Dear Bishop Gaydos:
by colleagues and friends noting the intellectual accomplishments and expertise of the honoree. Outstanding actors and actresses are recognized by their peers with the Oscar, the Emmy, and the Tony. Authors receive Pulitzers and Nobels. Artists are exhibited in museum retrospectives.
Msgr. Louis W. McCorkle (second row, left) with Bishop
Joseph M. Marling and Msgr. Charles H. Patterson (second,
from right) with the first students enrolled at St. Thomas
Aquinas Seminary in 1957. Source: The Anchor, 1982,
Some clergymen receive the honorific for outstanding service to the church. Others receive the title due to pure longevity or length of service: like a gold watch. Most are promoted for their business acumen, political acumen, or their ability to keep secrets both off
the golf course and outside of the confessional.
Louis McCorkle: Moss on a Tombstone
At the age of 88, McCorkle has been a priest for 58 years (ordained
in 1953). His career has been devoted to the church in Hannibal, namely St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary. He is known to most of us as “Uncle Lou.” Some alumni have attempted to canonize the man by calling him the “Father Founder” of the defunct college prep school. McCorkle’s refusal to come forward even at this stage of life has accreted a parasitic complexity as moss on a tombstone. Only now
are we able to scrape away the rot to see the truth for what it is.
the time when a classmate and I helped him move: a day of loading and unloading his U-haul trailer.
But the foundation of his career success as a priest is based on the fact that he continues to harbor the secrets he shares with Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell and other predatory priests who shared faculty positions with him during his 43 years as a teacher at St. Thomas.
Msgr. Louis Wellington McCorkle (clockwise, upper left):
1963, 1973, 1966, 1979, 1981, 1982.
It is reasonable to believe that his silence in these matters led
Bishop John R. Gaydos to recommend McCorkle and other faculty members closely allied with O’Connell for promotion. O’Connell, in turn, advanced the careers of young seminarians whom he sensed shared his sensibilities.
The Benefits of Silence
St. Thomas alumni who benefited from O’Connell’s influence include: Msgr. Gregory Higley (Class of 1972), vicar general; Msgr. Marion Makarewicz (Class of 1979), STAS rector; the Rev. James Patrick McNally (Class of 1972) STAS dean of students and vocation director; and the Rev. Brian Driscoll (Class of 1986), vocation director; and Msgr. David Donald Cox, who taught science at St. Thomas and
served as the boarding school’s spiritual director for more than
20 years (1984-2002).
of this old boy racket, granting Higley, Makerawicz, and Cox the privilege of adding the purple piping of a monsignor to their cassocks when you promoted them in 2006: an illicit bargain in exchange for their duplicity in the O’Connell scandal.
mid-70’s as a college student with O’Connell’s encouragement and support. In July 2010, Msgr. Cox was promoted to a high-profile assignment as pastor of Immaculate Conception in Jefferson City:
a step up from St. Patrick’s in Rolla some might say. Also in 2010,
Msgr. Cox, a long-time O’Connell protégé, was granted a sabbatical
to study at The Institute for Continuing Theological Education, an organization affiliated with the Pontifical North American College
Msgr. Marion Makarewicz is a St. Thomas alumnus, Class of 1979 (clockwise,
top, left): Freshman, 1976; Sophomore, 1977; Junior, 1978; Senior 1979.
Makarewicz was class president his Freshman year. Source: The Anchor.
Marion Makarewicz graduated from St. Thomas in the spring of 1979: that autumn O’Connell began molesting “Kent,” a member of the new freshman class. “Kent” is the son of permanent deacon, who was ordained by Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe. Two years prior, in 1977, O’Connell targeted Marion’s classmate, Christopher Dixon. Christopher grew up in Hannibal; and like Marion, was ordained became a teacher at his alma mater. In 1995, Christopher told the secret about O’Connell and was punished. Marion, like McCorkle, has been rewarded for his silence. Although I do not like to quote anonymous sources, it is worthwhile to note a response about this matter posted 8 March 2009 on a previous blog:
Msgr. Jacques Wenting
Msgr. Jacques Wenting, who taught French
and Latin at St. Thomas for four decades,
is a member of this rogue’s gallery. But
unlike his contemporary and colleague,
Wenting did confide in other priests about
the betrayal of his students by O’Connell
and other faculty members.
