We are witnessing such a display in Kansas City, Mo. Bishop Robert J. Finn has been hauled before a grand jury to explain his role in protecting a child predator, who collects photographs of children’s genitals. The Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who has been arrested and charged with possession of child pornography, apparently uses his
cell phone to capture images of pre-pubescent female genitalia.
The trust of a child: there’s nothing like that. It’s the perfect world.
as a photographer when he
arrived at St. Thomas in 1964.
With his trusty 33mm Nikon in
hand, he documented the day-
to-day events of seminary life
for nearly 25 years.
to re-enforce the notion of
As one STAS graduate, who
now lives in Columbia, Mo.,
noted in the wake to pedophile priest scandal:
he took of us showering and changing clothes.”
Prior to O’Connell’s presence on the St. Thomas faculty, the yearbook was a standard testimonial for each academic year: a chronicle of class photos, athletic achievement, dramatic arts, and student government. Most of the photography is posed for posterity – coat and tie, each student frozen in time — a perfect representation of the school and candidates ideal for the priesthood.
falter in the 1969 edition of The Anchor
with O’Connell’s first-published photograph
of a semi-clothed high school seminarian.
On page 63 of the 1969 edition of the
St. Thomas annual we see an innocent
collection of seven students, members
of the Graduation Class of 1972 as fresh-
faced first-year students. Seven freshmen
form a four-tier human pyramid with a
bare-chested youth in gym shorts grinning
for O’Connell’s camera in what appears
to be the gymnasium weight room.
in the 1970 edition of The Anchor with
more personalized images of half-naked
boys. On page 20 we see another group
photograph of members of the Class of
1972. This time a barefoot boy wearing
only shorts sits in a go-cart, flanked by
nine classmates. As a stand-alone image,
it appears innocent. But in its totality,
it marks the start of the downward spiral
that destroyed St. Thomas. The shirtless
youth is the brother of the grinning child
in O’Connell’s 1969 human pyramid.
The 1970 edition of The Anchor also illustrates O’Connell’s fascination with his subjects as he began in earnest to insert multiple images of semi-clad students throughout the book. The third semi-nude shot appears on page 24 with a caption about mushroom hunting. Images five and six are posed shots, printed on page 72.
In the case of individual student shots, the images are disturbing because the photographs can be cropped to make the student appear to be completely naked. Yours truly is a beneficiary to O’Connell’s largesse
and attention in this matter as the seventh picture on page 73 of the
The eighth, and final, photograph of semi-naked students is a sneer behind the view finder. O’Connell has positioned the students on the asphalt parking lot so that their bodies form the letters for the words, “The End.” O’Connell is standing on the gymnasium roof, his shadow at the top of the frame, peering down on his subjects: his garden of earthly delights from which he is free to pick and choose.
Speed Racer: The partially clothed youngster in O’Connell’s second
yearbook snapshot is the brother of the undressed boy in O’Connell’s
1969 human pyramid photograph. Msgr. Gregory L. Higley is at the
far left. Source: The Anchor, 1970, p. 20.
Christopher Isherwood documented life in Weimar, Germany, in
his autobiographical novel, Goodbye Berlin, which was transformed the Broadway play, “I Am a Camera.” The first line of Isherwood’s novel: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.” Unfortunately, O’Connell was always thinking, never passive, always prowling.
O’Connell’s narcissism toward St. Thomas students emerged at the outset with alarming cynicism. We see this attitude in the group photographs published in The Anchor. O’Connell seems to take great pleasure in posing his victims together for the camera. Yours truly appears with Terence in one such image.
He also published a series of four images with Zachary and four
other students. We have one picture of Zachary with Carter and
a second with Alexander, who we know were victimized by the predatory priest. And we have two more with two different upperclassmen, whom we can assume suffered the same fate as Zachary, Carter, and Alexander.
Hobbits: The caption for O’Connell third image of a half-dressed youngster refers
to mushroom safari. Source: The Anchor, 1970, p. 24.
As a result, the most shocking element of these photographs does not involve the nudity. Instead, O’Connell has captured with his lens the power dynamic of predator vs. prey.
In retrospect, we can only assume, that this particular image was published as a show of supreme confidence and conceit on the part of both O’Connell and Daly. The pernicious quality of the photograph and the depravity it represents is fully displayed.
Smooth: O’Connell’s fourth and fifth photographs of semi-clothed students
inter-laced a full-page yearbook montage. Source: The Anchor, 1970, p. 72.
Our friend is now married and living in Vancouver. His photo archive burned at the altar of true love.
We would like to review O’Connell’s collection. Unlike our friend, O’Connell must have preserved hundreds of images, stashed in a bank vault somewhere in South Carolina since he was forced to decamp from Palm Beach and close his account at SunTrust Private Banking. Or perhaps he keeps his mementos under his bed at Mepkin Abbey north of Charleston.
We can only imagine the extent of the treasures of this perverted
photographic record of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, Hannibal, Mo.
Pelvic Focus: O’Connell is not shy about collecting crotch shots of
students he fancied. Source: The Anchor, 1975, p. 45 (top, left); 1982,
p. 65 (bottom, left); 1975, p. 39 (center), and 1982, p. 131 (right).
Skin Game: O’Connell close-ups and stop-action images offset the
straight-on shots of partially-clad students. Source: The Anchor, 1979,
p. 55 (left); 1973, p. 46 (center); and 1975, p. 68 (right).
Rim Shot: O’Connell took advantage of student athletics to replenish
his trophy stock without attracting notice. Source: The Anchor, 1982,
p. 62 (left); 1978, p. 61 (center); and 1978, p. 42 (right).
Pectorals: O’Connell portraits of the Rev. Les Niemeyer (right) and other
students are evenly distributed throughout the St. Thomas yearbooks.
Source: The Anchor, 1974, p. 12 (left); 1981, p. 60 (center); and 1978,
p. 24 (left).
Hands-On: O’Connell catalogued students on the volleyball court, the
locker-room, and at track and field to accommodate his need for trophy
subjects. Source: The Anchor, 1975, p. 57 (left); 1977, p. 58 (center);
1979, p. 55 (right).
Bliss: Bishop O’Connell’s predatory record continues with these images
of partially-clad students unaware of the camera shutter clicking away.
The Anchor, 1980, p. 59 (top, left); 1980, p. 61 (bottom, left); and 1982,
p. 29 (right).
Boyish Charms: O’Connell’s candid camera technique is a way to catch
a student in a casual pose while highlighting body imaging. Source: The
Anchor, 1980, p. 59 (left), 1980, p. 12 (center), and 1978, p. 24 (right).
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