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Church settles with four in suit

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Priest was a potential witness

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Victim's memory is questioned

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Spotlight Report

  Paul Shanley is arrested in San Diego on three counts of child rape. (Photo / WBZ-TV)

Shanley is arrested in Calif.

Retired priest faces 3 counts of child rape

By Michael Rezendes, and Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 5/3/2002

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In the first local criminal action since the clergy sexual abuse crisis erupted in January, California law enforcement officials yesterday arrested the Rev. Paul R. Shanley on a Newton police warrant charging him with three counts of rape of a child.

The charges stem from newly made assertions by an alleged victim who told authorities that the onetime Newton pastor forced him to have sex after religious instruction at the now-defunct St. John the Evangelist Church.

Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said other alleged victims have told investigators that Shanley's alleged abuse of students, one of whom was 6 years old, occurred ''almost on a weekly basis,'' in the church confessional, the rectory, and a restroom.

Coakley would not identify the person who made the charges that resulted in yesterday's arrest, but a private lawyer and a criminal justice source said they were made by Paul Busa. Busa, a 24-year-old former Newton resident, said in a Massachusetts civil lawsuit that Shanley repeatedly molested him from 1983 to 1989, beginning when Busa was 6 years old.

Shanley, 71, surrendered to authorities in his San Diego home and was led away in handcuffs. He will face an extradition hearing there today.

In his lawsuit, Busa said that he ''started to repress memories of the abuse almost immediately from the time it began,'' and that the memories came flooding back in February, after he read a story about Shanley in the Globe.

That story recounted Shanley's life as a celebrated Boston ''street priest'' during the 1970s, when he ministered to troubled teenagers living on city streets, and it reported on assertions that Shanley had abused minors.

When he read the story, Busa, who was working as a military police officer at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, broke down and cried for six hours, according to an account in the Colorado Springs Gazette. After suffering an emotional breakdown, Busa returned to the Boston area, where he is under psychiatric care, his suit said.

In an interview broadcast yesterday by WBZ-TV, Busa said that when Shanley was allegedly abusing him ''he used to tell me that nobody would believe me'' if Busa revealed the abuse.

Busa also said, ''At 6 years old, you don't know what he's doing is wrong. I know I didn't like it, but he's a priest and he's not going to do anything he's not supposed to.'' Since the memories of the abuse have returned, Busa said, he has experienced ''two or three panic attacks a day.''

Coakley said that the investigation is based on credible allegations made by more than one person who said they were abused by Shanley. She said she has already taken action to present the allegations to a grand jury.

Coakley said the allegations were not contained in records recently provided her office by the Archdiocese of Boston. But those records did contain earlier allegations against Shanley that fall outside the statute of limitations for sexual abuse of a minor and cannot be prosecuted.

The allegations that led to Shanley's arrest, however, are well within the statute. At the time of Busa's alleged abuse, the clock began ticking when the alleged victim turned 16, and runs for 10 years.

Coakley made it clear that investigators moved quickly to file the charges against Shanley after a WBZ-TV news crew located Shanley in San Diego.

The charges against Shanley, Coakley said, were filed as a result of an unusual confluence of events: the release of church documents from Shanley's personnel file, new accounts of abuse by alleged victims of Shanley, and media reports on Shanley's activities since he left Boston in 1990.

Shanley's arrest took place yesterday morning after an officer working with a multi-agency task force telephoned a San Diego address provided by Massachusetts State Police and left a message notifying Shanley that his apartment was surrounded and that there was a warrant for his arrest, said James Schield, a supervisor with the US Marshal service.

Approximately 10 minutes later, Shanley returned the call and was directed to go to the front door, where he was apprehended at about 10:40 a.m. (EDT)

Shanley could be returned to Massachusetts in a matter of days if he waives his right to fight extradition, said Liz Pursell of the San Diego district attorney's office.

If he fights extradition, Acting Governor Jane Swift would be required to send a ''governor's warrant'' to the governor of California, a process that could take considerably longer. A conviction on child rape carries a life sentence in Massachusetts.

