record long ignored
Files show Law, others backed priest
By Walter V. Robinson and Thomas Farragher
April 9, 2002
[In the article below, the links to the documents are provided by BishopAccountability.org,
and were not included in the published or posted versions of this article.
See also the articles that ran in the Globe on the same day: News
Analysis: Heavy Blow to Cardinal's Credibility, by Michael Paulson; Reactions
and Emotions: Alleged Victims Detail Torment, by Thomas Farragher; Personal Statement:
I Say ... My Anguish Does Not End, Ever, by Arthur Austin; Correspondence:
Church Letters Show Geniality, by Matt Carroll; In
the Seminary: Medeiros Saw 'Ominous' Shift, by Sacha Pfeiffer; Defiant
Letters: A Humbling Exit from Spotlight, by Michael Rezendes and Sacha
Pfeiffer; and The
California Years: In San Diego, Past Was a Mystery, by Jeff McDonald.]
For more than a decade, Cardinal Bernard F. Law and his deputies ignored
allegations of sexual misconduct against Rev. Paul R. Shanley and reacted
casually to complaints that Shanley endorsed sexual relations between
men and boys, according to an avalanche of documents that were made public
|Rodney Ford, left, with his son Gregory, who was allegedly molested
by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, at yesterday's news conference. (Globe
Staff Photo / Jonathan Wiggs)
As recently as 1997 – after the Boston archdiocese had paid monetary
settlements to several of Shanley's victims – Law did not object
to Shanley's application to be director of a church-run New York City
guest house frequented by student travelers.
Like a priest clad in a Teflon cassock, Shanley received an extraordinary
tribute from Law when he retired in 1996, not two decades after Shanley
asserted in public remarks that there was no psychic harm from engaging
in taboo practices like incest or bestiality.
[Clips of four other documents are at the end of this article.]
In the Feb. 29, 1996, letter,
the cardinal declared, ''Without doubt over all of these years of generous
and zealous care, the lives and hearts of many people have been touched
by your sharing of the Lord's Spirit. You are truly appreciated for all
that you have done.''
Yesterday, law enforcement officials were more skeptical. Kurt N. Schwartz,
chief of the criminal division under Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly,
and three State Police detectives attended the 2 1/2-hour news conference
at which the documents were unveiled by attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr.
He obtained them under a court order on behalf of Gregory Ford, a Newton
man who allegedly was molested by Shanley between 1983 and 1989.
''We're taking a serious look at today's developments,'' said Ann Donlan,
a spokeswoman for Reilly. She declined to elaborate, but said the presence
of a senior member of Reilly's staff ''speaks for itself.''
Arthur Austin, another alleged victim of Shanley who attended the news
conference, expressed bitterness and dismay at the church's longtime protection
of Shanley, who is now 71. ''If the Catholic Church in America does not
fit the definition of organized crime, then Americans seriously need to
examine their concept of justice,'' Austin said.
The 800 pages of documents, in some major respects, are not unlike the
church records, also forced into the open by court order, about former
priest John J. Geoghan. In each case there was a priest known to have
molested children, two cardinals and several bishops seemingly uninterested
in complaints about him, and prelates who transferred him without alerting
his new superiors that he was a danger to children.
|Bishop Robert J. Banks says he was not
aware of any allegations before he sent his letter.
In both cases, church lawyers waged legal battles to protect the documents
from public release.
Geoghan is now serving a nine-to-10 year prison sentence. Shanley, because
he left Massachusetts for California in 1990, is believed to be potentially
vulnerable to criminal charges because the clock on the statute of limitations
stopped running when he left the state.
|In a note, Bishop John B. McCormack sought
Paul R. Shanley's response to allegations.
Yesterday's documents on the sexual misbehavior of a second priest is
likely to increase public suspicion that the archdiocese holds embarrassing
files on others among the nearly 100 diocesan priests whose names have
been turned over to prosecutors since January.
Donna M. Morrissey, the cardinal's spokeswoman, issued a statement last
night declaring that the archdiocese ''has learned from the painful experience
of the inadequate policies and procedures of the past.''
Her statement, which made no mention of the Shanley documents, said:
''Whatever may have occurred in the past, there were no deliberate decisions
to put children at risk.''
