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Alleged Victim's Flashbacks Led to Arrest of Notorious Priest

May 3, 2002 | The Boston Herald

In a job-performance review in January, his supervisors described him as an ``excellent airman'' and an ``exceptional patrolman'' on the fast track to becoming one of the future leaders of the Air Force.

By early February, however, Paul Busa had reversed course, beginning a spiral into a past he had spent 14 years trying to forget.

A week after learning his childhood friend had accused the Rev. Paul Shanley of sexually abusing him in the Newton parish where they grew up, Busa began having a series of flashbacks that would eventually end his promising career as a military police officer and lead to Shanley's arrest yesterday on child-rape charges.

``I love the military, and it's all being taken away from me now,'' he said in an interview last month as he prepared to leave Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. ``I'm no longer an asset. I'm more of a distraction.''

At 24, Busa had been selected to join the Elite Guard, Peterson's front line of defense, when he learned of Ford's allegations.

The two had attended religion classes together at St. Jean's parish since they were 6, he said, and Shanley had a habit of pulling them and a third boy out of class, sometimes together, sometimes individually.

Busa's parents had just divorced, and he remembered feeling lonely in those days when Shanley began singling him out.

In the 10 days after he heard of Ford's allegations, memories began to return to him. And then, on the afternoon of Feb. 11, he said, ``everything hit me.''

He said he remembered Shanley pulling him out of class and leading him to the bathroom in the church basement. Inside, the lights were off, and Busa stood by the far wall as the priest walked toward him, arms outstretched. From the time Busa was 6 until he was about 10, he said, Shanley repeated this ritual, pulling down the boy's pants or directing him to do so himself so that Shanley could fondle him.

At other times, Busa said, the priest invited him up to the rectory for a game of ``War,'' a variation on strip poker requiring the loser to undress. Eventually, he said, Shanley moved their meetings to the confessional, raping him from the time he was 6 until he was nearly 10. Busa said if he resisted, the priest reminded him that, if he ever told people, they would never believe him. ``He was that well liked,'' Busa said.

As the memories returned, Busa began having anxiety attacks that left him shaking and out of breath, his heart racing as though it would ``jump out of (his) chest.''

On the night of March 24, his military career having abruptly ended, he decided he had had enough: He planned to wait until his girlfriend fell asleep, get into his truck and drive it into one of the concrete pillars beneath a bridge outside the base. The following morning, after staying up with him throughout the night, his girlfriend accompanied him to a Colorado psychiatric hospital.

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