By Randy Ludlow

Admitting he was wrong, William M. O'Neill wrote Sunday morning of going to church to "get right with God."

"But first I have to get right with my family, my friends, and the thousands of strangers who have been hurt by my insensitive remarks. I am sorry. I have damaged the national debate on the very real subject of sexual harassment, abuse and unfortunately rape. It is not a laughing matter."

The Ohio Supreme Court justice and would-be candidate for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination seemingly turned contrite in a Facebook post on Sunday morning after his controversial remarks on Friday.

In a Facebook post on Friday, O'Neill boasted of having sex with 50 "very attractive women" and decried media "hysteria" over reports of sexual misbehavior against Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, and Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

In his Sunday post, O'Neill concluded with a message to the women in his life before departing for St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Chagrin Falls, where he is an usher and teaches Sunday school.

"To my daughters, Katie Corrin O'Neill, Tiffany O'Neill Scullen, and my sisters Patricia O'Neill Sacha and Mary Kaye O'Neill, accomplished women all, please accept my public apology for dragging you into this matter. You deserved better treatment than this. I love you, respect you, and yes. I was wrong. Thank you for loving me enough to stand up to my departure from a loving life," he wrote.

Asked what prompted his new comments, O'Neill told The Dispatch he had "a sincere discussion with the women in my life and all four demanded that I apologize immediately, and those are women I listen to."

"What really led me to the conclusion was the mean-spirited avalanche of comments being generated on my Facebook page ... people who clearly had no intention of addressing the issue of sexual assault and harassment. I inadvertently created a sideshow and wanted to stop it," he said.

O'Neill said he will report for work at the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday despite calls for his resignation from fellow Democrats and others.

The new message followed a post on Saturday, when O'Neill again took to Facebook in an attempt to make amends for his sexually charged post, which he deleted later in the day on Friday.

"I offended anyone, particularly the wonderful women in my life, I apologize. But if I have helped elevate the discussion on the serious issues of sexual assault, as opposed to personal indiscretions, to a new level...I make no apologies. Suggesting the admitted conduct of Senator Al Franken and the alleged conduct of Judge Roy Moore are on the same level trivializes the serious subject at hand.

"There are Democrats out there who are saying neither one of them pass the purity test to sit in the United States Senate. And that is sad," O'Neill wrote.

O'Neill's post on Friday was met with a firestorm of criticism, but the 70-year-old said he would refuse calls for his resignation from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Among those denouncing his post, and attitude, were Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Joe Schiavoni, former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, former state Rep. Connie Pillich and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley all said O'Neill should resign from the bench.

Many of O'Neill's critics were upset at what they viewed as O'Neill trivializing sexual harassment and assault in contrast with what he portrayed as consensual sexual encounters. He also was blasted for seemingly defending Franken and Moore.

O'Neill has said, and repeated on Friday, that he would drop his run for governor if former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray enters the race. Cordray announced last week he will resign as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before the end of November. He is widely expected to run for governor.

As governor, O'Neill said he would move to legalize recreational marijuana and reopen shuttered state mental health hospitals to treat those addicted to opioids.

(c)2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)