Ex-pri­est at cen­ter of child-sex-abuse scan­dal is freed from prison

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY ALEX HOR­TON alex.hor­ton@wash­post.com

Phil Sa­viano, an ad­vo­cate for sex­ual as­sault vic­tims, had a list of Bos­ton-area cler­gy­men al­leged to have raped young boys. And it was grow­ing.

He cre­ated a New Eng­land chap­ter of a sup­port group for peo­ple who said they had been abused by priests and drew up the list of al­leged of­fend­ers, along with other data points, be­gin­ning in 1997.

One of the names kept com­ing up in dis­cus­sions: Paul Shan­ley.

Shan­ley was a well-re­spected cler­gy­man nick­named the “Street Pri­est” for his habit of roam­ing dan­ger­ous neigh­bor­hoods to help trou­bled youths. But he also se­cretly used the anonymity of vul­ner­a­ble, way­ward boys as a weapon and a shield.

Shan­ley, 86, was re­leased from state prison Fri­day af­ter serv­ing a 12-year sen­tence for the rape and in­de­cent as­sault of a boy in a Mas­sachusetts church in the 1980s. He was de­frocked by the Vat­i­can in 2004 and con­victed the fol­low­ing year.

“The fact he was sent away for 12 years was a triumph for the survivor com­mu­nity,” Sa­viano told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Shan­ley’s out­ing and even­tual con­vic­tion were partly at­trib­ut­able to the Bos­ton Globe’s land­mark 2002 in­ves­ti­ga­tion that raised ques­tions about wide­spread abuse among Bos­ton cler­gy­men and whether of­fi­cials with the Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton had looked the other way.

The Pulitzer Prize-win­ning re­port­ing and the re­lated suits per­suaded vic­tims to come for­ward, re­sult­ing in at least five con­vic­tions in the Bos­ton area, in­clud­ing Shan­ley’s, and the res­ig­na­tion of the then-arch­bishop of Bos­ton, Bernard Law.

The probe led to the 2015 Os­car-win­ning film “Spot­light.”

Sa­viano said his Face­book page has been in­un­dated with com­ments about Shan­ley’s re­lease, which has ex­posed the prob­lem of post-trau­matic stress among sur­vivors.

“It can be very dif­fi­cult and nerve-rack­ing, and it sends peo­ple to ther­a­pists when this is back in the news,” Sa­viano said. “It brings up a lot of mem­o­ries and a lot of raw feel­ings. One me­mory will lead to an­other me­mory.”

The gray­ing Shan­ley, hob­bling on a cane to his new res­i­dence across the street from a dance stu­dio with stu­dents as young as 2, is reg­is­tered as a Level 3 sex of­fender, con­sid­ered the most likely to re­of­fend. The des­ig­na­tion has trig­gered pub­li­ca­tion of his name, his con­vic­tions and his ad­dress in Ware, about 80 miles west of Bos­ton, the Globe re­ported.

Shan­ley’s 10-year pro­ba­tion car­ries the con­di­tion that he has no con­tact with chil­dren 16 years old and younger, the Globe re­ported.

Robert Shaw Jr., the lawyer who rep­re­sented Shan­ley in a crim­i­nal ap­peal case, told the As­so­ci­ated Press that he un­der­stands the com­mu­nity’s emo­tional re­ac­tion.

“I’m sure that law en­force­ment will en­sure that the com­mu­nity feels safe, and I have ev­ery ex­pec­ta­tion that they are go­ing to ful­fill their obli­ga­tion and be cer­tain that Paul Shan­ley also re­mains safe,” Shaw said, ac­cord­ing to the AP. Shan­ley de­clined to an­swer ques­tions from re­porters, ac­cord­ing to the Globe.

Mid­dle­sex Dis­trict At­tor­ney Mar­ian T. Ryan’s of­fice op­posed Shan­ley’s re­lease, but two foren­sic psy­chol­o­gists said he did not qual­ify as a sex­u­ally dan­ger­ous per­son de­spite his Level 3 sta­tus, the Globe said.

At­tor­ney Mitchell Garabe­dian, who rep­re­sented dozens of men who say they were abused by Shan­ley, told the AP that the eval­u­a­tion was in­com­plete be­cause it did not in­volve di­rect in­ter­views with Shan­ley.

A 2002 civil suit brought al­le­ga­tions against the Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton, which trig­gered a cas­cade of doc­u­ments and dis­clo­sures from top of­fi­cials. The dis­clo­sures con­tained names of priests the church had al­legedly re­as­signed to quell al­le­ga­tions and sus­pi­cions of abuse, Shan­ley among them.

The early ac­cu­sa­tions against Shan­ley be­gan a domino ef­fect of more vic­tims com­ing for­ward, said Anne Bar­rett Doyle, co-di­rec­tor of Bishop Ac­count­abil­ity, a watch­dog group that col­lects data and doc­u­ments on sex­u­ally abu­sive priests.

Doyle told The Post that the Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton should be held re­spon­si­ble for closely track­ing Shan­ley.

“They cre­ated Paul Shan­ley. He should con­tinue to be their prob­lem,” Doyle said. Her or­ga­ni­za­tion main­tains a data­base of the names of about 4,000 cler­gy­men and other re­li­gious fig­ures ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault, she said.

The Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton re­leased a state­ment Tues­day call­ing Shan­ley’s crimes “rep­re­hen­si­ble.” In 2003, the Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton set­tled a law­suit of $85 mil­lion for 552 peo­ple who said they suf­fered abuse.

Shan­ley’s re­lease is pos­si­bly one of the last for men sent to prison as a re­sult of the Globe’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions and re­lated suits. Few priests were con­victed be­cause of statutes of lim­i­ta­tions for al­leged crimes com­mit­ted many years in the past. Shan­ley moved to Cal­i­for­nia in 1989, which stopped the clock on the statute, the Globe re­ported.

Sa­viano, who reached a set­tle­ment with his al­leged abuser and Mas­sachusetts’s Worces­ter Dio­cese in 1995, has kept a watch­ful eye out for threats against Shan­ley, he said, and he is delet­ing threats of vi­o­lence on his Face­book page. He said he is con­cerned that in­tense pub­lic scru­tiny may back abusers into a cor­ner, where they might com­mit crimes to reach prison again.

“He’s out now. It’s too bad. He lived to be 86 and lived long enough to get out,” Sa­viano said. “The con­cern now is where he is and the de­gree of peo­ple keep­ing an eye on him.”


Ex-Catholic pri­est Paul Shan­ley ar­rives at an apart­ment in Ware, Mass., on Fri­day af­ter serv­ing 12 years for sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a boy. Shan­ley is 86 and will live across the street from a dance stu­dio.

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