The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Friday, October 14, 2011

Childproof 21: A Collage of Clergy Abuse, Part 2

Page 21

Dear Bishop Gaydos:

One of the interesting aspects of researching the photography of Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell is the discovery that three of The Anchor yearbook editors were molested by this serial predator.  We also are confident in stating that O’Connell victimized at least three other yearbook editors:  a total of six victims. 

O’Connell, as yearbook advisor, strengthened his position of power in these relationships by orchestrating the editorial process so that it occurred, in part, outside the academic year.  He created artificial deadlines and emergencies that demanded immediate attention, requiring students to remain at the seminary after term and work during the summer months to complete pre-press production.  As a result, the students, typically, were alone with O’Connell 24 hours a day, perhaps for a week at time or longer.  O’Connell, thereby, had the perfect advantage.

The trust of a child:  There’s nothing like that.  It’s the perfect world. 
Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell captured his perfect world at St. Thomas
Aquinas Seminary, collecting photographic trophies throughout his
tenure.  He arrived at St. Thomas in 1964, presenting himself as a
photographer. With his trusty 35mm Nikon in hand, he documented
the day-to-day events of seminary life for nearly 25 years. He published
some of his souvenirs in the high school yearbook, The Anchor.  Today,
we are able to review a portion of his public record now that we have
access to volumes published between 1969 and 1984.  Perhaps we will
have his full record in time when the next seven years become available.
Source:  The Anchor, 1974, p. 70.


The Editor of the 1980 edition acknowledged O’Connell as follows:

It is not at all possible to express my most sincere appreciation for the man who is the driving force behind the whole operation.  Aside from the fact that he is the photographer and Faculty Advisor, Fr. O’Connell shows a special interest in the yearbook and the staff.  With his select prodding and constant support, the work would not have gone as nearly as smoothly.  I hope that the 1980 Anchor will be able to give a genuine account of the life at St. Thomas during the 1979-80 school year.

The Editor of The Anchor 1975 wrote a similar note:

“The Purpose of a yearbook is to bring back memories: memories of people, memories of events, but most importantly, happy memories.  I hope this yearbook has achieved this purpose.  Special thanks are due to Fr. O’Connell, whose constant interest and advice keep The Anchor alive.

In 1976, the Editor of the St. Thomas yearbook observed:

“More than anything else, this yearbook is a diary, a memory book of the past.  This year has been difficult, but enjoyable.  I feel the same way about this book.  A great deal of blood, sweat, and tears went into it.  I just hope it does justice to a great year.

Narcissistic Malice: Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell enjoyed the art of self-portraiture
and self-mockery. From time to time, he published tongue-in-cheek images of
himself for publication in the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary yearbook.  Source:
The Anchor, 1966, p. 37 (top, left); 1970p. 2 (top, right); 1968, p. 2 (bottom, left);
and 1970, p. 66 (bottom, right).

Mark Rehagen, the Editor, of the 1977 yearbook, was equally nostalgic.

“I hope that I have been able to successfully reproduce the ’76-’77 school year.  The work involved was both self-satisfying and difficult.  I hope that it will bring back good memories in future years.

“It’s really hard for a person to realize exactly how much goes into a yearbook like this one.  On the other hand, it’s not hard for an Editor to realize that there is no way that he can do it by himself.  First of all, I would like to thank Fr. O’Connell, whose patience with me and encouragement kept me moving ahead.  I would also like to thank my staff, an excellent team, for all the work they put into this book . . . . Thanks should also go to all the students who took time out to write articles for The Anchor.  Your cooperation made the operation move smoothly.

Commodore Anthony J. O’Connell at the helm.  Source: The Anchor, 1981, p. 64.

A similar expression was penned by the Editor of the 1978 annual:

“When looking back on the fine ’77-’78 school year, actually this 88-page book is it.  I hope it is able to portray the successful year that all the students experienced.

“This yearbook was built on much pain, sweat, and hard work, but at the same time it was a fun experience.  Many thanks need to be expressed.  One man who put many, many hours into it not only taking and developing pictures as well as lending his support, his ideas, and his advice was our very special Photographer and Faculty Advisor Fr. O’Connell.  Without him, there is no way this book could have been started, much less completed.  Thank you very much, Father!

Second Thoughts:  Today, we have to reconsider an O’Connell photograph to
determine the true content of each frame.  For example, are we viewing a
moment of 
seasonal mirth here, or witnessing something sinister?  Source:
The Anchor, 1970, p. 9.

Msgr. Marion Makarewicz, as Editor of The Anchor in 1979, reflected:

“One word has kept popping up in my mind all this past school year, and that word has been Yearbook.  I have always tried to be aware that it was my duty to make sure a good record was kept of the year that seemed to be zipping by just too fast.  This 1979 Anchor is designed to be, as Bishop [Joseph M.] Marling wrote in introducing the first Anchor in 1976:  . . . . A record of school activities . . . . a means of increasing school spirit and loyalty . . . . a bond with alumni . . . . and a way to foster vocations.’”

