CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Defrocked priest Paul Shanley, the most notorious figure in the sex scandal that rocked the Boston Archdiocese, was convicted Monday of repeatedly raping and fondling a boy at his Roman Catholic church during the 1980s.
The conviction on all four charges gives prosecutors an important victory in their effort to bring pedophile priests to justice for decades of abuse at parishes around the country.
Shanley, 74, could get life in prison for two counts each of child rape and indecent assault and battery on a child when he is sentenced Feb. 15. His bail was revoked and he was immediately led off to jail.
The victim, now 27, put his head down and sobbed as the verdicts were announced after a trial that turned on the reliability of what the man claimed were recovered memories of the long-ago abuse. Shanley showed no emotion as he stood next to his lawyer.
The jury deliberated 13 hours over three days.
During the trial, the accuser broke down on the stand as he testified in graphic detail that Shanley pulled him out of Sunday morning catechism classes and molested him in the bathroom, the rectory, the confessional and the pews starting when he was 6 and continuing for six years.
“He told me nobody would ever believe me if I told anybody,” he testified.
The accuser said that he repressed his memories of the abuse but that they came flooding back three years ago, triggered by news coverage of the scandal that began in Boston and soon engulfed the church worldwide.
Shanley, once a long-haired, jeans-wearing “street priest” who worked with Boston’s troubled youths, sat stoically for most of the trial, listening to his accuser’s testimony with the help of a hearing aid.
The defense called just one witness – a psychologist who said that so-called recovered memories can be false, even if the accuser ardently believes they are true. A lawyer for Shanley argued that the accuser was either mistaken or concocted the story with the help of personal injury lawyers to cash in on a multimillion-dollar settlement resulting from the sex scandal.
The accuser, now a firefighter in suburban Boston, was one of at least two dozen men who claimed they had been molested by Shanley. The archdiocese’s own personnel records showed that church officials knew Shanley publicly advocated sex between men and boys, yet continued to transfer him from parish to parish.
Rodney Ford, whose son Greg was one of three accusers dropped from the case, called the verdict “a relief for my son, and all the other victims.”
“The validation that all the victims of Paul Shanley must feel today must be unbelievable,” Ford said.
Shanley’s niece disagreed.
“There are no winners today. There are only losers,” Teresa Shanley said. “We’re no closer to finding out the truth about this scandal or finding out what happened.”
Frank Mondano, Shanley’s lawyer, said he will appeal. “It appears that the absence of a case is not an impediment to securing a conviction,” he said.