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Spotlight Report

Boston diocese gave letter of assurance about Shanley

Told Calif. parish record was clean

By Michael Rezendes and Matt Carroll, Globe Staff, 4/8/2002

Top church officials, such as Bishop John B. McCormack, have been implicated in systematic abuse coverups.  
Coverage of archdiocese coverups
The Archdiocese of Boston arranged the transfer of a known child molester, the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, to a California parish in 1990 with a top-level written assurance that Shanley had no problems in his past, according to a spokesman for the San Bernardino diocese.

The letter, which cleared the way for Shanley to work for three years at St. Anne's in San Bernardino, without restriction on his contact with children, was written by Bishop Robert J. Banks, who was then the top deputy to Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

Shanley signed an affidavit at the time, requested by the California diocese as a matter of course, asserting under oath that there had been no allegations of wrongdoing against him, including sexual misconduct.

During most of the time Shanley was at St. Anne's, he and another priest from Boston owned and operated a bed-and-breakfast for gay customers 50 miles away in Palm Springs, according to interviews and property records reviewed by the Globe.

Shanley and the Rev. John J. White, his co-owner of the B&B, were both technically on ''sick leave'' from the archdiocese and were being paid by the Boston Chancery. It was unclear last night whether Law or his aides were aware of the two men's business interest.

The disclosure last night that the Boston Archdiocese may have deliberately misled another diocese came on the eve of the public release today of hundreds of pages of documents about the archdiocese's knowledge of Shanley's sexual abuse and his advocacy for sexual acts between men and boys.

''In light of these records, I am appalled that Cardinal Law allowed Paul Shanley to go to San Bernardino, given the level of knowledge about his behavior that is in the archdiocese's files,'' said Roderick MacLeish Jr., the attorney for an alleged victim of Shanley who went to court to get the records, in an interview last night.

''It appears there was a purposeful intent to keep Shanley in California to avoid further embarrassment to the Boston Archdiocese,'' said MacLeish, who represents a Newton family, Rodney and Paula Ford, whose son, Gregory, was allegedly molested by Shanley over a six-year period in the 1980s.

During the 1980s, Shanley, a former street priest in Boston, was pastor of the now-defunct St. John the Evangelist parish in Newton. He left abruptly for California in 1990, ostensibly for health reasons.

MacLeish said he would not discuss or disclose the documents until today. But he confirmed that another of the cardinal's deputies, the Rev. John B. McCormack - now the bishop of the Manchester, N.H., diocese - visited Shanley and White in California in 1991.

Calls to a spokeswoman for Law went unreturned last night.

Tony Kuick, a spokesman for Banks - who is now bishop of Green Bay, Wisc. - said the bishop could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for McCormack, a seminary classmate of Shanley, said he could not respond to questions.

Yesterday, the Globe reported that one of Law's advisers believes the Shanley files will be ''quite damaging,'' with further indications last night that they may be as embarrassing to the cardinal as the January disclosure of the records about the serial pedophilia of former priest John J. Geoghan.

Law, who arrived in Boston in 1984, transferred Geoghan from one parish to another despite knowing about his record of molesting young children.

But the Shanley documents appear to involve decisions that were made - or endorsed - more recently, during the 1990s, by Law and several other bishops.

The Globe reported yesterday that the now-retired Rev. Lawrence F. Grajek, who was pastor of St. Anne's at the time, was unaware that the Boston Archdiocese had a record of allegations of sexual abuse against Shanley that dated back to the 1960s.

Both Grajek and Bishop Phillip F. Straling, who is now bishop of Reno but was bishop of San Bernardino at the time, said they would not have permitted Shanley to serve in their diocese had they known about his history.

In an interview yesterday, the Rev. Howard Lincoln, a spokesman for the San Bernardino Diocese, said Banks wrote to assure officials in San Bernardino in January 1990 that Shanley was a priest in good standing.

''In his letter he assured us that Father Shanley had no problem that would be of concern to our diocese and that Father Shanley had resigned from his parish of his own volition and would be placed in parish ministry when he returned'' to Boston, Lincoln said.

Lincoln said San Bernardino Diocese officials had carefully reviewed Shanley's file two weeks ago after receiving a telephone inquiry about Shanley from a Massachusetts police detective.

In his letter, Banks said Shanley had been granted a one-year medical leave by Law and that Law would be appreciative if Shanley were given ministry work in San Bernardino.

Lincoln also said that Shanley submitted an affidavit required by the San Bernardino Diocese in which he said he had ''no record of any prior accusations or convictions for sex, violent, or felonious drug crimes.'' Shanley signed the affidavit under penalties of perjury.

San Bernardino records show that Shanley worked as a ''supply priest'' at St. Anne's, meaning that he said weekend Masses as needed without the full responsibilities of an associate pastor, Lincoln said.

He added that there were no accusations against Shanley while he was in San Bernardino.

On Saturday, Grajek told the Globe that Shanley was a full associate pastor. But Lincoln said yesterday that the information provided by Grajek was not correct. MacLeish, however, said it appears from the Boston records that Shanley was involved in ''youth retreats'' at St. Anne's.

Shanley's term at St. Anne's, like his assignment in Newton, ended abruptly.

In October 1993, Lincoln said, church officials received a second letter from Boston, this one from McCormack, who was then secretary for ministerial affairs, stating that Boston officials had received information about alleged sexual misconduct by Shanley that had occurred 20 years earlier.

After that, Lincoln said, San Bernardino officials informed Shanley that he could no longer function as a priest in the San Bernardino diocese.

Neither Shanley nor White has responded to past requests for interviews. In January, when the Globe reported Shanley's long history of allegedly molesting teenage boys, White denied that he owned property with Shanley - until the Globe confronted him with property records.

In the last few weeks, both Shanley and White appear to have departed from their places of residence - Shanley from an apartment in San Diego; and White from his retirement quarters at St. Mary's Church in Billerica.

Lincoln said he did not know where Shanley was living when he was at St. Anne's. But property records and interviews show that he and White owned one property and White owned another within a block of each other in Palm Springs. Together, the two lots held about 10 motel cabins that were rented to gay patrons and advertised in gay publications.

The Palm Springs neighborhood where the B&B was, called Warm Sands, has been transformed over the past two decades into a booming gay resort area, said several resort owners in the neighborhood.

John Kendrick, the president of Inn Exile, a larger gay lodging adjacent to the Shanley-White property, said the two properties, the Whispering Palms and Cabana Club Resort, were a thriving gay bed-and-breakfast business. If there were too many people at the Whispering Palms, which had about six units, the overflow would go to the Cabana, which was a block away and had about four units, said Kendrick. Neither is in business today.

The owner of a nearby gay lodging place, who asked that he not be identified, described the Whispering Palms as a ''very nice-looking, romantic place, with lots of lush foliage.''

White and Shanley sold the Cabana Club Resort, the property they owned jointly, in 1997 for $185,000. It could not be immediately determined when they acquired the property.

In 1994, White sold Whispering Palms to Kendrick's Inn Exile for $389,000. White had purchased the property in December 1990. Kendrick said he still sends a monthly check to White in Billerica as part of the purchase price.

Walter V. Robinson, Stephen Kurkjian, and Sacha Pfeiffer of the Globe Spotlight Team contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 4/8/2002.
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