The Roman Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. claims that it does not collect data or keep records of cases of sexual abuse by priests or other clergy members. Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explained that the conference “has not attempted to gather this kind of data because each diocese is autonomous and answerable to the Holy See. The conference does not think it has the authority.” Meanwhile, pedophiles continue to be exposed in the priesthood and shake the fabric of the church.
Last week, Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell of Palm Beach, Florida resigned from his post and admitted that he had sexually abused a teenage boy 27 years ago. The victim, Christopher Dixon, was a seminary student in Missouri who went to O’Connell seeking help after being abused by two other priests. According to Dixon, during the abuse, O’Connell said “he was trying to help me come to terms with myself, with adolescence, confusion about my sexuality.” Dixon was abused over a period of two years before becoming a priest. As a priest, Dixon suffered emotional problems stemming from the abuse and in 1996 resigned from the priesthood and sued. The Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri settled the case that same year for $125,000. Three years later, O’Connell was appointed bishop of Palm Beach. O’Connell replaced Bishop Joseph Keith Symons, who admitted to molesting five boys during his career.
A lawyer for the Jefferson City diocese claims that church officials never informed the Vatican of the charges against O’Connell or the settlement. The New York Times reports that it is likely that the papal nuncio, a representative of the Pope, did not know of the abuse before appointing O’Connell bishop of Palm Beach. Further, church officials claim not to keep centralized records of abuse. In 1985, Rev. Thomas Doyle asked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to begin keeping records on sex abuse cases involving priests. His request was denied, however, and Doyle later lost his job at the Vatican embassy in Washington.