January 12, 2005

One man's burden

Boston Globe

By Eileen McNamara, Globe Columnist | January 12, 2005

Even though Paul Shanley would walk, his accuser should feel free to walk away.

It is a terrible burden to expect one man to do what so many other, more powerful men would not do, but that is just what the criminal justice system is asking of the last man standing in the criminal case against the notorious former Roman Catholic priest.

All of those PowerPoint presentations of Shanley's career trajectory, those 800 pages of secret church files enumerating the long-ignored complaints against him, even the money paid by the church to settle the civil claims against him, will not yield a criminal conviction against the defrocked priest. For that, prosecutors need one young man to testify about his memories of the popular and charismatic priest allegedy pulling him out of religious education classes years ago in order to rape him.

Yesterday, he was willing to go forward with the trial that is scheduled to begin next week. Tomorrow? No one is placing any bets.

It was never going to be easy to convict Shanley of crimes said to have occurred between 1979 and 1989. Only a quirk of Massachusetts law made it possible to prosecute him at all; the statute of limitations that normally would have applied was suspended because Shanley had moved out of state.

Posted by kshaw at January 12, 2005 05:53 AM