CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Defrocked priest Paul Shanley, one of the most notorious figures in the Boston clerical abuse scandal, was sentenced Tuesday to 12 to 15 years in prison for repeatedly raping a young boy during the 1980s.
Shanley, 74, also was sentenced to 10 years’ probation. He was convicted last week on two counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. He must serve at least eight years before becoming eligible for parole.
“It is difficult to imagine a more egregious misuse of trust and authority than that which occurred in this case,” Judge Stephen Neel told a courtroom packed with clerical abuse victims and their families. Many wept and others nodded in agreement as Prosecutor Lynn Rooney read a statement from Shanley’s sole accuser, who called the former priest a “monster,” “pervert” and “the lowest of the low.”
The 27-year-old firefighter said: “I came here to hear that Paul Shanley is going to die in prison. I want him to die in prison, whether it is of natural causes or otherwise. However he dies, I hope it is slow and painful.”
Another former priest convicted of child molestation, John Geoghan, was strangled to death at a Massachusetts prison in 2003. An inmate confessed to killing Geoghan “to save the children.”
As Shanley, shackled and handcuffed, was led off to prison, many in the courtroom burst into applause.
The gray-haired man in a sports jacket once was one of Boston’s best-loved “street priests,” ministering to young people. But records from the Boston archdiocese showed that as far back as 1967, church officials knew of sexual abuse allegations against Shanley. Church leaders also were aware Shanley advocated sex between men and boys.
Rather than removing him from work involving contact with children, church leaders shifted Shanley from parish to parish. He was assigned to St. Jean’s Parish in the Boston suburb of Newton, Mass., when he molested his accuser.
The young man was one of four who had come forward to accuse Shanley of taking them out of catechism classes and raping them in the church bathroom, confessional, rectory and pews. Three of the men dropped out of the criminal case or were dropped by prosecutors, who feared they would not withstand the grueling court proceedings.
The remaining accuser – who testified over the course of three days – cried as he described the abuse, which he said began when he was 6 years old.
Shanley’s lawyer, Frank Mondano, sought to discredit the firefighter because he had not remembered or reported the abuse until 2001.
Shanley did not take the stand or offer a statement in court Tuesday.
But Mondano, pleading for leniency, described the former priest as “a 74-year-old man with health problems. He is no threat to anyone. He is certainly not a security risk.”