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Accused Priest in Boston Is Freed on Bail

Dec 11, 2002 | AP

The Rev. Paul Shanley, whose arrest has been at the center of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, was released Wednesday on $300,000 bond after spending seven months in jail.

The retired Roman Catholic priest was jostled by a media throng as he left the courthouse and made his way to a waiting sport utility vehicle, surrounded by his lawyers and court officers.

He didn't respond to reporters' questions or shouts from a group of about 12 protesters across the street.

"I think it's disgusting," protester Phil DeAlbuquerque said of Shanley's release. "For something like this to happen a person as evil as he is we definitely have a problem in our judicial system."

Shanley, 71, is charged with 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery. He also faces several civil lawsuits accusing him of abusing boys at a church in Newton from 1979 to 1989.

Earlier this year, the Boston Archdiocese released personnel files indicating that church officials had received complaints about Shanley dating back to 1967, and that Shanley had advocated sex between men and boys. Boston Cardinal Bernard Law has said he didn't know about allegations against Shanley until 1993.

Rodney Ford, the father of an alleged victim, said news of the pending release horrified his now-adult son. "He has a look on his face I haven't seen in years," Ford said. "It's back, and it's scary."

Under the terms of his release, Shanley cannot have contact with anyone under age 16, or with any alleged victims or witnesses in his case. He must also remain in Massachusetts and tell the probation department where he will be staying while his case is pending.

Mondano would not disclose that location publicly, saying he was concerned about Shanley's safety, given the anger of alleged victims.

"Obviously, you don't have total control over all those circumstances ... and all of those people who might be inclined to go around the bend," he said.

Shanley had been jailed since May when he returned to Massachusetts from California, where he had been living.

His attorney, Frank Mondano, said a "substantial number" of family, friends and supporters raised the bail for Shanley, whom Mondano had previously described as nearly broke. Because the bail was posted in cash, the money's source is not public record.

The Boston Archdiocese has said it did not contribute to the bail.

Shanley's release came a day after a deal was announced in neighboring New Hampshire to let the Manchester Diocese avoided charge by allowing state oversight and admitting it failed to protect children from predatory priests.

The rarely granted oversight will include an annual audit, and the diocese also must beef up training and education. In addition, priests and other employees must strictly follow the state's mandatory reporting law for suspected child abuse and must immediately report suspicions even if the victim is no longer a minor.

The state was pursuing misdemeanors under its child endangerment law, which experts believed would have been the first criminal charges ever against a U.S. diocese. Violations carry fines of up to $20,000 for institutions.

"The church in New Hampshire fully acknowledges and accepts responsibility for failures in our system that contributed to the endangerment of children," Bishop John B. McCormack said. "We commit ourselves in a public and binding way to address every weakness in our structure."

Grand juries have indicted individual priests and a grand jury in New York issued a report accusing church officials of sheltering molesters. But the New Hampshire settlement is the only one reached so far under the imminent threat of criminal indictment of a diocese.

The investigation dated to the 1960s and involved more than 50 priests and more than 100 alleged victims. Attorney General Philip McLaughlin said he had confirmed reports of molestation involving more than 40 priests and was prepared to bring charges based on five or six of them, involving about 30 victims.

"We are sincerely sorry for the harm you have endured," McCormack said to the victims. "Our sorrow rises from within the core of our hearts."

Law, who has been under fire since the abuse scandal erupted in the Boston area in January, remained at the Vatican for talks a day after 58 Boston-area priests signed a letter calling for his resignation. He resigned his post as chairman of the Board of Trustees at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Voice of the Faithful, a lay group of Catholics, said members planned to vote Wednesday on resolutions calling on Law to resign, asking Pope John Paul (news - web sites) II to appoint another bishop, and asking the U.S. Conference of Bishops to follow through on their pledge to hold bishops accountable.

"The damage that's happened in Boston is not just local," said Jim Post, president of the group. "It has affected confidence in bishops everywhere. The question is there now: What secrets are there in our church records?"

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