A fresh accusation of sexual abuse has been leveled against Father Paul Shanley, one of the priests at the center of the scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church, a church official said on Thursday.
“There has been an accusation and there may be a lawsuit,” said Father Lincoln Howard, a spokesman for Bishop Gerald Barnes of the San Bernardino diocese. He said he would not know for sure about the lawsuit until Friday.
The man making the accusation lives in California but no further details were available about him or the alleged molestation.
Shanley was a priest in California between 1990, when he was transferred from Boston, and 1993, when his history of alleged abuse came to light and officials in San Bernardino dismissed him.
Shanley faces charges in Massachusetts that he repeatedly raped a boy, sometimes in the church confessional, in the 1980s. He is also being sued for damages by other people who allege that he abused them.
The new accusation was leveled as U.S. Catholic bishops gathered in Dallas for an extraordinary meeting at which they are expected to adopt a tough new policy for handling pedophile priests.
If true, the new charge would represent a fresh headache for Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law, who allowed Shanley’s transfer to California and told the diocese there that he was in good standing.
A spokeswoman for the Boston archdiocese said Law was upset about the new accusation. “Cardinal Law expressed his dismay and sadness at the news,” said Donna Morrissey.
News of the new charge broke hours after Bishop Barnes asked for and received an apology from Law for Shanley’s transfer.