Police Investigating New Abuse Accusation Against Reinstated Priest
(CBS) — Police are investigating a new allegation of sexual misconduct against a Chicago priest who was just re-instated at his north side parish.
Fr. Michael O’Connell returned to St. Alphonsus Church last week after a four-month investigation into an allegation that he sexually abused a minor in the 1990’s. Investigators couldn’t find enough evidence for criminal charges.
The new allegation also dates from the 1990’s, when O’Connell was pastor at Our Lady of the Woods in Orland Park. A witness says he saw Fr. O’Connell molest a teenager at a south suburban gym.
“He claims that he saw Fr. O’Connell bring a youngster to the gym and said he saw him touching him inappropriately and it caused him a great deal of concern,” said Barbara Blaine SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Cook County Sheriff’s police have interviewed the witness. They confirm they’ve re-opened their investigation into Fr. O’Connell.
SNAP wants O’Connell removed again while the new charge is investigated, but the Archdiocese wants to speak to the witness and with police before deciding what to do next.
The Archdiocese of Chicago issued a statement on the allegation saying, “We are disappointed that SNAP’s information today was presented to the media at a street-corner press conference directly outside the Archdiocese. We are further concerned that SNAP has been in communication with an individual “for several weeks,” and only now is making the information known to authorities and the Archdiocese. We look forward to meeting with the person and listening to his information. If SNAP has any additional information or other accusations, it is imperative that they bring it forward immediately.”