The Diocese of Jefferson City

A Case Study of Clergy Sexual Abuse

Monday, June 4, 2012

Childproof 31: Death Comes for Anthony J. O’Connell

Page 31

Anthony J. O’Connell
10 May 1938-4 May 2012

8 March 2002:  Anthony J. O’Connell leaves the podium after
admitting at a press conference that he molested students at
St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary, Hannibal, Mo., during
his 26-year tenure as rector (1969-1989), dean of students
(1966-1969), faculty member (1963-1989).  O’Connell was an
apt recruiter, enrolling students from dioceses in Missouri, Illinois
and Kansas as assistant vocation director (1965-1970) and director
of vocations (1970-1988) for the Diocese of Jefferson City.

O’Connell also held one of the two leadership positions on the
so-called Priest Personnel Board (1972-1988) for the Diocese,
which gave him access to all clergy employment files.  In addition,

O’Connell was a talented rainmaker with an uncanny ability to
generate funding for the seminary and diocese alike.  He was
named bishop of Knoxville, Tenn. (1988-1998) and then Palm
Beach, Fla. (1998-2002), with the support of three close friends: 
Bernard Francis Cardinal Law, Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe and
Bishop John R. Gaydos.  Nonetheless, O’Connell died in obscurity. 
O’Connell passed away unremarked:  no obituary, no memorial,
no fanfare.  He was buried in secrecy without ceremony.  O’Connell
never apologized to those he harmed.  He expressed no regret for
his actions.  But O’Connell did manage to live in luxury at the
former winter home of Henry and Clare Boothe Luce, north of
Charleston, S.C.  The pre-Revolutionary War plantation is now
known as Mepkin Abbey, a Cistercian monastery.  The 3,200-acre
property in Monck’s Corner attracts thousands of visitors annually
to marvel at its historic gardens and tour the monks’ mushroom
growing enterprise. 
Requiescat in Pace.


  1. Someone who claims that Anthony O'Connell lived out his final years in luxury has obviously never visited Mepkin Abbey, seen a monk's room, or participated in their daily labor. Anthony O'Connell spent the last 10 years of his life participating in the arduous life of a Trappit monk. Mepkin Abbey is no county club. I was there.

    1. An interesting description (with photographs) of Mepkin Abbey has been published in the Palm Beach Post and detailed in an investigative report by Brian Ross of ABC News.

      You can read the Palm Beach Post series at:

      Accuser decries bishop’s ‘plantation’ life
      By John Lantigua
      © Palm Beach Post
      Sunday, May 17, 2004

      Where a fallen bishop goes to heal
      By John Lantigua
      Staff Writer
      © Palm Beach Post
      Sunday, April 18, 2004

      And view the ABC News story at:

      Pope still protecting pedophile bishops

    2. The Bishop for the last ten years of his life lived a life, of solitude and penanace at Mepkin Abbey. I was in touch with him from the time he arrived at Mepkin until a few days before his death in 2012. Bishop O'C lived monastic life very faithfully and he healed himself there.

  2. Oh yes, the 'arduous life of a Trappist monk'. That scumbag should have been rotting in a prison somewhere, wondering which one of his fellow felons would be offering him "spiritual counseling" next.

  3. Let's be nice and charitable here, as Jesus asks each of us and we are called to be. Bishop O'C has suffered with a physical illness for some years before his death. I know things you are not aware of, I was in touch with him for all of his time at the abbey, on a steady basis, up until a few days before his death. He was my greatest friend. Plese let him rest in peace.

    1. Perhaps you can tell us more. O'Connell apparently suffered from diabetes and had a leg amputated as a result. Some alumni have reported that O'Connell had prostate cancer. Can you confirm and add to the story of his last days?

  4. Certainly, I COULD answer your questions. Yet I wont, I remain faithful to the Bishop in death as my friend. This shall always be. Since he was most faithful to me, never betrayed me, and he was a dear friend of mine. He was my best friend! The questions you ask here, I know the answers to. I wont answer them. Best Wishes, and Please know of my prayers for you!

  5. Many people have friended the devil over the years. Having compassion and forgiveness is definitely Christ like. I wish when I could’ve had the strength and conviction to forgive him back when I was 12 and in Knoxville. He never asked for my forgiveness. I believe your friend to be a very evil and manipulative person, from personal experience. Maybe if you got to know him as well as myself, you would take down his picture from all of the schools, Ms Superintendent. My dad said it best. “I’m not saying I know where he went. But if he’s in heaven, he’s sweeping the streets. The world is a better place anytime a child predator is called to judgment.