Shanley's Boston lawyer, Frank Mondano, did not return telephone calls from the Globe seeking comment. Mondano represented Gerald Amirault in the Fells Acres day care case, in which Amirault, his sister, and mother were charged with sexually abusing children.

Shanley's alleged victims, church officials, and advocates for clergy abuse victims expressed relief at Shanley's arrest.

''Our hope is that the arrest of retired priest Paul Shanley on charges of the sexual abuse of a child will bring some level of relief and contribute to the healing of those who have been sexually abused as children and teenagers,'' said Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese.

Phil Saviano, a victim of clergy sexual abuse and director of the local chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called Shanley's arrest ''wonderful'' and ''long overdue.''

''It shows what can happen when somebody who was molested so many years ago decides he's going to take a stand, perhaps put his reputation on the line, and come out with this terrible secret,'' Saviano said.

Paula Ford, whose family has filed a negligent supervision case against Cardinal Bernard F. Law because of the alleged abuse of her son, Gregory, by Shanley, saluted all the cleric's alleged victims. ''The man who molested you is behind bars because of your courage to come forward,'' she said yesterday in a news conference.

Shanley's past recently attracted national attention following the release of 1,600 pages of church documents in the Ford case. Some showed that church officials allowed Shanley to work as a parish priest even though they had evidence of sexual misconduct, and knew he advocated sex between men and boys.

Coakley said yesterday that she does not believe that her investigation of the new allegations against Shanley will lead to criminal charges against church officials who supervised him.

The recently released documents contain evidence that Shanley tried to blackmail the late Cardinal Humberto S. Medeiros with allegations of unspecified activities at St. John's Seminary, after Medeiros ended Shanley's controversial street ministry and assigned him to St. John the Evangelist Church.

The records also contain a letter written by Shanley to a church official in which Shanley referred to an agreement he made to not reveal his own molestation at the hands of a former cardinal.

The documents, released under a court order, also showed that Shanley continued working in Catholic institutions after he left Massachusetts with the assistance of church officials who knew about the allegations that had been made against him.

For instance, the records show that Bishop Robert J. Banks of Green Bay, Wis., a former top deputy under Law, paved the way for Shanley to take a parish position in the San Bernardino, Calif., diocese with a letter asserting that Shanley had had no problems during his years in Boston.

The documents are also replete with warm, chatty letters to Shanley by Law, a former deputy, the Rev. John B. McCormack, now bishop of the diocese of New Hampshire, and other top church officials.

Shanley, who was ordained in 1960, launched his ''ministry to alienated youth'' in 1970. Based at St. Philip's in Roxbury, Shanley ran the ministry for eight years, drawing frequent publicity for challenging the church's position on homosexuality.

In 1979, Medeiros reassigned Shanley to St. John the Evangelist parish in Newton. About a decade later, in 1990, Shanley was placed on sick leave and moved to California, surfacing at St. Anne Church in San Bernardino, where he worked occasionally on weekends and spent his weekdays running the Cabana Club, a clothing-optional gay motel in nearby Palm Springs with another Boston priest who was then also on sick leave, the Rev. John J. White.

For three or four years in the early and mid-'90s, Shanley was acting director of Leo House, a New York City hostel for clergy, students, and travelers. Church files contain a draft of a letter written by Law recommending Shanley for the director's position, although New York Cardinal John O'Connor vetoed the idea and the letter was never sent.

For the past several years, Shanley has been living in San Diego and, until last month, working as a police volunteer. He was dismissed from that position after police officials learned of the allegations against him in Boston.

Coakley, who was recently named to the archdiocese's Commission for the Protection of Children, said she will review her commission membership to determine if it is a conflict, or presents the appearance of a conflict, with her job as a prosecutor. ''My job as district attorney comes first,'' she said.

Douglas Belkin and Walter V. Robinson of the Globe Staff contributed to this story.

Michael Rezendes can be reached at Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached at

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 5/3/2002.
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