McCorkle is widely recognized for his distinctive floral paintings. Late in his
career he branched out into sculpting.
In 1988, when O’Connell was named
bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., McCorkle
produced a bust of the self-admitted pedophile, who was a St. Thomas faculty member for 25-years and rector of the Hannibal boarding school for much of that time.
Msgr. McCorkle is closely associated with O’Connell. Their shared history at the high school and afterward cannot be understated. McCorkle vacationed in Florida as O’Connell’s guest when he was promoted a second time as bishop of Palm Beach (ironically, O’Connell succeeded J. Keith Symons, another self-admitted pedophile priest who molested at least five boys).
Msgr. McCorkle committed the image
of Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell
to oil-on-canvas in 1976.
symbiosis is as well documented
as this octogenarian has headed
off to the cloisters of Conception Abbey in retirement (McCorkle sculpted a bust of O’Connell
that was displayed at the
Knoxville chancery during O’Connell’s 10-year assignment
his successor to remove the
Less is known about his relationship with Msgr. Charles H. Patterson, the first rector. Patterson, known as “Turquoise Tess” for his penchant for Southwestern jewelry, is a silent witness in the clergy sexual abuse crisis. Like McCorkle, Patterson is an accessory, sheltering pedophile priests.
The Very Rev. Richard Kaiser
St. Thomas Rector
McCorkle, in fact, may be best remembered for supporting the freshman orientation regimen of the Very Rev. Richard Kaiser, who was O’Connell’s immediate predecessor as rector
(1964–1970). Kaiser, the third rector
of St. Thomas, is remembered today
as the first person to learn about
O’Connell’s predatory nature, when
Stephen Spalding’s mother brought
the matter to his attention.
orientation Father Kaiser offered
his notorious “No Underwear”
speech to the incoming students. The presentation usually occurred their second night at St. Thomas after night prayers in chapel and
just before bedtime. From the chapel sanctuary, Kaiser advised the freshman class to remove the underwear before going to bed: tight clothing, he said, was not healthy. Underpants do not allow “your manhood to breath.” Pajamas were sufficient sleeping attire, nurturing your masculine vigor while you slept.
he followed up the evening after night prayers.
Msgr. Louis McCorkle is a subtle but key player in the regime
established by Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell, who was rector of
St. Thomas in 1970-1989. In 2002, McCorkle posed for this
photograph on the north side of the seminary.
McCorkle offered an intense observation about homosexual traits
and tendencies, underscoring his innate ability to ferret out those
so inclined. In retrospect, the theatricality of his presentation is comical, considering his artistic bent and effeminate persona. At that time of life, though, most of us could not grasp the context of his invective. We were just kids fresh out of grammar school already missing our moms and dads. For most of us, the harangue about our underpants and homosexuals after 9 p.m. night prayers was beyond our comprehension.
The effect and intent of the “no underwear” policy is now obvious. O’Connell used the policy to his advantage. Energized by Kaiser’s leadership, O’Connell was able to target students for special attention with late-night counseling sessions under the guise of spiritual direction.
Every faculty member knew that O’Connell was alone with students in his room for 2- to 4-hour periods per meeting. Every faculty member knew that O’Connell invited certain students to his room after lights out for these marathon counseling sessions. Every faculty member knew that these students did not return to their dormitories often as late as 2:00 a.m. and sometimes even as late as 4:00 a.m.
as dean of students, his suite was a few foot-steps outside the junior/senior dormitory. He conducted bed checks three times
each night, generally, and often whispered to students in the dark before taking them back to his rooms for extended conversations.
O’Connell with the support of men like Kaiser and McCorkle facilitated this mind-set toward the students and nurtured this attitude in alumni who returned in succeeding generations as
St. Thomas administrators and faculty.
The Rev. James P. McNally, who graduated from St. Thomas in
1972 with Vicar General Msgr. Higley, gave the “No Underwear” speech during his tenure as dean of students. McNally, an O’Connell protégé and a disgraced pedophile priest, was allied by his friend Msgr. Cox with McCorkle still on board supporting the St. Thomas regime. McNally and Cox were college students together at the Josephinum, and continued together as theologians at Kenrick.
