January 16, 2005

Trial of priest at center of clergy sex abuse scandal set to begin

Telegram & Gazette

AP Legal Affairs Writer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. He's 73 now, and unrecognizable as the hip "street priest" known more than 30 years ago for wearing long hair and blue jeans, and reaching out to Boston's troubled youth.

Paul Shanley is a senior citizen now, frail-looking with thinning white hair and deep lines in his face. His has become perhaps the most recognizable face of the clergy sexual abuse crisis that has shaken the Roman Catholic Church for the past three years.

This week, Shanley goes on trial on child rape charges in one of a handful of criminal cases in which prosecutors have been able to bring against priests accused of sexually abusing children decades ago.

Most of the priests accused in civil lawsuits have avoided criminal prosecution because the alleged crimes were committed so long ago that charges were barred by the statute of limitations. But because Shanley moved out of Massachusetts, the clock stopped, allowing prosecutors to arrest Shanley in May 2002 for sexual abuse that allegedly took place between 1979 and 1989.

Shanley became one of the most notorious figures in the clergy sex scandal after internal church documents were released showing church officials knew about abuse complaints against him as early as 1967 and knew that he advocated sex between men and boys, yet they continued to transfer him from parish to parish.

Prosecutors started out with four alleged victims in the criminal case. All four men said they were sexually abused by Shanley at St. Jean's parish in Newton when they were children. They told similar stories of being taken out of religious education classes and raped by Shanley, in the church rectory, confessional and restroom.

Posted by kshaw at January 16, 2005 12:05 PM