The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Childproof 23: A History of Misplaced Trust in Jefferson City

Page 23

Editorial Update:  7 November 2011

Dear Bishop Gaydos:

Father O’Malley

When we think about the management of the diocese of Jefferson City, we should consider that split-second scene in the 1944 classic film, Going My Way.  Barry Fitzgerald (Father Fitzgibbon) is tabulating the parish’s cash accounts in his office when Bing Crosby (Father Chuck O’Malley) enters the room.  Crosby asks Fitzgerald for “half a dollar” to cover expenses related to a golf date.

Fitzgerald, skeptical about priests at play,
acquiesces only when Crosby says, “If I lose
it, I’ll swear off. I’ll quit.”

Father Fitzgibbon

As Crosby picks up a 50-cent coin from the pile of loose change, Fitzgerald advises the curate to drop the silver piece and take the cash from the second heap on the table:

“Take it out of the ladies’ sodality,” Fitzgerald admonishes. “They never keep any books.”

Graft, Greed and Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe
As we’ve seen with Anthony J. O’Connell’s rock
and roll endeavors
at St. Thomas – and the inability
of the Missouri bishops to deal with crime and cost
  relating to pedophile priests – graft and
seem to be common threads throughout the
financial management history of the Diocese of
Jefferson City.

In 1988, when O’Connell was name bishop of Knoxville, Tenn., for example, Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe raided the diocesan general fund to hand over $10,000 in cash to O’Connell.  According to one priest involved in the matter, O’Connell’s Kenrick Seminary classmates were asked to contribute $100 each for this “spiritual bouquet.”   No prayers for the newly created bishop:  just cash.

Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell (center) was a stone-broke Irish immigrant when he was
ordained with the Rev. Joseph Starmann (right) in 1963 for the Diocese
of Jefferson City.
But 25 years later he was able to command $10,000 in cash
from Bishop Michael F.
McAuliffe when he was promoted to be bishop of
Knoxville, Tenn. McAuliffe raided the
diocesan general fund to pay off
O’Connell as part of a protection scheme to protect
this pedophile priest
from the authorities. The diocese memorialized O’Connell’s
moment of
consecration in the St. Thomas yearbook. Bishop Gaydos, on the other
has punished Father Starmann personally and financially (e.g. slashing his
retirement benefits) for supporting O’Connell victims publicly and testifying

before the Missouri legislature; castigating his boss for his failure to investigate

the scandal, acknowledge the crimes per se; and harassing those who have

exposed the secret.  Source: The Anchor, 1982, p. 112.
“One of his closest admirers called me . . . and suggested that $1,000 would be more appropriate,” says this Jefferson City priest. “I told him I wouldn’t give ‘Dear Tony’ the sweat off my backside.”

Apparently McAuliffe did not understand the meaning of the Seventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Steal.

The Ten Commandments
illustrated in the 1675
Decalogue displayed
at the Amsterdam
Esnoga Synagogue.
But Bishop McAuliffe did understand the
value of a pay-off in exchange for silence
and secrecy, despite O’Connell’s trail of
bread crumbs published in the St. Thomas
yearbook, The Anchor.  Let’s not even
mention O’Connell’s dossier:  a file that
he controlled personally throughout his
17 years as a leading member of the
so-called Priest Personnel Board.

The level of financial support for O’Connell
at the time of his promotion as bishop of
Palm Beach, Fla., remains unknown. 
O’Connell, in turn, is a chancer, interested
only in monetary pursuit.

Forensics, Accountability, Truth
A forensic investigation of the accounting practices of the diocese of Jefferson City would tell an interesting story should the local stakeholders ever take an interest.An examination of the employment roster and assignment history of priests working for the diocese of Jefferson City would lead to even more questions about the circumstances of transfers, promotions, and status of ordained church workers. Neither, of course, will ever happen.

McAuliffe, like Gaydos, governed with an alpenstock rather than a
shepherd’s crook.

  Bishop James A. Wilkowski
But Bishop James Alan Wilkowski of the Evangelical Catholic Church has offered
a peek inside the back office. Wilkowski
was recruited to the diocese during Bishop O’Connell’s tenure as vocation director
and rector of St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary
in Hannibal. 

Despite his performance as a student at Kenrick Seminary, Wilkowski was dismissed two weeks before his ordination as a deacon after he reported to O’Connell and McAuliffe
that he had been subjected to sexual harassment
and sexual blackmail (as noted in previous postings).

