The Archdiocese of Boston’s response to sexual abuse complaints was so chaotic in the late 1980s that the church allowed the Rev. Paul R. Shanley to mediate in a complaint by an abuse victim against another priest.
Shanley’s intervention, in May 1988, was permitted by Bishop Robert J. Banks, a top aide to Cardinal Bernard F. Law, just two months after Banks learned that Shanley himself had been accused of sexual overtures to another man. Banks, according to deposition testimony by Law made public yesterday, also knew that Shanley allegedly had been a public advocate for sexual relations between men and boys.
Law, in his testimony, has insisted repeatedly that he relied on subordinates, Banks among them, to respond to allegations of sexual abuse against priests. Law said he trusted that aides such as Banks would handle such matters ”adequately.”
But church documents, along with Law’s testimony, raise questions about what Law, or his aides, considered an adequate response. One of the strangest episodes: Shanley’s service as emissary to a man who said that the Rev. Daniel M. Graham had repeatedly abused him years before – and was continuing to molest boys.
According to the documents, Graham had admitted to Banks in 1988 that, during his years as a seminarian and as a young priest, he had abused the man, then a minor. Graham also told Banks he had asked Shanley to reach out to the victim, the records show.
And the Graham victim 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.”
But Shanley’s involvement was strange for reasons Banks could not have foreseen. Graham’s victim was allegedly abused as a youth by Shanley as well, according to the victim, who now is an official with the state Department of Social Services.
According to his lawyer, Roderick MacLeish Jr., the man says he was sexually abused by Shanley, Graham, and the Rev. Robert V. Gale. Gale, like Shanley, is awaiting trial on charges of rape of a child, in cases involving other alleged victims.
In nearly a year’s worth of startling disclosures about the archdiocese’s handling of abusive priests, the Shanley-Graham nexus is among the most bizarre. The Graham victim, in an interview yesterday, said 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?” the man said. He spoke anonymously. The Globe does not reveal the the identities of alleged victims 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.
Law promoted Graham to pastor in 1990. An unrelated complaint of sexual abuse in 1992 was dismissed as unfounded. The cardinal’s hand-picked 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 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.
Law, in the deposition, was questioned about accusations against Graham brought to the chancery complaints brought in 1986 and again in 1988 as 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 the Rev. William M. Helmick, who was Law’s personal secretary.
A second 1986 letter to Law from the man went unanswered.
During the deposition, Mac Leish noted that the state official’s phone number was on the letter.
Q. Someone at the archdiocese could have simply picked up the phone and spoken to this man. Is that correct?
Q. In fact, speaking to him about this would have been consistent with your unwritten policies on following up and investigating allegations of sexual misconduct.
A. I believe that’s what I’ve indicated earlier, yes.
Q. But it wasn’t done in this case, was it, Cardinal Law?
A. Apparently not.
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. In a March 1988 memo, Banks wrote that he called the patient ”and told him that Fr. S had denied the allegation, and that there really was nothing that I could do.”