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Papers reveal church's knowledge

©Los Angeles Times
April 9, 2002

BOSTON -- Although well aware of sexual abuse complaints against Father Paul Shanley, Catholic church officials in Boston failed to disclose his history when they approved his 1990 transfer to a Southern California parish, documents released Monday show.

On the contrary, a recommendation to the diocese of San Bernardino described Shanley as "a priest in good standing."

At a 2 1/2-hour news conference, lawyers for a family that has filed a lawsuit against Shanley displayed material from his personnel file on a video screen. The papers showed that church officials knew of sexual misconduct charges against the priest since at least 1967. Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law also is named in the lawsuit.

"They gave (Shanley) their seal of approval and shipped him out," said Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for Gregory Ford, 24. Ford has alleged that Shanley abused him over several years, starting when he was just 5 or 6. "He was taking children on youth retreats in San Bernardino, and the Archdiocese of Boston knew about it," MacLeish said.

In a statement that did not mention Shanley, Boston Archdiocese spokeswoman Donna M. Morrissey said Monday that "whatever may have occurred in the past, there were no deliberate decisions to put children at risk."

Shanley, 71, now lives in San Diego. He was fired last week from his post as a Police Department volunteer.

While church leaders knew about sexual abuse accusations against Shanley, they continued to give the priest access to children in different parishes for 30 years.

Vatican officials also were told as early as 1979 about Shanley's statements on love between men and boys, the documents show.

"I believe that Father Shanley is a troubled priest and I have tried to be understanding and patient with him while continuously affirming both privately to him and publicly to my people the church's teaching on sexual ethics," then-Cardinal Humberto Medeiros wrote to Cardinal Franjo Speer at the Vatican.

Shanley voiced his opinions at a 1979 conference in Boston that served as the foundation for the North American Man Boy Love Association.

That same year, Medeiros reassigned Shanley to St. John the Evangelist Parish in Newton, Mass., just outside Boston.

During his three-year tenure at St. Anne's parish in San Bernardino, Shanley also operated an inn catering to gay customers about 50 miles away in Palm Springs, the Boston Globe reported.

CLEVELAND SUSPENDS PRIESTS: The Cleveland Catholic Diocese suspended nine priests Monday while prosecutors review past allegations that they sexually abused children.

None of the cases was recent and some dated back 15 years, diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said. He said the diocese had evaluated all the suspended priests and that there had been no new complaints about them.

IRELAND TO REVIEW ABUSE CASES: The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland will appoint an independent investigator to review its handling of child sexual abuse by priests and will cooperate fully with a government inquiry into the most notorious cases of abuse, Archbishop Sean Brady said on Monday.

The announcement came after an extraordinary daylong meeting of Ireland's 33 bishops at the country's largest seminary, in Maynooth. The meeting was prompted by the resignation of the bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey, on April 1, after he acknowledged that he did not do enough to stop priests in his diocese from sexually abusing children.

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