The Rev. Brian Driscoll, who succeeded O’Connell
as vocation director, delivered the coup de grace.

“On October 31, 1988, I was summoned to Bishop McAuliffe’s office
of and notified that my allegations had caused ‘consternation within the internal forum of the diocese’ and my ordination was cancelled.
I was [ordered] to vacate the rectory at St. Brendan’s in Mexico within 24 hours. I was handed a check $250 for expenses, which I left on McAuliffe’s desk and walked out.”

Benedictine Monks:  Priory of St. Pius X
Vignettes such as Bishop Wilkowski’s are numerous.

When the Priory of St. Pius X in Pevely, Mo., was dissolved in 1983, Bishop McAuliffe invited the Benedictine monks to relocate to our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia, Mo.  McAuliffe, who was a patron of the abbey’s motherhouse (Conception Abbey, near Kansas City, Mo.) hoped to offset the shortage of priests in the diocese.

The Priory of St. Pius X (1951-1983) was an interesting amalgam of religious and secular culture.  Although the monks purported to be spiritual in nature, it was not uncommon for them to venture to St. Louis for weekend pub crawls and to relieve other primal tensions.  The inmates were known to decamp to Kenrick Seminary and St. Louis night spots for cocktails and bar crawls.

Rev. Edwin J. Cole
The Rev. Edwin J. Cole served as prior (1977-1983) and helped engineer the transition to diocese of Jefferson City when the monastery was dissolved.  Prior to this venture, in the early 60s,
Cole was member of Skt. Knud’s Kloster, a monastic priory in
Copenhagen, Denmark.

To sweeten the deal and relocation to Our Lady of Lourdes in Columbia, McAuliffe ponied up approximately $280,000 to renovate the church.  The Benedictines, accordingly, agreed to reimburse the bishop for expenses.

Unlike the nuns at Our Lady of Peace Monastery in Columbia, these pious Benedictines and McAuliffe had a falling out.  They reneged on their debt.  McAuliffe was unable to collect.  And the Columbia venture collapsed.

To recoup his losses, McAuliffe turned to the Parish of St. Pius X in Moberly and raided the St. Mary’s Cemetery Fund, which had a cash balance of about $250,000.  City Bank and Trust Company of Moberly managed cemetery account.  Will Ben Sims, the president of the bank and a St. Mary’s Cemetery board member, opposed McAuliffe’s move.  The bishop side-stepped the issue, citing his power as head of diocese and seized the funds.

After this fiasco, Father Cole, apparently dissatisfied with the McAuliffe regime, sought assignments outside of the diocese.
Cole was appointed the first full-time associate pastor of St. Anselm Parish (1989-1991), St. Louis, which is affiliated with the Abbey of St. Mary and St. Louis (The Priory).  He then was employed by The Priory and worked was a hospital chaplain in St. Charles, Mo.  In 1994, he returned to work at Sacred Heart Church in Columbia until 2004. His last assignment was the Shrine of St. Patrick in Laurie, Mo.

Bishop McAuliffe:  Fiduciary Rogue
Just as McAuliffe raided City Bank to seize the St. Mary’s Cemetery Fund, he also raided the cash account of a wealthy parish south of Jefferson City.

The pastor at the time was among the few who still had sole signing privileges on individual parish accounts.

Bishop McAuliffe raided the cemetery account of the Parish of St. Pius X
held in trust at City Bank of Moberly (circa. 1988).

According to this clergyman, McAuliffe arrived unannounced one day at his rectory.  After a perfunctory greeting, McAuliffe told the pastor to get the parish check book and accompany him to the office of a Lake of the Ozarks realtor.  The pastor, at McAuliffe’s behest, wrote a check for $500,000 for a lakefront home.  The transaction complete, McAuliffe told the priest that he wanted a quiet retirement home after he left the chancery.  A secondary source, another diocesan priest, confirms this scenario.

Given this set of circumstances, a review McAuliffe’s bookkeeping technique and personal benefits package, even at this late date, would prove interesting.  Bishops are classified as corporate executives by the insurance markets.  It is not uncommon for a bishop to have multiple life insurance policies ranging from the mid-six to the low seven-figures, based on the size of the diocese.  These policies may or may not revert to diocese when they mature.  Typically they do not, and the bishop retires to a life of luxury when the policy matures.  The recipient of such a legacy would be one lucky fellow.

