A priest at the epicenter of the clergy sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic church faces extradition on criminal charges that he repeatedly raped a boy — sometimes in a church confessional — over a seven-year period. The Rev. Paul Shanley, 71, one of the chief figures in the sex scandal engulfing the Boston archdiocese, surrendered Thursday at an apartment in San Diego on a warrant from Massachusetts. He is charged with three counts of raping a child during the 1980s. An extradition hearing was scheduled for Friday morning. Attorney Frank Mondano, who has been representing Shanley in a civil lawsuit, did not return messages left at his office.
Shanley’s arrest is the latest development in a scandal that has tarnished Boston’s highest-ranking Catholic leader, Cardinal Bernard Law. Law has faced increasing criticism since documents in Shanley’s personnel files were made public.
The records detailed Shanley’s advocacy of sex between men and boys as well as his transfer to several parishes by the archdiocese, despite allegations of child sexual abuse.
After Shanley’s arrest Thursday, former members of his parish and others in the Massachusetts community where he lived reacted with anger at the former pastor, but also with relief that Shanley was in custody.
“I’m excited no one else will be hurt by him,” said Maria Leo, a 36-year-old Catholic mother of two from Newton, Mass., who knows two people who have accused Shanley of abuse. “He won’t be victimizing anyone anymore.”
According to a source close to the case, the criminal charges against Shanley stem from allegations made by Paul Busa, 24, a former Air Force military policeman. Busa went public with allegations last month, saying he had repressed all memory of the abuse until hearing about a childhood friend who accused Shanley of molesting him.
Neither Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley nor Busa’s attorney, Roderick MacLeish, would confirm that Busa’s allegations were the basis for the criminal charges.
Coakley said Shanley took a boy out of his religious instruction classes at St. Jean Parish in Newton almost every week and brought him to the bathroom, across the street to the rectory or to the confessional to abuse him. Shanley also has been sued by Gregory Ford, 24, and Ford’s parents, who says Shanley repeatedly raped Ford when he was a child.
In a civil lawsuit against Law, Busa said Shanley began abusing him in 1983, when he was 6, and continued through 1989.
Busa, who declined to comment through his attorney, has talked frequently in recent weeks about remembering the alleged abuse. He said he quit his job in the military after suffering a physical and mental breakdown.
“In the beginning, I questioned myself a lot,” Busa said in a recent interview. “I thought, ‘Was I making this up?’ The way my body was reacting, I knew it had happened.”
The criminal charges were the first to be filed against Shanley. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.
The former “street priest,” as portrayed in more than 1,600 pages of documents recently released by the archdiocese, actively ministered to Boston’s gay community after his 1960 ordination and established a ministry for runaways, drug abusers, drifters and teen-agers struggling with sexual identity.
The documents also reveal a darker side of Shanley’s ministry — his endorsement of sex between men and boys, his treatment for a sexually transmitted disease and his attendance at a 1978 conference at which the North American Man-Boy Love Association was apparently created.
Church officials transferred Shanley to Newton in 1980 despite their knowledge of his statements on sex between men and boys, the records show. The records also show they sent him to California in 1990 without warning church leaders there that he had been accused repeatedly of sexually abusing children.
The Boston archdiocese’s knowledge of allegations against the priest extend as far back as 1967.
Once in California, Shanley and another former priest, John White, operated a Palm Springs, Calif., resort that catered to homosexuals. Until 1993, he was assigned part time to the San Bernardino Diocese, where he sometimes supervised children. He then moved to San Diego.
Shanley was fired from his volunteer job at the San Diego Police Department after the sex abuse allegations surfaced in Boston.
Shanley has issued no public statements since the case began.
In a statement Thursday, archdiocese spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said the church hopes the arrest “will bring some level of relief and contribute to the healing of those who have been sexually abused as children and teen-agers, their families and all who suffer during this horrific time.”
• A fifth-grade teacher in New Jersey returned from a paid leave he took after reports surfaced that he had impregnated a 15-year-old girl while he was a Catholic priest in Connecticut.
Joseph Michael DeShan, a teacher at the Eleanor Rush Intermediate School in Cinnaminson, N.J., was allowed to return after the school district learned that no charges could be filed against him in Connecticut, and that he had violated no administrative rules, Cinnaminson Schools Superintendent Sal Illuzzi said. Under Connecticut law, a statute of limitation requires sexual assault cases to be reported within two years and prosecuted within five years.
• In Connecticut, the state House approved a bill that would bring sweeping changes to state laws on child sex abuse. The measure, approved 144-2, would require priests to break their oath of confidentiality if they learn of a crime during confession. It would also extend the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases and increase penalties for those convicted.