Cardinal Bernard Law testified last summer that church officials should have done more to investigate a priest now accused of sexually abusing several boys, according to records released in lawsuits against the archdiocese.
The Boston church received complaints in 1985 and 1988 that the Rev. Paul Shanley had public spoken in favor of man-boy love and had made sexual overtures toward a mentally ill man at a hospital where he served as chaplain.
Shanley denied the allegations, and church officials took no action.
In earlier statements, Law blamed poor record-keeping for the archdiocese’s failure to remove Shanley from ministry after abuse allegations were made against him beginning in 1966. Law said he never sought out those records before promoting Shanley.
Law testified for six days last summer in a deposition for lawsuits that accuse the Roman Catholic archdiocese of mishandling the Shanley case. Transcripts of the first two days were released in August, and the rest of the deposition was made public Tuesday.
Law said if he had been aware of the allegations after he came to Boston in March 1984, he would not have promoted Shanley later that year to pastor of St. Jean’s Parish in Newton, where he allegedly went on to sexually abuse more boys.
In the deposition, Law was questioned by Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for six men who claim Shanley sexually abused them at St. Jean’s in the 1980s.
MacLeish asked, based on the two complaints against Shanley, “should another step have been taken, Cardinal Law?”
“It would have been much better had another step been taken, yes,” Law replied.
Asked to explain why Shanley and many other accused priests were reassigned to other parishes and not removed from ministry, Law repeated an answer he has given since the clergy sexual abuse crisis erupted in January. He said he relied on his subordinates to review such complaints and on psychological assessments made by mental health professionals.
Law said he did not review Shanley’s personnel file to see if it contained complaints before he promoted Shanley to pastor at St. Jean’s.
“My presumption was my presumption was that a person in a position of pastoral responsibility was appropriately there,” Law said.
Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
Shanley has pleaded innocent to 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery for allegedly sexually abusing boys from 1979 to 1989 while he was at St. Jean’s.