March 10, 2005

Is the guilty verdict of defrocked priest Paul Shanley a victory for clergy sexual abuse victims? No.

Daily Herald

Robin Washington

When Paul Shanley was escorted out of the Cambridge, Mass., courtroom after his Feb. 15 sentencing for the serial rapes of a Sunday school student in the 1980s, he was marching toward his death.

Not that there's capital punishment in Massachusetts, but the 12- to 15-year sentence the 74-year-old defrocked priest gets will be de-facto equal to life.

If he's lucky. I have zero faith in the corrections system that allowed the prison murder of fellow molester ex-priest John Geoghan keeping the even more notorious Shanley alive.

And who'd miss him? After the verdict, untold others prevented by statute of limitations from ever telling a courtroom their tales of abuse at the hands of the charismatic priest shed tears of relief. For three years I have been indelibly touched by their horrific stories and can only grasp at a hint of their pain. But if Shanley's conviction is viewed by them as a victory, it's a hollow one.

Our legal system hinges on reasonable doubt, and it abounds in this case. Rather than in the courtroom, Shanley's real trial was held in a hotel ballroom three years earlier, where a lawyer playing judge, jury and executioner wowed a throng of journalists and live TV audience with a PowerPoint presentation of voluminous church files to deem the priest as the devil incarnate.

Posted by kshaw at March 10, 2005 04:15 AM