Statement of Bishop Raymond J Boland
As I was driving to Jefferson City on Thursday last for a meeting of the Missouri Catholic Conference, my car radio announced details of a St. Louis press conference alleging that our diocese and a number of others, including the Holy See, were involved in a conspiracy to cover up the sexual abuse of an anonymous "John Doe" by Bishop O'Connell at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Hannibal, Missouri in the 1960s. The attorneys for "John Doe" were accusing all of us of conspiracy under a federal law known as RICO. RICO, as I understand it, is legislation enacted years ago to help the government to prosecute racketeering.
Bishop Raymond J. Boland
My initial reaction was a mixture of mystification and anger. Bishop O'Connell and "John Doe" seemed to have no connection with our diocese. For a while I thought maybe "John Doe" was a former seminarian of our diocese, but in the 1960s we had our own minor seminary (St. John's) and there was no reason to send students across the state.
Where then is the link? "John Doe", whoever he is, claims that in 1994 he came to see me and informed me that Bishop O'Connell had abused him. I have absolutely no memory of such a meeting. My Chancellor, George Noonan, on Friday last issued a statement to that effect on my behalf. This is a very serious matter and had I been told such information I am quite sure I would have remembered it. In fact, it would have been uppermost in my mind every time I met Bishop O'Connell at our Bishops' meetings over the past seven or eight years.
I do recall an incident which may or may not be connected with this allegation. Many years ago in the crowds which mill about the bishop at the church entrance after a liturgy, a man asked me if I knew Bishop O'Connell. Replying that I did, he asked if I knew where the Bishop currently lived, as he needed to get in touch with him. I said that he was the Bishop of Knoxville. That was it. I don't know if the person who approached me then is the "John Doe" who filed this lawsuit.
I don't know enough about RICO to speak about it with a sense of expertise. I just know that I am unhappy that our diocese should be named in a lawsuit with which our people have absolutely no connection. Naturally, I have had to ask our diocesan attorneys to represent our interests and I am confident they will do a good job.
I have been a priest for forty-five years and pursued this vocation because of God's love in my own life and a desire to serve others. It grieves me that many have suffered because of the actions of a few priests who, in serving their own needs, obscured God's love in each victim's life frequently leading to the victim's alienation from the Church. I am committed to living out the remaining years of my priesthood assisting those who have suffered this awful experience with the hope they will once again experience God's love fully in their lives and in the Church. I am also committed to working with all those who are dedicated to educating parents, parishioners, religious and priests to that awareness which will eventually eradicate this evil from the Church and the wider society.
In the meantime, let me say that I am grateful for your support so thoughtfully expressed in so many ways. May I ask that you continue to pray for your bishop, all our wonderful priests and those who assist me in the leadership of the diocese. God bless you all.
Bishop Raymond J. Boland
April 23, 2002