But MacLeish, who said there are 26 known Shanley victims, called the
documents astonishing for what they say about the depth of the archdiocese's
knowledge of Shanley's sexual habits and for the disdain they show for
his victims, many of them allegedly abused during the 1970s, when Shanley
was a controversial ''street priest'' in Boston.
''This man was a monster in the Archdiocese of Boston for many, many
years,'' MacLeish said. ''He had beliefs that no rational human being
MacLeish, wearing a wireless microphone and narrating a computer-generated
tour of some of the 818 documents handed over by the archdiocese, said
warning signs about Shanley date back as early as 1967.
''All of the suffering that has taken place at the hands of Paul Shanley—a
serial child molester for four decades, three of them in Boston—none
of it had to happen,'' he said.
Before an audience of journalists, accusers' families, and parishioners
from the Newton church Shanley served as curate and pastor from 1979 to
1990, MacLeish argued that Law, his predecessor, Cardinal Humberto S.
Medeiros, and their top aides were complicit in covering up the church's
knowledge of a molester in their midst. Letter after letter was projected
onto a large screen in a Boston hotel conference room, with warnings from
people who recoiled at Shanley's casual attitude about sex between men
and boys, or who reported that he had masturbated one boy and identified
other possible victims with names, telephone numbers, and addresses.
In rebutting a 1967 complaint that he had molested three boys, a letter from Shanley to Monsignor Francis J. Sexton denied that he had touched
any of the boys. ''... It is indeed a comforting prospect to realize that
any allegations which might in the future be made against me involving
women will be given far less credence than ordinary in the light of my
presumed predilection for pederasty,'' Shanley wrote.
But when Shanley was finally sent for treatment in late 1993 to the Institute
of Living in Hartford, after some of his victims pressed claims against
the archdiocese, he admitted that he had molested boys and had also had
sexual relationships with men and women.
The handwritten notes of Rev. William F. Murphy, an archdiocesan official, note that Shanley's
treatment concluded that he had a personality disorder, was ''narcissistic''
and ''histrionic'' and ''admitted to substantial complaints.'' The record
cited his admissions to nine sexual encounters, four involving boys.
Whether or not church officials believed Shanley's denials in the 1960s
and 1970s, there was little doubt about his controversial stance on sexual
In 1977, for instance, the archdiocese was alerted by an appalled Catholic
that during a public address in Rochester, N.Y., Shanley asserted that
the only harm that befalls children from having sexual relations with
adults is from the trauma of societal condemnation of such acts.
''He stated that he can think of no sexual act that causes psychic damage
- 'not even incest or bestiality,''' according to a letter sent to Medeiros, who died in 1983.
Indeed, the records in Shanley's personnel files disclose that Medeiros
wrote to the Vatican in February 1979 about Shanley's comments about sexual
practices. In the letter,
Medeiros called Shanley a ''troubled priest.''
Two months later, Medeiros was alerted by a New York City lawyer that Shanley had been quoted as making similar
remarks in an interview about man-boy love with a publication called Gaysweek.
Within days, according to the church records, Medeiros removed Shanley
from his street ministry, sending him to St. John the Evangelist Church
in Newton, but with an admonition.
|In 1990 the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, seen
in an undated photo, received a letter from Law granting a request
to extend his sick leave.
''It is understood that your ministry at Saint John Parish and elsewhere
in this Archdiocese of Boston will be exercised in full conformity with
the clear teachings of the Church as expressed in papal documents and
other pronouncements of the Holy See, especially those regarding sexual
ethics,'' Medeiros wrote in a letter to Shanley.
Six years later, Law promoted Shanley to pastor. And four months after Shanley became pastor in 1985,
the archdiocese reacted nonchalantly when a woman alerted the Chancery that Shanley gave another talk in Rochester in which he once
again endorsed sexual relations between men and boys.
In response, Rev. John B. McCormack - now the bishop of Manchester, N.H.
- sent a friendly note to Shanley, a seminary classmate. In a letter signed, ''Fraternally in Christ,'' McCormack wrote: ''Would you care to
comment on the remarks she made. You can either put them in writing or
we could get together some day about it.''
There was no evidence in the files that Shanley responded in writing.
Through a spokesman, McCormack yesterday refused to comment on the documents.
