February 03, 2005

Gauthier: Who would you believe?

MetroWest Daily News

By Deborah E. Gauthier / News Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2005

It's hard to feel anything but compassion and admiration for the 27-year-old Newton firefighter with courage enough to confront the man he says raped him over a period of years when he was a young boy. It's hard to feel anything but contempt for the man accused.

But in a court of law, one is innocent until proven guilty. Who would you believe if you were on the jury?

The young man says he repressed the memories of sexual abuse until two years ago when three other men -- who were parishioners of St. Jean's Parish in Newton between 1979 and 1989 just as he was -- filed charges that they were molested by the Rev. Paul Shanley.

He heard their stories, and a torrent of memories flooded in -- memories of being pulled from CCD classes and sexually abused in church pews, the bathroom and the confessional. He was 6 years old the first time it happened. It continued for six years.

His sobs at the end of the first day of grueling cross-examination, when his memories, motives and lifestyle were attacked, tore at the heart. He begged the judge not to make him go through it again.

But the judge said the case would be lost if he did not return, and he returned. He is a brave man, Shanley's lone accuser. Prosecutors dropped the complaints from three others rather than have them face Shanley's defense attorneys.

Posted by kshaw at February 3, 2005 07:13 AM