Bishop McAuliffe: Pay-Out 2 
A Kansas City, Mo., grand jury
indicted Bishop Robert W.Finn
on 14 October 2011 for failure
to report child molestation
by a priest in his employ.
His attorney reached a plea
agreement to limit Finn’s
punishment to monthly
consultations with the
district attorney.
As with Bishop Robert W. Finn’s protection of pedophile priest in Kansas City, Mo., McAuliffe’s history of protecting predatory priests is well-documented.  A particularly heinous crime involved an ordained sexual predator affiliated with St. Joseph’s Church in Salisbury.  This priest was implicated in the molestation of a married woman.  This crime occurred in the early 1980s.

The woman sought out the priest for spiritual counseling.  Her husband was
a church mouse, active in the parish, devoted to the Roman Catholic cause.

The priest was an O’Connell recruit.  His
parents were well-off and had a vacation
home at the Lake of the Ozarks.  In 1972,
his family turned over the property for a
summer priest-seminarian party.  One of
the seminarians at the event nearly severed
the index finger of another when they used
a hunting knife to cut a tow rope caught in
the propeller of a motor boat.  Alcohol played
a role in this disaster.

The Salisbury couple approached McAuliffe for support after
the attack.  McAuliffe offered sanctimonious assurances that
the matter would be rectified.  Initially, McAuliffe refused to
pay damages for medical costs and recovery.  Attempting
dexterity and prudence, McAuliffe concocted a modest,
conciliatory offer.  By the conclusion of the case, he was
forced to make a financial settlement in the $228,000.

The priest escaped financial punishment and imprisonment.

St. Joseph, Salisbury:  Scandalfest Haven
The front page of the 24 May 1908
issue of the Los Angeles Times
recorded the stabbing of the
Rev. Joseph F. Lubeley, pastor
of St. Joseph, Salisbury, by a
wealthy parishioner named
Joseph Schuette. The New
York Times
also documented
the crime for its readers.
St. Joseph Church in Salisbury, like
St. Peter’s in Jefferson City, seems
to be one of the choice parishes for
problem priests.

For example, the Rev. Frank Westhoff
and the Rev. Donald L. Wallace are former pastors and/or associates.  The Rev. Patrick Dolan and the Rev. Bill Korte, who have not been implicated in scandal, have been assigned to St. Joseph as well.

Skullduggery seems to be embedded in
St. Joseph’s at least as far back as the start of the 20th Century.

According the 25 May 1908 edition of
the New York Times, the Rev. Joseph F.
Lubeley was attacked and stabbed twice
by a wealthy parishioner, Joseph Schuette.

His wounds are probably fatal, one blow of
the knife
striking him in the temple and
another in the throat, narrowly missing
the jugular vein.  Lubeley and Schuette
had been good friends.  Lubeley survived
the attack.

The Los Angeles Times portrayed the story with this series of headlines:  Madman at the Altar, Priest’s Throat Cut by Lunatic, Wealthy Parishioner Stabs Celebrant in Crowded Church, Victim Pleads for Assailant While Lying at Point of Death.

St. Joseph, Salisbury:  Rev. William D. Debo
Rev. William D. Debo
In late August/early September 2003, the Rev. William D. Debo was confronted with a set of unsavory circumstances that led to his transfer to St. George Church, Hermann, Mo., from
St. Joseph in Salisbury.

The Debo matter created a great deal of
chaos and fear among the parishioners.

In 2004, a number of well-placed St. Joseph
parishioners confirmed the details of the
situation:  David S., who is a certified public
accountant profession and church organist
by avocation; and Rose M., a parish employee.
Both church members also offered a referral
source:  a respected community and parish
leader, who is a largescale farmer in Chariton
County.  Former Missouri state representative,
Therese A. Sander (R-Moberly), is privy to
this information.

In addition, a representative of the Mid-Missouri chapter of Voice of the Faithful offered this assessment in June 2004:

Last year, our group heard about the troubles in Salisbury, as some of their members contacted [us] .  .  .  .  We talked about inviting them to a meeting to talk about their concerns, but there wasn't much follow-up [from the Salisbury parishioners].”

Unfortunately, those knowledgeable about the circumstances continue to demur.  Debo’s career, on the other hand, seems to have survived this eclipse despite the havoc his actions inflicted on the Salisbury church.