Three years later, in 1988, a man complained to the archdiocese that
Shanley began a sexually explicit conversation with him. But despite the
evidence in the Chancery's files about earlier accusations made against
Shanley, Bishop Robert J. Banks, Law's top deputy, concluded in a memo that nothing could be done because Shanley denied that the incident occurred.
It was Banks, the Globe reported yesterday, who cleared the way in 1990
for Shanley to take an assignment in a California diocese with a letter asserting that Shanley had had no problems during his years in Boston.
Banks, who is now bishop of Green Bay, Wis., said in a brief statement
from his spokesman: ''Obviously, I was not aware of any allegations against
Father Shanley before I sent the letter.''
Yesterday, Austin, who says Shanley abused him from 1968 to 1974, evoked
an audible gasp when he retold a conversation he said he had with Murphy,
the archdiocesan official. Austin said the conversation drove him from
the Roman Catholic Church and prompted his decision to get legal help.
''He called me about three months after I had come forward in November
of 1998 and said to me: 'Arthur, I'm going to have to be very careful
about meeting with you.' I said, 'Why is that, Bill?' And he said to me,
'Because I've spoken to experts here at the Chancery who have told me
that you are going to want from me what you wanted from Father Shanley.'
Murphy did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
MacLeish said Murphy's response to Austin illustrates a cavalier attitude
the church used toward victims. Sometimes, he said, citing one document that appears to refer to a woman who accused Shanley of being a child
molester, they put telephone complainers on hold, hoping they'd go away.
In December 1989, Shanley stepped down as pastor in Newton for reasons
that are not clear from the documents. He was placed on sick leave and
moved to California as a part-time priest at a parish in San Bernardino.
During the three years he was there, the Globe reported yesterday, Shanley
and another priest from the Boston Archdiocese, Rev. John J. White, were
co-owners and operators of a Palm Springs motel that catered to gay clients.
It was during that period that McCormack, who visited with both men,
corresponded warmly with Shanley over Shanley's regular complaints that
the archdiocese was not giving him enough financial support. He accompanied
one plea to McCormack with what appeared to be a warning that reporters
were calling him and there might be a ''media whirlwind.''
In December 1990, Law himself wrote to Shanley, granting his request to extend his sick leave for a year.
Extending his ''warm personal regards,'' Law said he was saddened to hear
about Shanley's ''malaise.''
McCormack and Shanley also corresponded about a proposal, apparently
by Shanley, to create a ''safehouse'' in Palm Springs where the Boston
Archdiocese could send ''warehoused'' priests. When he heard no response,
he wrote McCormack, ''I assume the hesitation is about me, not the concept.''
Shanley, however, moved to New York City in 1995, and took a job at Leo
House, a guest house run by an order of nuns on West 23d street in Manhattan.
Its guests included teenagers. A letter in the files by an unidentified archdiocesan official says that the job
''was a placement of his own finding'' and expresses concern that ''it
would be hard to defend if any public disclosure was made about it; i.e.,
NYC, possible questionable supervision, transient guests, young people,
not of our making, etc.''
Despite those concerns, Shanley remained at Leo House for nearly two
more years, eventually as acting executive director. And had New York
Cardinal John O'Connor not vetoed the proposal, Law was prepared to approve
him becoming permanent director in 1997.
During Shanley's long-running effort to get that job, he wrote a letter of frustration to Rev. Brian M. Flatley, an aide to Law, saying he had
''abided by my promise'' not to tell anyone that he himself had been molested
as a teenager, and when he was a seminarian, by a priest, a faculty member,
a pastor, and an unidentified cardinal.
In June 1997, Law wrote a letter to O'Connor, citing ''some controversy'' in Shanley's past, but adding:
''If you decide to allow Father Shanley to accept this position, I would
not object.'' But Flatley never sent the letter, after learning that O'Connor
ruled out the promotion.
Not long after that, Shanley moved to San Diego.
[Headline on page A10: Papers show diocese
ignored Shanley record]
Globe Staff reporters Kevin Cullen, Sacha Pfeiffer, Matt Carroll, and
Tatsha Robertson contributed to this report. Walter Robinson can be reached
at wrobinson @ globe.com. Tom Farragher can be reached at email@example.com.
This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 4/9/2002.
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