A bishop accused of mishandling sexual abuse allegations against two central figures in the Boston clergy sexual abuse scandal acknowledged writing a letter to California church officials vouching for one of the clergymen despite a complaint that the priest had spoken graphically about sadomasochism.
Bishop Robert J. Banks, now bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, said he did not know of any sexual abuse allegations against the Rev. Paul Shanley when he wrote a letter of recommendation in 1990.
Banks said he discounted a complaint from a patient at a psychiatric hospital who said Shanley came on to him by talking about sadomasochism. Banks told the patient that Shanley denied the allegation.
Banks served as an auxiliary bishop and vicar under Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1990. He is accused in civil lawsuits of mishandling allegations against Shanley, now-defrocked priest John Geoghan and other priests. Transcripts from two days of depositions in November in the Shanley case were released Monday.
When questioned by Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for alleged victims of Shanley, about the letter he wrote to the Diocese of San Bernadino, Calif., Banks said he did not consider the manâ€™s claim an allegation of sexual abuse.
Banks said that when he questioned Shanley about the alleged incident, he became irate and then said he couldn’t recall the conversation he had with the man. 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.
You felt that as far as the church was concerned, the matter was concluded and there was nothing you could do? MacLeish asked.
That’s right, Banks replied.