A Catholic bishop sued for mishandling sexual abuse allegations against the Rev. Paul Shanley acknowledged writing a letter to San Bernardino church officials vouching for him despite a complaint that Shanley had spoken graphically about sadomasochism.
A former Boston diocese official, Bishop Robert J. Banks, now bishop of Green Bay, Wis., said he did not know of any sexual-abuse allegations against Shanley when he wrote a letter of recommendation for him in 1990 to the Diocese of San Bernardino.
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 for administration under Cardinal Bernard Law from 1984 to 1990. He is accused, along with Law, of mishandling allegations against Shanley in a civil lawsuit filed Jan. 2 in San Bernardino Superior Court.
The lawsuit was filed by 30-year-old Big Bear Lake resident Kevin English, who accuses Banks, Law and other church officials of covering up for Shanley and recommending him to the Diocese of San Bernardino.
English said he met Shanley after Easter services in 1990 when he was 17 years old. He alleges that Shanley seduced him, verbally and emotionally abused him, and pimped him to other men over a three-year period.
Transcripts from two days of depositions in the Shanley case were released publicly Monday.
When questioned by Roderick MacLeish Jr., a lawyer for alleged victims of Shanley, about the letter he wrote to the Diocese of San Bernardino, Banks said he did not consider the man’s claim to be 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,’ replied Banks.
Shanley was arrested in San Diego in May and has pleaded not guilty in a Massachusetts court to 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery.
In the deposition, Banks also acknowledged that in 1985 three years before his meeting with the patient he had seen a copy of a letter sent to church officials by a Rochester, N.Y., woman who said she had heard Shanley give a talk in which he said that in pedophilia, the child is the seducer, not the adults.
Banks was asked why, knowing about the two complaints, he did not send Shanley for a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether it was safe for him to continue working as a priest.
“As far as I was concerned, he talked too freely about sex. That was the problem,’ Banks said.
Banks also noted that Shanley had been assigned to work with the gay community and to do street ministry.
“Therefore, it did not surprise me that he would speak more freely about sex than the ordinary person,’ Banks said.