January 11, 2005

Gramick's charity to Shanley is more than he deserves



Sr. Jeannine Gramick obviously has never read the 1,600-plus pages of the Boston archdiocese’s file on Paul Shanley. I have. Had she done so before taking up his cause, she would have seen that there were complaints about Shanley’s inappropriate behavior toward minor boys going back nearly 40 years and that the diocesan-appointed psychiatrist who finally examined him in 1994 concluded, “Fr. Shanley is so personally damaged that his pathology is beyond repair.”

It is hard even to imagine, let alone understand, the callous disregard for these children, their parents and for Shanley’s many parishioners displayed by the Boston hierarchy when confronted with his behavior through the years. Even more difficult to fathom is why Shanley’s chief protector in the hierarchy, Bishop John B. McCormack, currently in Manchester, N.H., and others of his ilk still enjoy the perquisites of high church office. While the archdiocese was trying to negotiate with one accuser in 1994, for example, and two other allegations of abuse surfaced at the same time, Shanley, upon his retirement from the Boston archdiocese, received a pension and a letter of commendation from Cardinal Bernard Law. Law wrote: “For 30 years in assigned ministry you brought God’s word and his love to his people and I know that continues to be your goal despite some difficult limitations.” Shanley was eventually farmed out to California where he helped run a gay motel. The diocese to which he was sent was never told of his reputation, thus allowing him to strike again with impunity.

What a slap in the face to the victims. This constant protection and charity displayed by one member of the religious to another, this reaching out to the black sheep, trying to bring him back into the fold at the cost of ignoring those who have suffered the abuse. This blasé attitude toward the “others” not of the old-boy and old-girl network has been a hallmark of the church’s current sex abuse scandal. It is as if Sr. Jeannine, clinging to her warm memories of the fight for gay rights waged with Paul Shanley at the barricades, obscures the facts of his case. Why hasn’t the church displayed the same charity toward those whose lives have been ruined by predator priests like Shanley?

Posted by kshaw at January 11, 2005 03:32 PM