Cox has protected McNally and O’Connell. Cox also protected another predatory faculty member: the Rev. Gary Pool, a 1974 St. Thomas graduate who studied for the priesthood with Cox and McNally at the Josephinum and Kenrick.
This detail from one of
oil paintings typifies his
imitative style: in this
case Georgia O’Keefe.
The most successful effort was their
ability to sensor the students’ mail.
You have to wonder how many
students wrote to their parents and
told them about their abuse, but
their parents received the information.
How many students were forced to
suffer silently because they thought
their parents did not care?
The second method of controlling
the secret was realized through Kaiser’s
grooming technique, which followed
the “No Underwear” speech. A few
days before our first weekend home
visit in October, Kaiser reminded
the students of new status in life. Kaiser, who was an orator and elocution specialist, told the students in a sermon how to behave toward their parents when they returned for the first time:
“Remember, you are little gods. We know you are little gods. You know you are little gods. But your parents do not know you are little gods. When you return home to visit, do not let them know what you have become. They will not understand. How you behave at home and how you behave here at our beloved St. Thomas are two different things. You must remember this. Do not forget who you are, what you are, or where your loyalties lie.”
The Rev. Michael Quinn
organized two fêtes in 2009
to honor McCorkle prior to
his retirement to Conception
Abbey near Kansas City, Mo.
the extent of these loyalties as far
as St. Thomas is concerned. Msgr.
McCorkle was honored in October
2009 at a reception sponsored by
Holy Family Church in Hannibal.
The event was organized by the
pastor, the Rev. Michael Quinn.
Quinn is a St. Thomas graduate
(1958-1964) and among the first
alumni to be ordained. The priest
gave the monsignor a plaque to honor
the cleric as he retired to Conception Abbey near Kansas City. Quinn, then, restaged the event two months later
as if to emphasize McCorkle’s stature.
This ongoing homage to a man who protects O’Connell and other faculty members who preyed upon young boys at St. Thomas is a scandal in and of itself. But now that McCorkle is retired, he should have the courage and charity to speak out about the sorrow and subterfuge inflicted on so many students, their families, and Catholics alike throughout his career at the high school on Levering Avenue.
Silence and the Art of Betrayal
Msgr. McCorkle betrayed his trust. He is condemned by his silence even at this stage of his life as Death approaches. His active support for O’Connell and so many others who have been identified as child molesters (such as the Rev. Manus Daly, O’Connell’s immediate successor) will be his legacy.
Rev. Michael Quinn
St. Thomas Class of 1962
St. Thomas students and the memory of
the institution by standing up for the
victims who survived the institution rather than pander to those who managed it. It
is a shame that Quinn does not choose to honor those students who told the truth about O’Connell (or those brought into
the system to molest the innocent and
It is this propensity for wickedness, that
leads us to paraphrase Hilary Mantel’s summation of the English Reformation
in Wolf Hall (2009 Man Booker Prize),
a historical novel documenting the rapid
rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, as
we wrest justice for ourselves:
Silence is never really silence, is it? It is as loud as treason; it is quibbling as far as quibbles will serve; it is demurs and cavils, suave ambiguities. It is fear of plain words, or the assertion that plain words pervert themselves; your dictionary against our dictionary. You can have a silence full of words. A lute retains, in its bowl, the notes it has played. The viol, in its strings, holds a concord. A shriveled petal con hold its scent, a prayer can rattle with curses; an empty house, when the owners have gone out, can still be loud with ghosts.
Bishop Finn Testifies before Grand Jury in Kansas City, Mo.
Abuse Victims Ask Court to Prosecute the Vatican
Abuse Victims File Complaint against Pope with Criminal Court in the Hague
Vatican Smirks at Victims of Pedophile Priests
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Sex-Abuse Case to Proceed against the Vatican
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua: The Catholic Church's Secret Sex-Crime Files
News Brief: A History of Church-Related Sex Crimes in the United States
Pedophile Priests: Rupture with Vatican Sets Stage an Irish Reformation
‘Endemic’ Rape and Abuse of Irish Children in Catholic Care, Inquiry Finds
Report: Irish Church and Police Covered Up Child Sex Abuse
WikiLeaks: Vatican Pressured Irish Government to Grant Immunity to Church Officials
Next Time: A Collage of Abuse