Father Debo is a St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary graduate,  Class of 1986.  Circa 1990, his assignment status was classified as: Leave of Absence and On Duty Outside the Diocese.  Prior to St. Joseph’s , Debo was assigned to Risen Savior Church, Rhineland, and Our Lady of Sorrows, Starkenberg.  (One of Debo’s Kenrick Seminary friends and classmates is the notorious pedophile priest, Bryan Kuchar.  Kuchar was defrocked by the Vatican in 2006 despite the objects of his boss who now Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.)

We would like to know more about the circumstance regarding these job transfers and approved leaves.

St. Joseph, Salisbury:  The Rev. Timothy M. Tatro
St. Joseph Church, Salisbury, Mo.
The Rev. Timothy M. Tatro, associate
pastor (2002-2003) at  Immaculate
Conception, Jefferson City, replaced
Father Debo at St. Joseph’s, Salisbury.   St. Joseph’s was his one and only
assignment as a pastor.  In Jefferson
City, he shared the Immaculate
Conception rectory with Msgr.
Gregory L. Higley.

Tatro’s Salisbury assignment lasted
less than one week due behavior
and actions that caused as much as
consternation among the parishioners
as Debo’s did.  Tatro received an
immediate leave of absence in 2003.
His status remains unchanged.

We understand that Tatro, a former Christian Brother and Helias High School faculty member, is the protégé of Msgr. Greg Higley.  Higley, in fact, sponsored his candidacy for ordination in 1999 and managed his career until the Salisbury catastrophe.

We would like to know the particulars of the Tatro case as well.  Former chancellor, Sr. Ethel Marie Birie (known as Sister Mary Godzilla among the clergy), and Msgr. Higley engaged the Salisbury congregation with a story about Tatro’s dislike for the country life as the reason that he failed his five-day assignment.  This rationale was hardly plausible is 2003.  It cannot be true in 2012.

Father Tatro’s current whereabouts are not known to the public; although he remains on the diocesan payroll.

Missouri Bishops Target Organization Representing Survivors of Predatory Priests
Bishops Launch SLAPP Suit Strategy to Break SNAP and Silence Victims
SNAP Director David Clohessy Subpoenaed in Kansas City Pedophile Priest Case
Fishing Expedtion:  Bishops Demand 23 Years of Internal Documents and Records
Missouri Bishops Subpoena Second SNAP Leader in Pedophile Priest Case
Victim’s Group Refuses to Turn Over Names in Missouri Clergy Molestation Cases
Breaking SNAP: David Clohessy Could Face Jail Time for Contempt of Court
Bishop Robert Carlson Files SLAPP Suit to Gain Access to Victim’s Private Records
Bishop Gabino Zavala of Los Angeles Resigns; Acknowledges Wife and Two Children
Walter Mixa, German Bishop and Ally of Pope Faces New Child Abuse Allegations
Maria Jepsen, First Woman Lutheran Bishop, Resigns Over Abuse Case

Next Time:  A History of Misplaced Trust in Jefferson City Continues


  1. Hiya Emmy!
    Missed your Christmas card this year. It always reminds me of how much we laughed. Hope all is well.
    Sometime when the roll is called up yonder (or sooner, hopefully) I have a hilariously ironic CRIM SEX 1 story to tell you.
    I'm going to the Super Bowl in Indy!

  2. Does no one ask questions? Why would parishioners "demur"? Is this yet another incident "swept under the carpet"? Why weren't the parishioners of Hermann enlightened by Father Bill Debo or by the Diocese? What about the children? The Church hides so very much with pomp and circumstance of this facade created by tinsel and sham.

  3. Think back to the first time you ever heard of jefferson city nursing home. The constantly changing fashionable take on jefferson city nursing home demonstrates the depth of the subject. While it has been acknowledged that it has an important part to play in the development of man, it is important to remember that ‘what goes up must come down.’ Inevitably jefferson city nursing home is often misunderstood by those politicaly minded individuals living in the past, who just don't like that sort of thing.

  4. Please remove your comments about Father William Debo. If you want a scandal. just check in to Father Korte

    1. How do you find info about Father Korte? Are you referring to Father William Korte? His last parish was in Cuba, Mo. What do you know or how can I find info about it?

  5. I knew Father Debo years ago when I was a child and I remember him being nothing but kind. I know this article is old but I am shocked to come across it. Can't find much information on what happened other than this article but I hope it isn't true.