In the days since it was revealed a former Orland Park priest was accused of sexual misconduct, former congregants have expressed their support of him.
Rev. Michael W. O’Connell, who served at Our Lady of the Woods and St. Michael Parish, stepped aside from his current role as pastor at St. Alphonsus Parish in Chicago, following an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a Chicago-area volunteer organization, released a statement chiding Cardinal Francis George for not taking stronger action against O’Connell.
“There’s an important difference between stepping down and being suspended,” said Barbara Blaine, president of SNAP, in the statement. “Being suspended is more serious. It will better protect kids.”
Blaine also said in the statement that O’Connell should be placed in a treatment center.
Archdiocese of Chicago spokesperson Susan Burritt told Sun Times Media that normal protocol is being followed for the case.
Orland Park Patch readers commented in support of O’Connell in our original article:
Suzy December 10, 2013 at 07:46 AM
Father Mike was a trusted leader and friend to his congregations at St. Michael's and Our Lady of the Woods for many years. He was there for our family in difficult times. He has always demonstrated the highest character. I pray that his name is cleared.
McQue December 10, 2013 at 10:40 AM
I second that Suzy. Father Mike has been a great priest at OLOW. I hope this story proves to be false. We should NOT assume him to be guilty without a trial.
Kasey I. December 10, 2013 at 03:20 PM
You know...I have mixed feelings on this. While I did not know while he was out here in Orland, I do feel for him. I know that in this day and age, it is easy for someone to accuse a priest of sexual misconduct. Even the accusation of this is almost guaranteed to bring a big payout for the accuser and the assumption of guilt on the accused. If the priest is guilty...then he deserves everything that he has coming to him. Unfortunately, if he is not the priest is still sullied with the accusation. I know and understand what happened in the past as far as the church harboring these pedophiles. This has to stop and it looks like they are reporting accusations more and the police are actually involved more. If guilty...arrest him...put him in jail and pay the victim for damages. But if he is innocent and the victim himself of someone just trying to make some money off him...I hope that comes out also and the person who falsely accuses him is also prosecuted for making false statements.
Support also was expressed on the Orland Park Patch Facebook page:
Douglas Tigerblood Mitchell Accusations is all it is. Go Father Mike!
Sean McQuaid To those who have truly suffered from the abuse of a religious figure, I pray for you that you can heal from that event. That being said, I support Father Mike. I have known him for years, I have seen all the good he has done and all the people he has helped. His stepping aside is not an admission of guilt, it is his character to protect the church he loves. His life is being exposed and criticized, yet nothing is being said about his accuser. I don't believe the accusations and feel this is a character assassination.
Father mike is the reason my family and I went back to church. He is a wonderful man and I refuse to believe this until there is evidence. Wish people would stop crucifying the Catholic Church for the sins of man… The timelines just don't match up and for them to say almost 20 or 20+ years he wasn't at OLOW. He was in Rome. Too many discrepancies for me to think anything other than someone who is troubled and looking for a scapegoat!
Carol Maloney I will never believe this story until he is proven guilty!!
Others were more skeptical on the Facebook page:
Michael P. Murphy I am very skeptical of priests. Father Mayday of St. Bede went to jail for 25 years. A buddy of mine was a victim and ended up taking his life. He had told his mother when it happened. His mother did not believe him and made him apologize to Mayday. The pastor was also accused by 6 individuals but died before charges were file. Nice guys do terrible things. I will wait for a verdict to cast judgement, but still will be skeptical.
Denise R. McKay Only time well tell who is real victim. I hope there are no others.
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