“. . . . No good team is without a coach and we were once again fortunate enough to have the best in Fr. O’Connell.  To him the production of The Anchor is not just another job or a duty.  Without his guidance and select prodding, the staff could not have even begun on the work entailed.

Easy Prey:  Survivors of childhood sexual molestation tend to blame themselves.
The constant mental refrain of
I was a big kid . . .
or I was old enough to know
better . . .
is debilitating and dehumanizing.  But, then, a   photograph like this
one of the St. Thomas Freshman Class of 1977, taken by O’Connell, offers some
clarity.  Here we see the evidence and the truth of the matter:  a small child
disadvantaged by age, physique, and status: easy prey for a pedophile priest.
The Editor of the St. Thomas yearbook singled out these boys as champion
rainmakers:  they raised one third of the funds for the production costs and
developed 95 percent of the donor base.  Source: The Anchor, 1977, p. 80.

The introduction of the 1980 edition of The Anchor is dedicated
to O’Connell:

“We, the faculty and students of St. Thomas Seminary, are happy to dedicate 1980 issue of The Anchor to our Rector, Fr. Anthony O’Connell.  This dedication is long overdue.  It is almost impossible to realize without his knowledge, he himself, from the very beginning, has been the driving force behind the production of the yearbook, a tradition started in 1966.

“Fr. O’Connell came to the seminary in the summer of 1963 and became Dean of Students.  He also took over Freshman English, Physics, and Chemistry.  At the untimely death of Fr. Richard Kaiser, the Rector, Bishop Michael McAuliffe appointed Fr. O’Connell rector of the seminary.  Ever since he came to St. Thomas, Fr. O’Connell has shown an untiring enthusiasm in his work and has been highly appreciated for his total availability to all who need counselling or simply a sympathetic ear.

“In dedicating this yearbook to him, we want to honor him, not only as our rector and inspiring leader, but, more importantly, as a priest with a deep understanding of the priestly vocation, as a man with a keen insight into the problems of young and old, as an educator who believes that education extends well beyond intellectual improvement, as a dedicated churchman whose loyalty to the Church is uncompromising.

Predator Culture: The St. Thomas Faculty portrait pages belie the gravity of the
situation at St. Thomas as Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell neared the end of his
second decade as a Rector of the high school seminary in Hannibal and as a
dynamic powerbroker in the Diocese of Jefferson City.  These pages illustrate
the serial predator culture embedded at the school.  We first witness O’Connell
with another serial predator, the Rev. John J. Whiteley (left, lower right corner)
in the 1966 inaugural issues.  A decade later we see O’Connell with the Rev.
Manus P. Daly (center, top left corner), Dean of Student’s and O’Connell’s
successor as rector, and the Rev. David G. Buescher (center, lower center),
Director of Spiritual Formation.  Daly and Buescher were recruited by O’Connell
for these positions.  And, finally, in the era of color, we have O’Connell with
Daly, and their former pupil, the Rev. James P. McNally (right, top right corner),
who succeeded O’Connell as Vocation Director and Daly as Dean of Students. 
Source: The Anchor, 1966, 1975, 1984.


“By dedicating this Anchor to  Fr. O’Connell, we try, in an inadequate way, to say thank you to him for being an example to faculty and students, for the school spirit he inspires and keeps alive, for his relentless efforts in promoting and encouraging vocations, and for his generous self-giving.  May he be with us many more years for the greater glory of God and Church and for the benefit of St. Thomas Seminary.

And the last entry from an Editor that we have to date, which is found in the 1984 edition of The Anchor:

“And last, but certainly, not least, a big thank you is to be given to Fr. O’Connell: or should I say Mr. Anchor?  He is the driving force behind the book, with his pictures, encouragement, help, and somewhat gentle prodding.  Thanks O’C, for your many hours.  Now it’s your turn:  I hope you enjoy it.

Bear Pond: The photographer Bruce Weber is well-known for his images of boyish
masculinity. O’Connell sinisterly demonstrates a similar knack throughout his
career, stalking St. Thomas students to capture moments played out on the
talent show, the sports field, or a quiet moment of reflection. 
Catching students
on film, unaware of his intentions, is a technique that O’Connell found easy to
access to reveal each boy’s surprised or bemused by the attention of a flattering
photographer and mentor. 
Source: The Anchor, 1982, p. 20 (left); 1981, p. 3
(center); and 1973, p. 48 (right).

Acting Out: Fur, togas, and sailor-boy suits are popular themes of O’Connell’s
photographic repertoire throughout the pages of the St. Thomas yearbooks.
Source: The Anchor, 1979, p. 24 (left) and p. 20 (center); and 1973, p. 48 (right).
Angling:  No matter Halloween (left) or athletics, O’Connell did not disguise his true
interest in the boys he liked to watch.  Source:  The Anchor, 1983, p. 39 (left), p. 86
(center), and p. 6.

