Shanley Attended NAMBLA Meeting

Published May 02, 2002

| FoxNews.com

For over 20 years, the Rev. Paul Shanley established a reputation as a "street priest," setting up a ministry for runaways, drug addicts, drifters and teen-agers struggling with sexuality. 

But Shanley apparently had another side. Newly released documents show he had an extended history of sexual-misconduct allegations. He publicly defended sex between men and boys and was even at the sexuality conference that saw the founding of the North American Man Boy Love Association. 

Among the documents turned over by the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Boston in relation to a lawsuit recently filed against it was the Feb. 12, 1979, issue of a publication called GaysWeek that includes an article titled "Men & Boys." 

Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney for the family of alleged abuse victim Gregory Ford, 24, showed the magazine to reporters Monday, along with some of the 817 other church records given to Ford under court order. 

The records include 26 complaints of sex abuse against Shanley, MacLeish said. Shanley has not been criminally charged in any of them. 

The GaysWeek article described a meeting of 150 people in Boston on the topic of man-boy love. It said many speakers representing various religions endorsed such relationships — including Shanley, who was there as a representative of then-Cardinal of Boston Humberto Medeiros' program for outreach to sexual minorities. 

The article described an anecdote Shanley shared at the conference about a boy "who was rejected by family and society but helped by a boy-lover." The relationship ended when it was discovered by the boy's parents, and the man was sent to prison. 

The North American Man Boy Love Association apparently was formed at the end of the conference by 32 men and two teen-agers. There was no indication in the article that Shanley was among them. 

How much Roman Catholic leaders knew of Shanley's other side is at the center of the Ford family's lawsuit alleging superiors were aware of Shanley's past, yet allowed him access to children in different parishes for three decades. 

In February 1979, the same month as the NAMBLA meeting, Cardinal Medeiros sent a letter to the Vatican's Cardinal Franjo Seper, telling the cardinal that he had met with Shanley and told the priest he was "confusing people" with his teachings about homosexuality. Shanley had produced tapes for distribution called "Changing Norms of Sexuality." 

"I believe that Father Shanley is a troubled priest," Medeiros later told the Vatican. 

Yet Shanley was allowed to continue in the priesthood for years. When he moved to California to join the San Bernardino Diocese in 1990, he served for three years without restriction on his contact with children. 

"All of the suffering that has taken place at the hands of Paul Shanley, a serial child molester for four decades — three of them in Boston — none of it had to happen," said MacLeish. 

Ford, who said he repeatedly was raped by Shanley in the 1980s, also alleges that Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, who succeeded Medeiros, allowed the priest to remain as pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish until 1989, despite knowledge of his behavior. 

The archdiocese, in a statement, said it "has learned from the painful experience of the inadequate polices and procedures of the past," but added church officials were confident that current policies "are focused in a singular way on the protection of children." 

"Whatever may have occurred in the past, there were no deliberate decisions to put children at risk," said the statement from spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey. 

Shanley, 71, did not immediately return a call for comment left on his answering machine in San Diego, where he has been living for the past two years. He remains a priest, but no longer has a parish. 

The Boston Archdiocese has been rocked over the past few months by a sex scandal that largely began with former priest John J. Geoghan, who has been accused of molesting more than 130 youngsters and is serving a prison sentence for groping a boy in a swimming pool. 

Documents released months ago show that the archdiocese knew about the child-molestation allegations against him but did little more than transfer him from parish to parish. 

The case has set off child-sex allegations around the country and has led to the suspension or resignation of dozens of priests. 

The earliest document related to Shanley's alleged sex abuse dates to 1967: A priest at LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro, Mass., wrote a letter of concern to the archdiocese, relating allegations that Shanley had taken boys to a cabin and molested them. 

When Shanley moved to California in 1990 after a medical leave from Boston, the Rev. Robert J. Banks wrote to San Bernardino officials to say, "I can assure you that Father Shanley has no problem that would be concern to your diocese." 

In 1995, Shanley moved to New York to become assistant director of Leo House, which housed transients, clergy, people visiting the sick, students and travelers. He later was poised to become director of the organization, but was not given the job. 

Two years later, Law drafted a letter to Cardinal John O'Connor of New York, telling him Shanley had done good work and was surrounded by staff aware of his situation, but acknowledging the promotion could draw publicity to him, Leo House and the church, according to the documents. O'Connor decided against the promotion and the letter was never sent. 

On Feb. 29, 1996, Law wrote Shanley to inform him he was ending his sick leave status and was granting him senior priest/retirement status, effective the next day. 

"For thirty years in assigned ministry you brought God's Word and His love to His people and I know that continues to be your goal despite some difficult limitations," Law said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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