Opinion: Clive McFarlane: Kathy Shaw used her craft to enrich the lives of others

Telegram & Gazette

June 29, 2018

By Clive McFarlane

In 1974, Joseph A. Fredette, a local priest and the live-in manager of a halfway house for juvenile delinquents, fled the country after Worcester police issued a warrant for his arrest on charges that he had sexually assaulted some of the boys in his care.

Years later, as the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal dominated headlines, a dogged pair of Telegram & Gazette reporters, Kathy Shaw and George Griffin, began searching for the fugitive priest. The duo learned that the priest, after fleeing the country, had been writing frequently to one of his victims, who shared the letters with Mr. Griffin and Ms. Shaw.

From those letters they were able to pinpoint his location and contact him in New Brunswick, Canada.

“I called him up, and I thought he was going to crap in his pants,” Mr. Griffin, now an adjunct professor at Worcester State University, recalled.

After the priest hung up and refused to accept further calls, Mr. Griffin said, he and Ms. Shaw flipped a coin to decide which of them would go to Canada to confront him.

Ms. Shaw won the honors, and in her bio she described “walking up and rapping on the front door of his rustic house in the wilderness,” and discovering that “questions had been raised by some area residents regarding young men he had living with him when he served in a nearby parish.”

The pair’s investigative work eventually led to the priest being extradited back to Massachusetts to face trial in 1994.

“It remains the only time one of these pedophile priests has been extradited from another country to stand trial here,” Mr. Griffin noted.

For Ms. Shaw, who died on Sunday, that investigative effort was the start of what would become a lifelong commitment to chronicling the atrocities of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, a commitment she kept up to her death.

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