Despite being dismissed from his parish following validated claims of widespread sexual abuse, an Illinois Catholic priest was still receiving money for prayers from local parishioners – all of whom were unaware they were paying an accused pedophile for such a service.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Rev. Donald O’Connor was released from the Catholic Diocese of Joliet in 2002 after sexual abuse allegations from 1967 to 1970 were substantiated by officials investigating the case.
Nonetheless, a Chicago ABC affiliate acquired documents indicating O’Connor was offered a lucrative job only weeks after being barred from the ministry. The position performing “mass intentions” – a Catholic tradition allowing parishioners to pay priests for prayers – was offered to O’Connor by a Diocese Sister only a month after he was officially dismissed.
WLS-TV reported the payments were offered by Sister Judith A. Davies, who wrote in a letter that if he ever needed money, “a check will be issued every three months.”
Although the Diocese of Joliet has denied providing any funds to the abusive priest, it did say O’Connor wasn’t prohibited from celebrating Mass privately.
“Priests who are removed from public ministry because of sexual abuse of minors may not celebrate Mass in public, but they are not prohibited from doing so privately,” the church said in a statement. “Like all priests, they may offer a Mass for a specific person or cause, and they may receive the small stipend if one is offered, usually $10.”
The letter sent to O'Connor from Davies was made public in March after the diocese was sued by three abuse victims.
According to the Huffington Post, O'Connor's file contained both letters of support from his parishioners and some graphic acccounts of abuse alleged by victims. In one instance, a victim said O'Connor fondled him after they played a game of cards in their underwear.