Father Lawrence O’Connell
Diocese of Pittsburgh
Assigned as follows:
- 7/03/1930-7/21/1948: Annunciation (North Side, PA)
- 1/04/1940-7/23/1941: Annunciation (North Side, PA)
- 3/10/1946-3/27/1946: Annunciations (North Side, PA)
- 7/22/1948-10/16/1948: Master Dolorosa (Chicora, PA)
- 10/16/1948-6/25/1952: Master Dolorosa (Chicora, PA)
- 6/26/1952-6/28/1983: St. Gabriel (Whitehall, PA)
Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father Lawrence O’Connell:
Father Lawrence O’Connell was ordained a priest in 1930, who served in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. According to media reports, in January 2004, an adult female alleged that he sexually abused her on numerous occasions when she was approximately 11 to 13 years of age. She stated she and a friend worked in the rectory at St. Gabriel on Mondays, counting the loose change from the Sunday services and, inevitably, O’Connell would ask her to stay behind and then invite her into his office where he would touch her inappropriately, french-kiss her and have her perform oral sex on him.
She reported that the abuse occurred once a week for over a year. O’Connell told her; “You are special and this is our special time together.” He also told her not to tell anyone about their secret because otherwise, it would not be special anymore. Additionally, he told her he loved her.
The female further related that O’Connell took her and her friends out for lunch or to a movie and bought gifts for them. She stated that she remembers the feeling of dread that she had on Sunday nights knowing that she would be subjected to the sexual abuse the next day.
Although she told her parents about the abuse many years later, they did not pursue the subject. The Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office was notified of the allegation.
Local Reporter Affected by Father O’Connell’s Actions
In April 2004, a local reporter for KDKA TV contacted Father Lengwin to advise that she had heard there were sexual allegations against O’Connell. The reporter noted that she and her family had been members of his parish and that she had attended school at St. Gabriel.
She then reported that she and three other girls worked at the rectory and that O’Connell would occasionally call them into another room where he would kiss them; “place his tongue down your throat, fondle you and make overtures.” He also bought them gifts. The reporter noted that although she had “no desire to make a case,” it was something that she would never forget.
It was documented that the Diocese of Pittsburgh contacted the reporter and invited her to talk about the allegation that she had made involving O’Connell. The reporter responded that she did not feel that coming in to talk was something that she would like to do. She stated that the reason she had called Lengwin was to add credibility to the allegation that she had become aware of during her morning staff meeting at KDKA.
She stated that she was not currently interested in counseling and that she did not want her allegation to go any further due to her public position. She then reiterated the nature of the abuse that occurred in O’Connell’ s office. She stated that when she told her mother shortly after it occurred, her mother told her that she needed to focus more on her schoolwork and that she really did not have time to work at the rectory anymore. The other girl quit around the same time. The reporter noted that O’Connell would often buy gifts for the girls or take them to dinner at the Lamont.
More Posthumous Allegations
In April 2004, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article reporting that a lawsuit had been filed against the Diocese for ignoring and concealing the sexual abuse of six people by priests dating back to 1954.
The article reported that O’Connell was named in the lawsuit by an adult female who stated that when she was 12 years old, O’Connell had her perform sex acts with him. She explained that the abuse started with kissing and fondling, while two other girls watched. It ended three years later when O’Connell hired a new girl to work with him at St. Gabriel.
In a letter dated June 29, 2004, the Diocese provided the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office with a list of the most recent allegations of abuse received. O’Connell’s name was on the list. It was noted that a female known as Jane Doe 1, who wished to remain anonymous, was abused by O’Connell at St. Gabriel when she was between the ages of 12 and 15 years of age.
In July 2004 the Pittsburgh Post -Gazette and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review both published articles reporting that six more lawsuits were filed against the Diocese of Pittsburgh. O’Connell was named as one of the abusers. The article stated that two women reported that O’Connell often fondled them as they arrived for class at St. Gabriel. They were 7 and 14 years of age, respectively, when this occurred. The lawsuit named the Diocese, Bishop Donald Wuerl, and Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua as the defendants.
In September 2004, the Pittsburgh Post -Gazette, it was reported that eight more lawsuits were filed against the Diocese in connection with sexual abuse allegations. O’Connell was once again named in the lawsuit.
Lawrence O’Connell was first named publicly as accused in a priest profile in the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. He died in 1986.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh may have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so do not delay in reaching out to us.