Fr. Michael O'Connell parishioners react to new sexual abuse investigation

April 27, 2014 (CHICAGO)

When a south suburban resident claimed to have witnessed lewd acts by O'Connell in the late 90's, the investigation against him was reopened. And Sunday a self-proclaimed support a group took their message directly to the church.

It was the start of mass at Saint Alphonsus Parish and in front of the church were members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. They told parishioners their Pastor, Father Michael O'Connell was under investigation for alleged sexual abuse and that the church is breaking its own rules by reinstating him.

"This is very reckless and this is against the zero tolerance that the bishops agreed to in 2002," said Rosemary McHugh.

Mark Basile is a parishioner here and has two children in the school.

"Obviously there safety is my utmost concern, but for groups to come out and kind of villainize Father O'Connell at this point before an investigation is complete I think is unfair," he said.

The priest is again under investigation after a man said he witnessed O'Connell molest a teenage boy at a gym on South Harlem Avenue 16 years ago.

That new accuser, now in his 30's told the ABC7 Eyewitness News I-Team what he saw.

"I saw Mike in the locker room with this young man who was sitting on the bench in the locker room and Mike had his… He was behind him and he had his hands down his pants in the frontal section," the accuser said.

In a statement to the I-Team, the Archdiocese of Chicago said that Father Michael O'Connell "has agreed not to be present in the parish school or alone with a child, until these issues are resolved," and that "…unless there is further information that warrants additional action, Father Michael O'Connell will remain in the ministry."

A sexual abuse allegation against O'Connell back in December was deemed unfounded after investigations by the Cook County Sheriff's office and the archdiocese.

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