Bishop Robert J. Banks, former top aide to Boston’s Cardinal Bernard F. Law and now bishop of the Green Bay Diocese, allowed a priest who is an accused pedophile to serve as a mediator between another priest and a man that priest allegedly abused as a youth.
Banks authorized Father Paul R. Shanley’s mediation in May 1988, just two months after Banks learned that Shanley himself had been accused of sexual overtures to another man, according to new testimony made public this week.
Banks, according to Law’s deposition testimony, also knew of allegations that Shanley had been a public advocate for sexual relations between men and boys. Shanley has been accused of molesting minors from the 1960s to the 1990s in Massachusetts and California.
The information, found in a deposition by Law, identifies the second scenario in which Banks overlooked Shanley’s alleged pedophilia and endorsed his contact with the public. In 1990, he wrote a letter to church officials in San Bernardino, Calif., saying that “Father Shanley has no problem that would be (of) concern to your diocese.”
At the time, Banks served as vicar for administration for the Archdiocese of Boston. He was installed as bishop of Green Bay in December 1990, and his tenure in Wisconsin has been tainted recently by his work in Boston.
Law gave the testimony in connection with a lawsuit three alleged victims of Shanley have filed against Law.
The deposition took place over four days in August and October and was made public Tuesday.
Peter Isely of the National Board of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the scenario in Law’s testimony showed Banks and the church administration failed to grasp the horror of child sexual abuse or take appropriate action to protect the victims.
“What’s really significant is how the predator is writing his own ticket, pretty much in charge; complete lack of punishment, and they’re actually turning to him for assistance,” Isely said. “It’s absurd.”
A spokesman for the Green Bay Diocese said late Wednesday that Banks was attending a confirmation and was unavailable to respond to the latest accusations.
Church’s failings acknowledged
In an April 2002 interview, Banks acknowledged the failings of the Boston Archdiocese to respond to complaints from young men who had been abused by priests.
“The way the church leaders and bishops, including myself, handled abusive priests in the past was, we now know, at best inadequate and at worst scandalous,” he said. “That has to change.”
Cardinal Law, in his testimony, has insisted repeatedly that he relied on subordinates, including Banks, to respond to allegations of sexual abuse by priests. Law said he trusted that aides such as Banks would handle the matters “adequately.”
But church documents and Law’s testimony raise questions about what he or his aides considered an adequate response.
Shanley’s service as an emissary to a man who said Father Daniel M. Graham repeatedly had abused him years before and was continuing to molest boys seems one of the strangest episodes.
According to the documents, Graham admitted to Banks in 1988 that he abused the man during his years as a seminarian and as a young priest. The victim was a minor at the time.
Graham also told Banks he had asked Shanley to reach out to the victim, the records show. And the man Graham victimized appreciated Shanley’s efforts, applauding him in a 1988 letter for being “the only person from the Church, the Archdiocese that has responded to this in what could be considered an appropriate and responsible manner.”
The victim added: “It is clear that I have come up against a systemic bureaucracy whose only intent is to protect itself – at the expense of its parishioners and staff – if need be.”
Allegedly abused by both
But Shanley’s involvement was strange for reasons Banks could not have foreseen. Graham’s victim allegedly was abused as a youth by Shanley as well, according to the victim, who now is an official with the Massachusetts Department of Social Services.
According to his lawyer, Roderick MacLeish Jr., the man says he was sexually abused by Shanley, Graham and Father Robert V. Gale. Gale, like Shanley, is awaiting trial on charges of rape of a child in cases involving other alleged victims.
The Graham victim said in an interview with the Boston Globe that he still considers the encounter “totally wacky.”
“Why would they have allowed Paul Shanley to get involved in this, knowing what they did about his history?” said the man, who is not being identified because he is an alleged victim of sexual abuse.
In the interview, the state official admitted that his own willingness to talk to Shanley in 1988 makes little sense to him now. He noted that he wrote his 1988 letter to Graham and Law out of concern that Graham was having sexual relations with other boys.
But Graham denied that he had abused any others, and his denial was readily accepted by Banks, who was Law’s top deputy from 1984 to 1990, and by a church-selected psychiatrist who cleared Graham for parish duty, according to church documents obtained by MacLeish’s law firm, Greenberg Traurig.
Promoted to pastor
Law promoted Graham to pastor in 1990. An unrelated complaint of sexual abuse in 1992 was dismissed as unfounded. The cardinal’s handpicked Review Board decided in 1995 that Graham should be removed, but the same board reversed itself the next year, paving the way for Law to pick Graham to oversee 19 Massachusetts parishes in Quincy, Milton, Randolph and Braintree.
Graham was finally removed nine months ago.
In addition to a claim filed by the state official, MacLeish represents three other men who have charged that Graham molested them when they were minors – one in the 1960s, one in the 1970s and the third in the 1980s.
In the deposition, Law was questioned about accusations against Graham brought to the chancery in 1986 and again in 1988. The questioning was part of an effort by attorneys for alleged victims of Shanley to show that many priests who were known offenders were allowed to remain in parishes in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
When the state official first wrote to the archdiocese in 1986 to complain that he had been molested by several unnamed priests, he received a dismissive letter from Father William M. Helmick, who was Law’s personal secretary.
A second 1986 letter to Law from the man went unanswered.
During the deposition, MacLeish noted that the state official’s phone number was on the letter.
“Someone at the archdiocese could have simply picked up the phone and spoken to this man. Is that correct?” the attorney asked.
“Yes,” was Law’s answer.
“In fact, speaking to him about this would have been consistent with your unwritten policies on following up and investigating allegations of sexual misconduct,” MacLeish said.
“I believe that’s what I’ve indicated earlier, yes,” Law replied.
“But it wasn’t done in this case, was it, Cardinal Law?”
After the alleged victim sent, in 1988, a letter with more specific allegations, Banks did pursue the matter with Graham. Banks noted in a May 9, 1988, memo that Graham had confessed to the molestation and had asked Shanley to intercede with the victim.
The Banks memo made no mention of his own awareness of prior complaints about Shanley. Banks had at that time already heard complaints that Shanley had publicly advocated man-boy sex and had fielded a complaint from a McLean Hospital patient who said Shanley, then a chaplain at the hospital, had made sexual overtures to him.