A former priest who was one of the most notorious figures from the Boston Archdiocese (search) sex scandal went on trial Tuesday on charges that he raped a boy in the 1980s, with a prosecutor telling jurors that the clergyman once warned the accuser: "If you tell, no one will believe you."

The lawyer for defrocked priest Paul Shanley (search) responded by saying the accuser made up the allegations to get in on multimillion-dollar settlements for victims in the scandal. Frank Mondano called the case "a vilification" orchestrated by "personal injury lawyers."

The accuser was expected to testify Wednesday.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Lynn Rooney described to jurors how authorities believe Shanley carried out the abuse at a church outside Boston (search). During her presentation, the prosecutor posted a photo of Shanley's accuser as a curly haired 6-year-old boy on a screen in front of the jury box.

She said the boy was taken out of religious education classes and raped by Shanley in the church bathroom, the pews and in the confessional. Shanley sometimes summoned the boy to the rectory to play cards. "The defendant would say, 'You lose, take off your clothes,'" and then molest him, Rooney said.

Shanley, who turned 74 on Tuesday, faces three charges of raping a child and two charges of indecent assault and battery on a child. The maximum sentence is life in prison.

He was once known as a long-haired priest in blue jeans who reached out to Boston's troubled youth in the late '60s. He was defrocked by the Vatican last year after being charged with sexually abusing boys at St. Jean's parish in Newton between 1979 and 1989.

Shanley became a lightning rod for public anger over the clergy sex abuse scandal after internal church documents were released showing church officials knew that he advocated sex between men and boys, yet they continued to transfer him from parish to parish.

The case originally involved allegations by four accusers, but it has since been whittled down to the one man, now 27, who says he was sexually abused by Shanley between 1983 and 1989, when he was between the ages of 6 and 12.

Most of the priests accused in hundreds of civil lawsuits avoided criminal prosecution because the alleged crimes were committed so long ago that charges were barred by the statute of limitations. But because Shanley moved out of Massachusetts, the clock stopped. He was arrested in California in 2002.

Rooeny said the boy didn't tell anyone about the alleged abuse for nearly 20 years, recovering his memories only after hearing of media reports about the sex scandal.

"Those memories were buried deep inside," Rooney said.

Mondano, Shanley's lawyer, said the accuser made up the allegations, repeatedly changing his story after coming forward in early 2002. He said he would call expert witnesses to debunk the science behind so-called repressed memories.

"This case is, after all, about two things: old memories and really, really old memories," Mondano said.

Rooney acknowledged that the accuser got $500,000 in a civil settlement with the archdiocese last year, but she said his willingness to testify publicly about being repeatedly raped by Shanley shows he is motivated by more than money.

Security was tight for the trial, with spectators walking through a metal detector outside the courtroom, in addition to the screening at the courthouse entrance. During a recess, a Shanley supporter had a verbal confrontation with another man in the hallway and the two were separated by a court officer.

A jury of eight men and eight women is considering the case against Shanley. Four will be appointed as alternates following the testimony, which is expected to last about two weeks.