A bishop accused of mishandling sexual abuse allegations against two priests has acknowledged vouching for one of them despite a complaint that the priest had spoken graphically about sadomasochism.
Bishop Robert J. Banks, now in Green Bay, Wis., said he did not know of any sexual abuse allegations against the Rev. Paul Shanley when he wrote a letter recommending him to the Diocese of San Bernardino, Calif., in 1990, according to deposition transcripts released Monday.
Banks said he discounted a complaint from a patient at a psychiatric hospital who said Shanley “came on” to him by talking about sadomasochism.
Shanley is awaiting trial on charges of child rape.
Banks served as an auxiliary bishop under Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1990. He is accused in lawsuits of mishandling allegations against Shanley, now-defrocked priest John J. Geoghan and other priests. The transcripts are from two days of depositions in the Shanley case in November.
When questioned by a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Banks said he did not consider the patient’s claim an allegation of sexual abuse.
Banks said that when he asked Shanley about it, the priest became “irate” and said he could not recall the conversation. Banks said he then dropped the matter.
“I felt that the person could do something if he wanted to and that he could speak to the hospital authorities,” Banks said.