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Chicago priest steps aside amid sex abuse allegations: archdiocese

Updated: January 10, 2014 6:30AM



The pastor of a Roman Catholic church in the Lake View neighborhood agreed to step aside from day-to-day responsibilities amid an allegation he had sexual contact with a child nearly 20 years ago while working at an Orland Park parish.

The Archdiocese of Chicago was notified of allegations earlier this week that Rev. Michael W. O’Connell engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor when he was the pastor of Our Lady of the Woods Parish in Orland Park, spokeswoman Susan Burritt said.

O’Connell worked at the southwest suburban parish between 1997 and 2012. He has held various posts within the archdiocese since his ordination in 1983, Burritt said.

At Cardinal Francis George’s request, O’Connell agreed to step aside from his duties at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church as church officials investigate, a statement from the archdiocese said.

By law O’Connell remains pastor of the North Side church, where he has worked since July of 2012, but he will reside elsewhere until the investigation is over, Burritt said. He has not been removed from active ministry, but has stepped away from day-to-day responsibilities at the church.

The archdiocese also reported the allegation to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday evening.

O’Connell also previously worked at St. Michael Parish in Orland Park from 1983 to 1989, and at the Church of St. Mary in Lake Forest from 1989 to 1993, according to his biography on the St. Alphonsus parish website.

Email: lshelton@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ByLeeAnnS



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