Advocacy group marks date of seminary closing

An advocacy group for victims of clergy abuse held a press conference Monday to allege priests in the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City were involved in past sexual abuses and to announce additional alleged victims of Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell.

The timing of the press conference by The Come to the Stable/Stephen Spalding Foundation coincides with the 10th anniversary of the closing of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal, after O’Connell admitted to having molested students while he worked there.

Before his resignation in 2004, O’Connell was transferred to Palm Beach, Fla., to help a church recover after another priest there admitted to having molested five boys.

Wegs said O’Connell’s transfer is part of the Jefferson City diocese culture of promoting those who hide sexual abuse.

He also named an additional eight alleged victims of O’Connell.

After the press conference, Wegs tried to hand deliver to Bishop John Gaydos a copy of “Thy Child’s Face: A Case Study of Criminal Negligence by the Dioceses of Jefferson City, MO,” along with “Come to the Stable/The Stephen Spalding Foundation, Prospectus” and other documents.

Dan Joyce, communications director for the diocese, said he would take the items to Gaydos as Wegs would not be allowed inside the chancellery since it was private property. Wegs left the items by the front door.

Wegs said the release of names and information is to encourage the diocese to better investigate clergy abuse.

Wegs noted he was shocked the state did nothing to investigate the abuse at St. Thomas.

He said that many are not speaking out and are doing nothing but perpetuating the silence, and many do little, if anything, to help those who have been abused and try to come forward.

Joyce said the diocese would not comment until it had a chance to look over materials provided by Wegs.

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