A Roman Catholic priest who allegedly advocated sex between men and boys was arrested today on charges he raped a young boy over a seven-year period — with some of the assaults occurring in a church confessional.
The Rev. Paul Shanley, 71, a figure at the center of the Boston archdiocese sex scandal, surrendered to police at his home in San Diego this morning. He faces three counts of child rape in Massachusetts, Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley said.
The alleged victim, now 24, accuses Shanley of abusing him repeatedly from 1983 to 1990, starting from the time he was 6. The unidentified accuser told police Shanley regularly removed him from his religion class and took him to a bathroom, across the street to the rectory or to the confessional at St. Jean Parish in Newton, Mass., where the priest allegedly abused the boy, Coakley said.
The alleged victim said Shanley told him, "if he told, no one would believe him," according to the prosecutor.
"He was 6 years old and was fond of Shanley," Coakley said.
An extradition hearing is set for either Friday or Monday.
Shanley was arrested after television crews tracked him down in San Diego. Fearing Shanley might flee, the prosecutor said she moved fast to detain him.
"We're pretty relieved. We were concerned," she said. "We are always concerned when there is an individual outside the state who has the means to flee."
Shanley's First Criminal Charges
The new allegations surfaced in the last few months, Coakley said, amid growing publicity about the sex-abuse scandal in the Boston archdiocese, first centered on priest John Geoghan, who is serving a prison sentence for fondling a boy and who is accused by more than 130 other people of abuse.
These new criminal charges are the first to be filed against Shanley, who has already been the focus of a civil lawsuit against the archdiocese.
Although many child sex-abuse charges against priests are too old to prosecute, the statute of limitations has not run out in this case. The current statute extends 10 years from the victim's 16th birthday, and the alleged victim is 24.
"This very clearly falls within the statute of limitations," said Seth Horwitz, spokesman for the Middlesex County district attorney's office.
Shanley faces a possible life sentence if convicted of the charges.
Law, Church Criticized
The district attorney's office is looking into several other "credible" allegations of abuse by Shanley from victims who came forward after intense media scrutiny of the church sex scandal in recent weeks.
Neither Shanley's attorneys nor the Boston archdiocese have commented so far.
Both the Boston archdiocese and Cardinal Bernard Law have come under criticism for their handling of the Shanley case.
After receiving dozens of allegations of abuse by Shanley, officials did not warn a California diocese when he moved there in 1990.
Documents associated with the civil lawsuit and released last month showed archdiocese officials knew about Shanley's attendance at a 1979 meeting in Boston at which the North American Man Boy Love Association was apparently created.
Shanley was appointed to the Newton parish in 1980 after church officials ended his "street ministry" because they did not approve of his views on homosexuality.
Priest Ran Palm Springs Hotel
The alleged victim in the criminal case said Shanley began abusing him months before the priest was promoted from parish administrator to pastor of the Newton parish in December 1984.
"I am confident that you will have a zealous and fruitful ministry in your new appointment," Law wrote Shanley at the time.
In recent weeks, the archdiocese has released 1,600 pages of records in the civil case.
Gregory Ford, 24, and his parents, Paula and Rodney Ford, are suing the archdiocese and Law for negligence for allowing Shanley to be posted to the Newton parish where Gregory Ford was allegedly repeatedly abused and raped as a child.
Shanley was ordained in 1960 and worked as a street priest until 1979. He was transferred to the San Bernardino Diocese in 1990. While serving as a pastor part time, he also owned a hotel that catered to gay clients in Palm Springs, Calif.