‘Victory,’ vindication: Former priest convicted in landmark abuse case

By Brian Ballou and J.M. Lawrence
Boston Herald
February 8, 2005

Defrocked Roman Catholic priest Paul Shanley became a convicted child rapist yesterday, bringing an end to a case that came to embody the church abuse crisis that shook the Boston archdiocese.

Just prior to the guilty verdict, defrocked priest Paul Shanley listens. (Staff photo by Mark Garfinkel)

``This is a victory for the many, many people victimized by Paul Shanley,'' said attorney Carmen Durso, representing seven people who claim they were sexually abused by Shanley between 1963 and 1994.

At trial, Shanley's accuser testified he was groped and raped by Shanley in the early 1980s at St. Jean's Catholic Church in Newton. The victim, a member of the parish's CCD class when Shanley was assigned there, said Shanley carried out the assaults beginning when he was 6 in the bathroom, the rectory, the pews and the confessional.

The jury deliberated for 14 hours before finding Shanley guilty of two counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child.

Juror Patrick Kierce said prosecutor Lynn Rooney nailed the case. ``She hit every point she needed to. Where they put some bit of doubt, she canceled it when she got back up,'' Kierce said last night.

Kierce said a combination of the victim's ``heartfelt'' testimony coupled with the testimony of the victim's wife made him believe Shanley was a child molester.

Kierce was unimpressed by defense attorney Frank Mondano's only witness, a California psychologist who testified she did not believe victims could recover memories of trauma years later. The juror said he found Elizabeth Loftus' statements ``contradictory.''

Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley revealed yesterday how close the case came to falling apart two weeks ago when the accuser made a tearful plea to spare him from another day of emotionally wrenching testimony.

``If that young man had not come back into the courtroom, we would have had to let the case go,'' Coakley said. ``This has been a very long journey for everyone involved in this case, but especially for the victim and his family.''

One of Durso's clients, John Harris, said, ``So many of us had to count on this case for our own justice since our cases couldn't be brought to court because of the statute of limitations.''

Harris, 47, of Norwood said he was raped by Shanley when he was a 21-year-old seeking counseling from the former priest.

Shanley, 74, stood emotionless as the guilty verdicts were read yesterday, but several feet behind him, the 27-year-old man who dredged suppressed memories of abuse as a boy at the hands of Shanley buried his face in his hands, cried, then flashed a subdued smile to family members.

Soon after Shanley's bail was revoked and he was taken out of the courtroom, his niece, Teresa Shanley, said: ``There are no winners today. There are only losers.''

``It was painful to watch others sort through their memories, to put your fingers into other people's lives to make an enormously important decision,'' juror Victoria Blier said. ``No matter how we decided there would have been one party left wounded.''

Shanley, who plans to appeal the verdict, faces life in prison when sentenced Feb. 15 in Middlesex Superior Court.

( Jack Meyers and The Associated Press contributed to this report. )


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