Fr. Michael O'Connell, the pastor of St. Alphonsus Church at 1429 W. Wellington in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, has "voluntarily" stepped aside according to the administrator of the parish, Rev. Shawn Gould.
Pastor O'Connell "is no longer residing at the parish," Rev. Gould told the I-Team. The parish also has an elementary school, Alphonsus Academy and Center for the Arts.
In a letter to parishioners obtained by the I-Team, O'Connell was said to have "stepped away from the day-to-day administration of the parish pending an investigation of an allegation against him of sexual abuse of a minor." While there are no details of the case under investigation, Gould states that the "allegation has not arisen from an event related to St. Alphonsus Parish."
Before being assigned by the Archdiocese of Chicago to the Lakeview church on July 1, 2012, O'Connell was pastor at Our Lady of the Woods in Orland Park for 15 years.
The Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement that "an allegation that he engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor almost 20 years ago while at his previous parish."
The statement said the Archdiocese of Chicago takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously, but stressed that their action is "not a judgment of guilt," and that according to church law, O'Connell remains the pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish.
Below is a full text of the letter send to parishioners:
I am writing to share with you news that we received late this week.
Fr. Michael O'Connell has voluntarily stepped away from the day-to-day administration of the parish pending an investigation of an allegation against him of sexual abuse of a minor. This allegation has not arisen from an event related to St. Alphonsus parish.
For the present, pastoral care of the parish has been entrusted to me.
The investigation is ongoing and will take some time.
We will be communicating with families of our Religious Education and school programs with suggestions for how to best discuss this situation with children, as well as making other resources available to them.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Shawn D. Gould