The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Church yet to deliver medical case history

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 5/14/2002

A Superior Court judge has ordered the Archdiocese of Boston to immediately turn over all psychiatric and medical records pertaining to the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, who is being held on three counts of child rape for allegations dating to his tenure as a priest in Newton in the 1980s.

By yesterday evening, church officials had yet to comply with Friday's court ruling, according to Roderick MacLeish Jr., the lawyer for plaintiff Paul Busa, who alleges that Shanley sexually abused him from 1983 through 1990, beginning when he was 6 years old.

Shanley's lawyer, Frank Mondano, had objected to the release of the files, arguing that they were protected by privacy rights and doctor-patient confidentiality.

Last month, the archdiocese turned over more than 1,600 pages of documents on Shanley but withheld others on the grounds that they were exempt from disclosure.

Superior Court Judge Janet L. Sanders ruled Friday that Shanley waived his privacy rights when he shared his medical records with church officials, saying that by doing so he voluntarily consented to their release.

By forwarding letters from his doctors and other medical records to the archdiocese, ''Shanley necessarily forfeited any privilege against disclosure that this information might have had,'' Sanders wrote.

Citing two instances of Shanley sharing medical information with church officials, Sanders noted that the priest gave the archdiocese a letter from a California doctor describing his medical problems ''in the expressed hope that it would provide support for his efforts to be put on permanent disability'' or extended medical leave.

Shanley also consented to a mental health assessment at a residential treatment facility, knowing the result would be shared with a 13-member church review board deciding whether to grant him full medical disability.

In her ruling, Sanders, who has reviewed the medical records, noted that the assessment was ordered by the board in about 1993, after church officials discovered that Shanley had engaged in ''aberrant sexual misconduct.'' Sanders also wrote that there are ''gaps'' in the archdiocese's files and ordered church officials to ''again review its files to make sure that all documents in existence have in fact been produced.''

Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said last night that the church's lawyers had not yet seen the court order. Mondano did not return a call seeking comment.

Shanley, Boston's widely known former ''street priest'' in the 1960s and '70s was arrested earlier this month in San Diego, where he had been living for the past three years, after Newton police charged him with three counts of rape of a child.

Shanley faces numerous other allegations that he sexually abused boys in Massachusetts, but until Busa came forward, most of the complaints against him were believed to have exceeded the statute of limitations.

A hearing will be held this afternoon to determine whether the records should be made available to the public.

Meanwhile, Sanders has recused herself from the case, saying that it would be improper for her to decide what are expected to be numerous media-related issues because her husband is a partner at a law firm that represents a local television station.

This story ran on page B4 of the Boston Globe on 5/14/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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