Group Inc.  Jefferson City is one of its 66 shareholder members, which includes one-third of the Roman Catholic dioceses
in the United States.
 

The time has come for full disclosure regarding the predatory victimization of STAS students that you and your predecessors have covered up since the establishment of the seminary in 1957 as well as the sexual exploitation of young girls and boys by other priests affiliated with the Diocese of Jefferson City.
 

The Anchor 1982 (above) records McNally celebrating  The Mass
with Bishop McAuliffe to the 1981-1982 STAS  school term.

The list of known predators among the STAS faculty includes: Bishop  Anthony J. OConnell (rector), the Rev. Manus P. Daly, OConnells successor as rector, dean of students, and a fellow recruit from Ireland; the Rev. James P. McNally, who succeeded OConnell as vocation director and Daly as dean of students and 1972 STAS graduate; the Rev. Gary W. Pool (music faculty and 1974 STAS graduate); the Rev.
David G. Buescher (STAS spiritual director and faculty, 1972-1976), and the Rev.
John J. Whiteley (STAS faculty 1966-1967).
 
We know today that OConnell and Daly granted to their friends
and colleagues free access to vulnerable students, transforming the boarding school into a hunting ground.  This list of pedophile priests includes the Rev. Thomas Seifner (1984 STAS graduate), the Rev. Frank Westhoff, the Rev. John H. Fischer, the Rev.
Kevin P. Clohessy (STAS graduate 1977), the Rev. Stephen L. Faletti, the Rev. Donald L. Wallace, and the Rev. Hugh F. Behan.
 
Whether or not the following group of publicly identified predators
had access to the Hannibal seminarians remains a mystery:  the Rev. 
Carmin Sita/Gerald Howard, the Rev. John DeAngelis, the Rev. John F. Degnan, the Rev. John J. Schutty.
 
As previously mentioned, we are well aware of your attempts to withdraw medical support for the victims of OConnell, Fischer, Westhoff, and Whiteley.  And while we wait for justice, we know that more victims of other predators affiliated with the diocese have been forced to suffer in silence, afraid to step forward and seek the justice that they deserve.
 
Clearly you lack to moral courage to do what is right.
 
The publication of your commentary criticizing those who ask questions of basic decency about the Sita/Howard scandal in the 1 September 2009 edition of the Columbia Daily Tribune is representative of your intransigence.  Your response is characteristic of an organization in chaos:  an institution severely scarred by internal scandal — multiple instances of sexual molestation of children and vulnerable adults —
that cannot begin to recover without independent, in-depth investigation and analysis of documentary evidence and eye-witness accounts that have been hidden away in records from the inception of this diocese in the 1950s.
 
Nonetheless, this process can begin with a careful examination of the issues in the public forum if you provide the necessary data to allow us to proceed.  To date, we know the basic facts:

n  OConnell admitted in 2002 that he molested
numerous young boys during his 25-year
tenure at St. Thomas and elsewhere since
he was ordained in 1964 at St. Peters Church
in Jefferson City.
n  10 OConnell victims have been identified since 2002; the most recent victim emerged in 2008.  Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation has information about seven
other victims.
n  14 civil suits, we believe, have been filed alleging abuse by OConnell.
n  OConnell is known to have molested at least 10 percent of the St. Thomas freshman class during 1967–1968 school year, based on documentation provided by survivors to Come to the Stable/the Stephen Spalding Foundation and civil suits.
n  OConnell also molested at least 25 percent of the
graduation Class of 1970 throughout their four
years of study at St. Thomas; four were molested
between 1967 and 1968 along with members of
the freshman class who graduated in 1971.

St. Thomas Yearbooks: O’Connells Trophy Collection
The transformation of St. Thomas from an academic institution into a haven for sexual predators is portrayed prominently in photographs published in The Anchor yearbook throughout the 45-year-history of the high school seminary. As noted in previous postings, evidence can be found in stories and pictures published in the St. Thomas Voice newsletter even as late as 2000 and 2001, the final days of the Hannibal boarding school
 
OConnell provided all the photography for the St. Thomas yearbooks during his 24-year association with the seminary. He started the photography club and built the darkroom, ostensibly to teach students processing technique.
 
I wonder at times about OConnells trophy cache.  Does he collect nude photographs of the youngsters he molests? Does he keep articles of clothing? Does he have locks of their hair?
 
A portion of his treasure trove can be found in the St. Thomas yearbooks.
 
