Law enforcement officials in Massachusetts were investigating Tuesday new allegations that top leaders in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston not only protected a pedophile priest but also lied about his past when they transferred him to other parishes.
An attorney for child victims of sex abuse by priests at a Monday news conference released nearly 100 church documents that detailed an alleged history of molestation by the Rev. Paul R. Shanley as far back as 1967.
Because Shanley left Boston in 1990, legal experts believe he could face possible criminal charges. The statute of limitations cannot run out because he left the state.
The documents also reportedly opened the possibility that Cardinal Bernard Law could face charges of being an accessory before the fact of molestation.
“We go where the evidence takes us,” Attorney General Tom Reilly told WBZ radio Tuesday afternoon. He said what he’s seen in the documents reviewed so far “is very disturbing, very disturbing.”
Kurt N. Schwartz, head of Reilly’s criminal division, and three state police investigators assigned to the attorney general’s office attended the lengthy news conference where victims’ attorney Roderick MacLeish displayed document after document on a huge screen.
Ann Dolan, a spokeswoman for Reilly, said state prosecutors are “taking a serious look” at the new disclosures and the possibility of prosecuting church higher-ups for shielding molesters in the clergy. He also is coordinating criminal investigations by state district attorneys of pedophile priests.
The papers, obtained by MacLeish under court order from the archdiocese, specifically indicated Law knew of Shanley’s alleged history of sex abuse when Shanley transferred to the diocese of San Bernardino, Calif., in 1990. Law not only failed to pass that information on to church officials there, but also lied to them, MacLeish alleged.
“I can assure you that Father Shanley has no problem that would be of concern to your diocese,” Law’s auxiliary bishop, the Rev. Robert J. Banks, wrote to the San Bernardino diocese.
Law also kept silent on the subject when Shanley later held a position that gave him access to children at a nun-run welcome center in New York City, the Leo House.
Law went so far as to say he would “not object” if Shanley were appointed as executive director of the center in 1997, a job he did not get because New York Cardinal John O’Connor learned of Shanley’s past.
Shanley, 71, has not been available to comment on the charges. MacLeish said Shanley has not been seen since he was fired last week from his two-year job with the San Diego Police Department, where his work included fingerprinting children.
MacLeish said the documents prove Law and his predecessor, the late Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, knew Shanley was a sexual predator but rather than do anything about it, covered it up by transferring him to other parishes.
“This man was a monster in the Archdiocese of Boston for many, many years,” MacLeish said. “He had beliefs that no rational human being could defend.”
Among other things, documents allegedly state that Shanley advocated sex between adult men and boys at a Boston meeting in 1978 that laid the foundation for the founding of the North American Man Boy Love Association.
MacLeish said Medeiros and Law could have prevented Shanley from abusing children if they had taken action to stop him.
“All of the suffering that has taken place at the hands of Paul Shanley a serial child molester for four decades, three of them in Boston none of it had to happen,” MacLeish said.
“Archdiocese officials at the highest level knew full well of Shanley’s misconduct,” the attorney told the news conference, attended by many relatives of Gregory Ford, 24, of Newton, Mass., who was allegedly abused by Shanley.
“There’s no evidence they gave one whit of concern for the victims. Rather, they went to outstanding lengths to keep Shanley’s past hidden.”
Speaking out at the news conference was another alleged Shanley victim, Arthur Austin.
Sometimes in tears, Austin said he was molested by Shanley 30 years ago and accused the church hierarchy of conspiring to protect the priest.
“If the Catholic Church in America does not fit the description of organized crime, what does?” Austin said.
Ford, who has filed suit against Shanley and the archdiocese, claims he was molested by Shanley between the ages of 6 and 11.
Noting there have been 26 complaints filed against Shanley, Ford said he believes Shanley molested “hundreds over his 30-year reign of terror.”
As for Shanley, Ford said, “And I hope you rot in hell.”
Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for Law, issued a statement Monday night that said, “Whatever may have occurred in the past, there were no deliberate decisions to put children at risk.”