Hello Punkin’:  Someone needs to explain why students are always half-
dressed in most of O’Connell’s Halloween party pictures (top). As for the
camera mugging (middle), we realize O’Connell’s ability to impose a rent
boy pout on a youngster in an innocent setting.  The languid youth on the
grass presents a host of other issues.  Source: The Anchor, 1983, p. 17 (top),
p. 40 (center); and 1982, p. 49 (bottom).

Flex: O’Connell appreciated the boyish torsos clothed in a tight T-shirt just
as much as he appreciated the naked flesh that he published in the St. Thomas
yearbook.  Source: The Anchor: 1982, p. 63 (left); 1982, p. 144 (center); and
1979, p. 20 (right).

Sitting Pretty:  Perched on the knee of Santa Claus proved an irresistible allure
for O’Connell as years passed.  Each issue of the St. Thomas yearbook seems
to have at least one of Santa hugging or kissing a student.  Clyde is the stuffed
hippo that the Class of ’71 gave to O’C.  Source:  The Anchor:  1975, p. 47 (top,
left); 1969, p. 49 (bottom, left); 1996, p. 58 (top, right); and 1971, p. 10.

Beefcake:  As the student’s tattoo indicates, O’Connell was not bashful about
recording his predilection for posterity.  His focus is unmistakable whether
working the swimming pool, the weight room, or drama productions.  Source:
The Anchor, 1983, p. 41 (above), p. 34 (below, left), and p. 41 (below, right).

Trend:  O’Connell seemed to enjoy theme shots.  He took numerous photographs of
students in shorts in the snow; and then turned around to get a shot of a young boy
sweating and breathless in the gym.  Source:  The Anchor, 1970, p. 49 (top, left);
1980, p. 72 (top, right); 1978, p. 11 (bottom, left); and 1973, p. 46 (bottom, right).

Keeping Tabs:  O’Connell seems to bray ever more loudly with each successive yearbook.
He never fails to incorporate imagery highlighting his interests, even after 20 years of
photography.  Source:  The Anchor, 1983, p. 42 (center), and p. 31 (right).

Chippendales: O’Connell’s camera may have attempted to capture risqué humor
at St. Thomas, but the evidence in toto tells a more sinister story.  Source:  The
, 1975, p. 56 (left), p. 40 (center), and p. 28 (right).

Opportunist:  O’Connell maximized every opportunity to capture provocative images
of students in his care.  He wasted little time recording their athleticism, framing each
image to satisfy his prurient interest.  Source:  The Anchor, 1981, p. 60 (top, left);
1982, p. 81 (top, right); 1981, p. 60 (bottom, left); and 1982, p. 82 (bottom, right).

Perception:   O’Connell cropped photos to emphasize nudity.  As a result,
we do not know the context of each film or gauge the situation of the
student in the frame.  Source:  The Anchor, 1983, p. 14 (top, left); 1983,
p.40 (top, right); 1983, p. 14 (bottom, left); and 1985,  p. 5 (bottom, right).

Telling Secrets:  In this photo montage we have an intriguing display of victimization —   O’Connell and Daly (both wearing glasses) with one of O’Connell’s victims (left); and the
Rev. Thomas Seifner (top) photographed by O’Connell during his senior year.  Siefner
was ordained.  Seifner was implicated in an abuse scandal in 2009.  Source:  The Anchor,
1983, p. 27 (center).

Comedic Crux: Imposing a sensual film on student comedy is an O’Connell
specialty.  Source:  The Anchor, 1971,
p. 66 (right); 1977, p. 49 (center); and
1976, p. 15 (right).

Les Girls: Bending the feminine ideal throughout O’Connell’s career at St. Thomas
ranged from the burlesque (center) to sophisticated camp (right) to professional
transgender (right).  Msgr. Gregory L. Higley (with straw hat and cigar) seems to
have the handle on his gal pal.  Source: The Anchor, 1979, p. 28 (left and right);
and 1970,
p. 35 (center).

Bottoms Up: Sophomoric humor creates a more sinister feeling in O’Connell’s
photographic history.  Source:  The Anchor, 1972, p. 18 (top, left);  1981, p.2
(top, right); 1973, p. 39 (bottom, left); and 1975, p. 58 (bottom, right)

Athletic Guild:  Photographing students at play allowed O’Connell to capture
the muscularity of form. Source: The Anchor, 1971, p. 28 (left); 1971, p. 28
(center); and 1971, p. 66 (right).

Hello Sunshine:  The caption for the sunbathers’ photo reads:  “There was a lot
of this going on.”  The burlesque attitude and stripper mentality seems out of
place in a high school setting.  Source:  The Anchor, 1984, p.88 (top); 1973,
p. 40 (bottom, right); and 1984, p. 42 (bottom, right).

Next Time: The League of Extraordinary Confidence Men

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