Rev. Thomas Seifner, 1982
On Page 22 of The Anchor 1982 yearbook, for example, we have the graduation photograph of the Rev. Thomas Seifner, who was named as a child predator in December 2002.  One of OConnells publicly identified victims, whom we will call Jordan, appears on a succeeding page of student class portraits.
 
In the yearbooks from 1968 to 1972, it is startling to see the number of photographs
in which OConnell grouped his unknowing victims in casual settings.  In The Anchor 1968, for example, he grouped Zachary (pseudonym) with other victims:  a shot with Alexander (pseudonym) here; a portrait of Zachary and Max (pseudonym) there; and then a group of shot of three victims on yet another page.  Max has a brother who is a prominent priest in the diocese.
 
 
The 1969 vocation committee photograph (above) and others in each edition of
The Anchor connect pedophile priests to each other. Not only do John Whiteley
and John Fischer appear in the same image, but they share the frame with the
rector, the Rev. Richard Kaiser, and O’Connell’s successor as dean of students,
the Rev. Fred Elskamp. O’Connell is behind the lens, choreographing the shot.
Seated with Whiteley and Fischer is a future faculty member, the Rev. Patrick
Shortt.  Source:  Anthony J. O’Connell.
 
As vocation director for the Diocese of Jefferson City, OConnell recruited predators John Whiteley and John Fischer as members
of the vocation committee.  They and other committee members
appear on Page 40 of The Anchor 1969 (above, back row left to
right) are:  Unidentified, Whiteley, the Rev. Frank Simoni, Fischer,
and STAS faculty the Rev. John Boland and the Rev. John Pack;
(front row, left to right) the Rev.  Patrick Shortt (a future faculty
member) the Rev. Richard Kaiser (rector), the Rev. Richard Hunkins,
and the Rev. Fred Elskamp (dean of students).  OConnell, of course,
took the picture.
 
As with the Rev. Frank Westhoff, there is the additional photographic record of other predators being honored and held out as examples
of virtue to the high school seminarians in the alumni newsletter,
The Voice:

n  Summer 2000, Page 9:  Bishop McAuliffe honors
Dalys 35th ordination anniversary at St. Thomas
even after he has been removed as rector for
sexually assaulting a student several years prior.
n  Summer 2001, Page 5:  Bishop OConnell returns
to St. Thomas as bishop of Knoxville to celebrate
the ordination anniversaries of and Msgr. Jacques
Wenting and Msgr.  David Cox (Gaydos and
OConnell have full knowledge of Coxs
sexual history).
n  Fall 2000, Page 9:  Father Seifner is portrayed
as an exemplary St. Thomas graduate (1984).
n  The Anchor illustrates the fact that known pedophiles
were employed as St. Thomas faculty members as
early as 1963: OConnell and the Rev. John Whiteley
(together, page 7, 1967) and the Rev. Hugh Behan
(another Irish recruit, feted with a full-page tribute,
page 9, 1967); Daly and the Rev. David G.  Buescher
(faculty page, 1972).
 

Bishop John R. Gaydos presented the Rev. Thomas Seifner to STAS students
as a role model, according to the Fall 2000 issue of the seminary newsletter,
The St. Thomas Voice.
 
Mark Rehagen (STAS 1977) penned a full-tribute to the Rev.
Thomas Seifner, who is a member of the current generation of pedophile priests :


Its a great thing for the people of the Diocese
of Jefferson City that Father Tom Seifner is a
priest ordained for service [here].  Father Toms
ministry is all about people.
 
"What I enjoy most about being a priest
is the people that God puts in my life,"
Father Tom comments.
 
Father Tom credits the faculty at St. Thomas,
naming Fathers OConnell, David Maher,
Pat Shortt, and Louis McCorkle as those who
challenged him spiritually.  Father Jacques
Wenting challenged him academically, and
Father Manus Daly challenged him personally.
 
Father Tom, we applaud you as one of the
finest graduates of St. Thomas and we thank
you for your fine example.  Ad multos annos. 
 

It is troubling to realize how pedophile priests — like the Rev. Thomas Seifner — were given positions of responsibility and then honored even though you and your predecessor, Bishop Michael F.  McAuliffe, were fully aware of the facts regarding their history of abuse and victimization.

 
Next Time:  The survival stories of OConnells victims.



1 comment:

  1. Mike, Great work. Much needed information. Will be watching. Have sent to SnapTennessee twitter site.

    ReplyDelete