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Cuffed Priest 'Big Relief': Alleged Victims Rejoice in Arrest

May 3, 2002 | The Boston Herald

Seeing the Rev. Paul Shanley hit with criminal charges and led to a police cruiser in handcuffs yesterday brought comfort - and in some cases more stress - to his victims and those of other sexually abusive priests, people involved in court cases said.

``Just to know he is under arrest and other people have control over what he is doing is a big relief,'' said 44-year-old John Harris of Norwood, an alleged Shanley victim.

Harris was 21 years old and struggling with his sexuality in 1979 when one of his college professors referred him to Shanley for guidance.

Harris telephoned Shanley and the priest gave him an address at which to meet. It turned out to be Shanley's home, Harris said. When he arrived, Shanley took him into a private room, encouraged him to read pornographic magazines, began to massage him with baby oil, undressed him and raped him.

``Parents everywhere can sleep a little better tonight knowing that thanks to the arrest of Paul Shanley, he will not be able to do this to another child,'' said Paula Ford of Newton. Her son, Greg, made criminal allegations against Shanley but not those for which the priest was arrested yesterday.

Shanley's arrest ``sends a very strong message to individuals and to the public that pedophilia within the Catholic church will not be put up with,'' said Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who represents numerous plaintiffs against former priest John J. Geoghan and other molestors.

``My clients feel as though he should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,'' the lawyer said. ``They are elated that he has been arrested. And they hope that the ends of justice will be served.''

Shanley, who lives in California, was charged with three counts of rape of Paul Busa based on alleged abuse in Newton in the 1980s. The statute of limitations stopped when Shanley left the state.

Shanley is not the first Roman Catholic priest to be charged criminally. Geoghan, 66, was convicted in January of indecently touching a boy's buttocks and was sentenced to a 9- to 10-year prison term; the Rev. Paul M. Desilets, a former Bellingham priest has been charged with more than 20 acts of abuse. And former priest James Porter is in prison for molestation. But Shanley is the first arrest since the scandal exploded this year.

Phil Saviano, who heads the local chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, commended the man who came forward to accuse Shanley.

``For all of the Father Shanley victims, it's a wonderful event. Through this guy (Busa) ... they're taking back some of the power that was stolen from them when they were kids,'' Saviano said.

But along with the benefits of Shanley's arrest will come new stress for victims, Saviano said.

``I am a little concerned about what the sight of Paul Shanley being brought back in handcuffs is going to do to victims who are feeling very anxious and very angry these days,'' Saviano said. ``I think it is going to ratchet up the anxiety in some ways.''

Harris added, ``When I see him on television, part of me wants to look and part of me doesn't because all I feel is disgust.''

The family of an alleged Shanley victim who died after years of depression and substance abuse attributed to molestation at the priests' hands were also elated by the arrest.

Michael O'Toole, a Stoneham cop and brother of the late William O'Toole, said, ``I'd like to thank law enforcement for staying on Shanley's tail and for helping to bring this monster to justice.''

His brother, Kevin O'Toole, asked about Bernard Cardinal Law's potential culpability in allowing Shanley to remain a priest long after William and other teenagers were allegedly abused, said, ``Everyone needs an explanation as to why the cardinal and the archdiocese did nothing for so long.''

At the end of a news conference yesterday, Paula Ford hugged Marjorie Mahoney, the mother of William O'Toole, and told her, ``You're son is partying in heaven.''

What impact, if any, the criminal charges will have on numerous criminal cases against Shanley remains unclear.

Garabedian suggested more priests will end up in situations similar to that in which Shanley finds himself.

``A number of my clients have been, or will, be testifying before grand juries throughout the commonwealth with regard to the criminal prosecution of priests,'' Garabedian said.

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