February 14, 2005

Yes: Verdict gives other victims the courage to come forward

Fort Wayne News-Sentinel

Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - Thirty minutes after a Massachusetts jury found ex-priest Paul Shanley guilty of molesting a boy, I got a call from a man who was also abused by a priest. ``I've never told anyone except my wife,'' he said. ``That verdict gave me the strength to finally tell someone else.''

To me, that proved that the Shanley verdict was indeed a victory for us all. Anything that makes it even slightly less difficult for wounded abuse survivors to come forward is progress.

Because of archaic and rigid statutes of limitations, very few abusive clergy ever see the inside of a courtroom. Because of timid prosecutors and excessive deference, virtually no complicit church officials have.

So the mere fact that Shanley faced criminal charges at all was, in itself, at least a partial victory for the tens of thousands of clergy molestation victims, many of whom continue to suffer in shame, silence, and self-blame even now.

The fact that a jury unanimously declared Shanley guilty is even more significant. Not too many years ago, it was unthinkable that average citizens could convict a cleric of such horrific crimes.

Posted by kshaw at February 14, 2005 07:16 AM