Boston Cardinal Bernard Law acknowledged that he promoted accused pedophile priest Paul Shanley in 1985 without having any idea that his own top deputy had received a half-dozen complaints about the priest’s conduct, including his advocacy of sex between men and boys, according to transcripts of testimony made public yesterday.
Law said that deputy, Bishop Thomas V. Daily, now the bishop of Brooklyn, handled those complaints for the archdiocese before Law arrived in Boston in March 1984. When Shanley’s name came up for a pastor’s position several months later, Law said, Daily did not raise the complaints to him. Daily himself had already elevated Shanley to administrator of the Newton, Mass., parish.
Pressed to say how the diocese responded to the allegations, Law said that he assumes that Daily investigated but that he could not say for sure because the two men never discussed the matter.
Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents a handful of Shanley’s alleged victims, was incredulous.
“None of the allegations about Paul Shanley not only attending the North American Man-Boy Love Association conference, but speaking in support of man/boy love, speaking at the 1977 conference in Rochester about bestiality, incest, pedophilia, none of those allegations were brought to your attention by Bishop Daily?” he asked.
Law said that had he known, he would not have let Shanley work as a priest, let alone as a pastor.
Shanley, 71, once known for his street ministry to gay and troubled youth, is currently in jail awaiting trial on a 16-count indictment charging that he repeatedly raped and assaulted four boys between 1979 and 1989, at times in a church confessional.
The deposition of Law, taken on two days in early June in connection with lawsuits brought against the archdiocese by several men claiming to be child victims of Shanley, casts Daily in a pivotal role handling the complaints, as he was involving those regarding now-defrocked priest John Geoghan.
An auxiliary bishop in Boston from 1974 until summer of 1984, Daily left in July 1984 to become the bishop of Palm Beach, Fla. He has been bishop of Brooklyn since February 1990.
Daily’s spokesman, Frank DeRosa, said that the bishop had not received a copy of Law’s deposition “and will not comment on it pending discussion with his attorneys.” He said that Daily, who turns 75 next month, is expected to submit the standard retirement letter to the pope at that time.
Asked whether he wanted to step down, DeRosa replied: “He’ll do whatever the Holy Father wants him to do.”
Law said in the deposition that diocesan officials did not routinely check priests’ files before considering them for promotions so he did not find out about the complaints against Shanley for many years.
“You must realize that this man, in 1985, was not under suspicion,” he said.
But it remained unclear, in fact, how Shanley could have escaped such suspicion since Law acknowledged that as far back as 1966, the archdiocese had received complaints that Shanley had masturbated one boy and brought others to his cabin in the woods.
Other documents cited in the deposition included letters from concerned Catholics alleging Shanley had publicly advocated sex between men and boys in a meeting in a Rochester church in 1977, and that he was present at the meeting in the late 1970s where the North American Man-Boy Love Association was founded.
Law was questioned about several letters written to diocesan officials alerting them to Shanley’s mention in a document called “The Homosexual Network,” which described his participation “as representative of Boston’s Cardinal Medeiros for sexual minorities,” in the founding meeting of the association.
In response to one May 1983 inquiry from a Rev. Hugh Weston, Daily wrote: “I can assure you Father Shanley did not represent His Eminence Cardinal Medeiros at NAMBLA.”
The pastor then followed up with a second, more pointed letter, read by MacLeish at the deposition: “‘Dear Most Reverend Thomas V. Daily, Was Father Shanley at’ – and the word “at” is underlined – ‘at the NAMBLA founding conference (you say he did not represent Cardinal Medeiros). But was he present? Was he later reprimanded? If so, thank you. Reverend Hugh Weston.'”
It is not clear from the deposition whether Daily responded to the second letter. Law said he was never informed about any of the letters.
“Looking back on it now, Cardinal Law,” asked MacLeish, “as you sit here today, do you believe that you at least … should have had the benefit of all of this information in a report from Bishop Daily, your personnel board, or anybody else that you were relying on?” asked MacLeish.
Law responded indirectly.
“I would agree that the recordkeeping and the institutional memory has to be improved,” he said.
Copies of the deposition were made public yesterday as Law resumed a third day of closed-door testimony.