The Boston Archdiocese said yesterday that it was embarrassed to disclose it has discovered additional records in the case of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley showing that church officials knew Shanley had advocated sex between men and boys yet allowed him to continue working as a parish priest.
The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the newfound documents are damaging to the church and contain additional letters informing the archdiocese that Shanley had supported sexual relations between adults and children.
”I feel awful that this happened,” Coyne said. ”It’s not anything the church is proud of. … It is with great embarrassment that we found these files, but we are turning them over.”
Coyne said church officials would not disclose the contents of the remaining documents until after they have given them to lawyers representing the family of a Newton man who has filed suit against Cardinal Bernard F. Law, asserting that Shanley repeatedly molested him during the 1980s.
Lawyers for the archdiocese are scheduled to give the new Shanley records to the family of Gregory Ford and their lawyers today, Coyne said.
Coyne said the new letters to church officials reporting that Shanley supported sex between adults and children would be damaging because they are additional evidence that church officials ignored warnings about Shanley.
”There wasn’t just one letter that could have been overlooked,” said Coyne, who appeared visibly upset by the discovery. ”There were others. … Someone had to have read them.”
Eric MacLeish Jr., the lead lawyer for the family, said, ”We find the discovery of these documents less than coincidental,” and questioned whether the church purposely withheld them until after yesterday’s conclusion of a two-day meeting between US cardinals and Pope John II.
The highly unusual meeting was held in Rome to discuss the widening clergy sexual abuse crisis that has gripped the US church since January.
Echoing MacLeish, Rodney Ford, Gregory Ford’s father, said, ”We are saddened that the church has prolonged this matter by not producing the documents sooner.”
But Coyne insisted the timing was coincidental, explaining that church officials discovered the documents last Thursday, while reviewing the files of another priest, and informed lawyers for the Fords on Monday.
”Honestly, this has nothing to do with the meeting in Rome,” Coyne said.
Under an April 3 court order opposed by the archdiocese, attorneys for Law were required to turn over Shanley’s personnel records to the Fords.
On April 8, the archdiocese handed over more than 800 pages of church documents to the Fords and MacLeish, who aired them during an extraordinary 21/2-hour press conference that heightened the clergy sexual abuse crisis for Law and the archdiocese.
The documents showed that Law and other church officials allowed Shanley to continue working as a parish priest in Newton and in California even though they knew he had been accused of sexual misconduct and had advocated sex between men and boys.
Those documents included a 1977 letter from an appalled Catholic alerting the archdiocese that during a speech in Rochester, N.Y., Shanley had asserted that the only harm that befalls children from having sex with adults stems from the trauma of society’s condemnation of such acts.
Church officials yesterday did not say whether the newly found documents refer to additional instances in which Shanley supported sex between adults and minors, or whether they referred to instances already described in the records aired on April 8.
After the April 8 news conference, the Globe reported, Law told the office of the papal nuncio in Washington that he thought he should resign, but was asked not to submit his resignation until the pope and the Vatican could deliberate.
The cardinal later secretly flew to Rome to discuss the matter with the pope. Law then returned to Boston with little to say except that he would continue to lead the archdiocese ”as long as God gives me the opportunity.”
Yesterday, MacLeish said that Wilson D. Rogers Jr., the lead lawyer for the archdiocese, did not tell him how the newly discovered Shanley documents were found or why they were not turned over earlier.
Robert Sherman, another lawyer representing the Fords, said, ”We know that they are not copies or duplicates of what we’ve seen. We were told they may be duplicative of certain topics, for instance [Shanley’s] views on gay love. But we expect these documents will be substantial and damaging.”
Coyne said the official familiar with the details of the discovery, the Rev. Charles J. Higgins, was out of town and could not be contacted. Until recently, Higgins served as a delegate to Law’s cabinet and had chief responsibility for handling allegations of sexual misconduct against priests.
An adviser to Law recently told the Globe that the cardinal has expressed anger at subordinates for failing to make a complete and timely assessment of the allegations of clergy sexual misconduct contained in church files.
After the initial airing of Shanley documents earlier this month, Law issued a statement in which he partly attributed the role he and his top deputies played in the Shanley scandal to faulty record-keeping.
”For me personally, [the Shanley case] has brought home with painful clarity how inadequte our record keeping has been,” Law said.
Yesterday, Coyne and Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said at a late-afternoon press conference that they spoke with Law after the meeting between cardinals and the pope concluded yesterday, and that Law said the subject of his possible resignation did not come up.
They also said the fact that Law did not take part in a news conference immediately after the conference should not be read as a sign that Law will leave his post as archbishop or remain on the job.
”Any speculation as to why he was there or not there is just that – speculation,” Morrissey said.
Morrissey and Coyne said Law’s travel plans are in flux, but that he is scheduled to attend a Philadelphia fund-raiser for Catholic University Friday evening, and is expected to return to Boston in time to say Sunday Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.