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Spotlight Report

Archdiocese to fund care of alleged abuse victim

By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff, 8/31/2003

The Archdiocese of Boston yesterday agreed to pay for specialized, residential mental health treatment for one of the alleged sexual abuse victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley, the day after the 25-year-old Newton man punched his fist through a glass window, apparently in anger over his alleged abuse.

Gregory Ford was walking home from a neighborhood barbecue with a friend, and talking about being molested, when he became agitated about 11:30 p.m. Friday, said his lawyer, Roderick MacLeish Jr. Ford used one arm to shatter a plate glass window at a store owned by his uncle, then began yelling outside the home of one of his neighbors, said the lawyer.

He was restrained by his father and taken by police to a local hospital, where a social worker and a psychiatrist met with him yesterday, according to his lawyer. Ford was not seriously injured but will require specialized psychiatric care, said MacLeish. Yesterday, he said, the archdiocese agreed to pay for the residential treatment, which is not covered by Ford's health insurance.

''Greg's done well in the past year, he's done depositions and interviews, but this is a reminder that the trauma of sexual abuse is not something you get over,'' MacLeish said.

Ford, who lives with his parents in Newton and is not able to work, had been feeling ''desperate'' for several weeks; he has suffered recent flashbacks and nightmares about Shanley, and cut his stomach with a knife a few weeks ago, his lawyer said. He attends therapy sessions paid for by the archdiocese two or three times a week. His parents met recently with Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley, who pledged to do whatever he could to help their son, said MacLeish.

A spokesman for the archdiocese could not be reached yesterday.

Ford and his family filed a civil lawsuit against the archdiocese early last year alleging that he was repeatedly raped by Shanley at St. John the Evangelist parish in Newton in the 1980s, when he was between 7 and 13 years old. The lawsuit forced the archdiocese to release 1,600 pages of confidential documents, which showed that complaints were filed against Shanley, a former ''street priest'' who advocated sex between men and boys, as early as the 1960s.

Cardinal Bernard F. Law testified that he promoted the priest to serve in Newton without consulting his personnel file.

In a legal response to Ford's suit last year, Law asserted that negligence by Ford and his parents contributed to the alleged abuse, a suggestion that outraged abuse victims and their advocates.

Awaiting a criminal trial on 10 counts of child rape, Shanley served seven months in jail before friends and family raised $300,000 to bail him out last year.

At a news conference in Boston in April 2002, Rodney Ford said the abuse caused his son to engage in self-destructive behavior that required him to be hospitalized more than a dozen times. Speaking angrily of the need to hold church officials accountable, he showed reporters a picture of his son smiling at age 6. ''Look how happy he was,'' Rodney Ford said. ''Shanley took his innocence.''

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