An abusing bishop’s new life

An abusing bishop’s new life

  • Bishop O’Connell’s lodgings and life are more spartan than those of another bishop who resigned in disgrace because of his personal sexual misconduct and (later discovered) diocesan financial mismanagement—namely Patrick Ziemann, formerly of Santa Rosa, California.  He resides in what one source ( ) describes as a “comfortable, if not luxurious, exile at [Holy Trinity Monastery] in the Arizona desert [near Tucson] that doubles as a tourist destination.  Ziemann, 61, is fit, tanned, and in good spirits. A fixture on the artsy party circuit in nearby Tucson, he’s even spotted occasionally at a karaoke bar.”  The same source says, “church officials haven’t ruled out the possibility that the disgraced bishop may someday get a crack at heading another diocese.  And neither has he … ‘Whatever the Lord has in mind for me, I’m willing to accept.’”  Another source ( ) says, “he is allowed to work inside the monastery with young men who want to become priests and with people who are going through some crisis in their lives, who go there for guidance.” (That sounds similar to the “punishment” meted out to Bishop Thomas O’Brien, formerly of Phoenix, Arizona.)

    Why did Bishop Thomas Dupre, formerly of Springfield, Massachusetts, go to the Saint Luke’s Institute in Maryland for treatment rather than to monastery to do penance?  The allegations of sexual abuse against him date back about 30 years.  Charges of recent abuse might call for psychiatric treatment of some sort, but allegations dating that far back would call for doing penance of some sort, unless on advice of legal counsel he is trying to build a case of diminished mental capacity of some sort.

  • Fr. Michael,
    While I understand your disappointment in the current situation for Bishop Ziemann, it is unclear to me that the other bishops of California had or have any authority whatsoever to place Bishop Ziemann in any particular location.  Now, if they had been given that charge by the Holy See, I can understand your point.  But I am not aware that the bishops of California were put in charge of Bishop Ziemann’s “penance.”

  • Some of those questions can’t be answered by anyone but those directly involved.

    The obvious answer to your first question is that he wasn’t prosecuted before the statute expired because a proper complaint wasn’t made. If I remember correctly, the victim didn’t file a criminal complaint in time. However, there have been cases of abuse where the police or prosecutors or even judges refused to deal with the crimes, letting the abusers off the hook. That’s a little reported part of the Scandal that I think most have missed.

    If charges were filed and O’Connell bolted, he would be no different from any other fugitive. An interesting question is what would happen if he fled to the Vatican. Would they extradite him?

  • Sometimes victims were bullied into not filing complaints by diocesan officials or other priests. Sometimes they just got civil settlements and were satisfied. But I agree that a victim does have a responsibility, especially to other potential victims, to file a criminal complaint.

  • “Monasteries have always struck me as the right place for priestly abusers on’s mess. And did so at a cost to himself (not being able to live in that opulent mansion). That’s what leadership is.

    Or are there any Bostonians who see this as the equivalent of selling the Crown Jewels?