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Catholic Priest Arrested for Sexual Abuse of Child

Aired May 2, 2002 - 15:01   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Earlier today in San Diego, California, retired Roman Catholic priest Paul Shanley was arrested, charged with three counts of rape of a child. The child involved here is a man by the name of Greg Ford, now age 24. Between the years of 1983 and 1990, Ford alleges that Shanley had contact with him, physical and sexual contact, starting when Ford was six years old.

In Boston, Massachusetts right now, we are watching a press conference here now underway featuring the attorney for the family, and also the boy's parents are there as well. We will listen live in Boston.


ERIC MACLEISH, ATTORNEY: When we took these cases on, all of these four brave young men, and they are brave, as Martha Coakley described them, committed themselves to fully cooperating with law enforcement. Three of those young men have been interviewed by the district attorney's office, using the sexual abuse protocol process. Two were interviewed yesterday. The other young man that we represent from St. James will be interviewed by the district attorney's office in the next several days.

This policy of cooperating with law enforcement has been one that I have observed and Bob has observed going back to 1992, where we were successful in convincing Bristol County D.A. Paul Walsh to prosecute Father Porter. So, today is an important date. It is a date when the process has started to hold Father Paul Shanley criminally responsible for his predatory behavior towards children.

But there are other significant dates, and there will be, hopefully, other significant dates in the future. One of those significant dates was January 31, when Paula and Rodney Ford discovered for the first time that their son, Greg, had been molested by a priest, Paul Shanley, who had been the parish priest of St. Jean's for 11 years.

They went to the church to see Sister Marie, and then they came shortly to our firm determined to find out the truth about Father Shanley and what had happened to their son. Since that time, the Fords have asked for nothing short of the truth. They have resisted gag orders of the archdiocese, various legal tactics, some of which you covered as recently as yesterday in court when there was a renewed effort to put off Cardinal Law's deposition that had been previously scheduled for June 5 by order of Judge Kern.

On April 8, following the intervention of the "Boston Herald" and WBZ television in the Fords' court case, the Fords made the decision to present some of the documents that were contained in the personnel files of Paul Shanley, and those records revealed other significant dates. They revealed the ordination of Paul Shanley in 1960. They revealed in 1967 the very first complaint against Paul Shanley molesting children in a cabin in the Blue Hills, the same place where Bill O'Toole (ph) was molested. That complaint goes back to 1967 and it came from a priest at the Lacolet (ph) Center.

The documents revealed other significant dates; 1977, when it was first brought to the attention of the archdiocese of Boston that Father Paul Shanley not only was a child molester, but was openly advocating man-boy love relationships. This was not just some lower- level functionary. This was directly to Cardinal Medeiros and some of his most important associates; 1979 was another significant date, when a lawyer in New York wrote to Cardinal Medeiros, enclosing an article in which Paul Shanley again endorsed in that publication, his support for man-boy love relationships and his accusation that when those relationships occur and the man goes to jail, it is the fault of the child.

And it was after that article, another significant date, when Paul Shanley was removed from active ministry as the minister of alienated youth on the streets of Boston and sent to Newton, Massachusetts, where he met, under the most tragic and unfortunate circumstances, Gregory Ford, Paul Busa and two other gentlemen that I represent who were molested in the period from 1980 to 1989.

And then there is other significant dates; 1990, after a series of meetings with Cardinal Law, when Paul Shanley is sent out with Bishop Banks' seal of approval to San Bernardino, California. And then, 1994, when Paul Shanley shows up at Leo House. And then 1997, another significant date, with this extraordinary letter that I do not think has received enough attention, a draft letter we are told signed by Cardinal Law but never sent to Cardinal O'Connor stating, in essence, we do not have any problems having Paul Shanley, the executive director of Leo House, what Paul Shanley describes as a Ronald McDonald House, we do not have a problem if you don't. What were the two most powerful men in the American Catholic church at that time corresponding about a known predator.

As we sometimes say in the law, the documents that we have produced in this court case speak for themselves. And as District Attorney Coakley stated today, it is these documents and the courage of the Ford family and others that have resulted in the arrest of Paul Shanley in California. But this case is not about documents, it is about human beings, children, parents and an institution that they trusted. Is about Bill O'Toole, whose family is here today, who was molested as a child in the cabin in the Blue Hills by Father Shanley and who then began a life of self destruction and high-risk behavior. Bill died this 1998, and we are very honored that many members of his family are here today. This started the molestation of Bill O'Toole and many others started in the 1960s. This case is also about Paul Busa, who until last month, was a respected member of the Air Force military police in Peterson, Colorado, when he could no longer cope with the horrors of what he remembered had occurred at St. Jean's rectory at the hands of Paul Shanley. And sadly, this is a case about the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Boston and its leaders. I have spoken to many families. I was aware of Paul Shanley's arrest warrant last night. I have spoken with many families who were victims of Paul Shanley and their loved ones. They are happy that this process of criminal accountability has started. But they in no way see this as even a partial resolution of the spiritual crisis that has gripped this community and indeed the country, for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

While everyone reacts differently among the people that I have spoken to, the following seems to be an almost universal theme. My clients care about the Catholic church. They view it as a good church. This crisis and what has happened is not about the theology of the church. It is not about the many good priests and nuns who work tirelessly every day for causes that I think we all support. This crisis has not been caused by having too many gays in the priesthood. To suggest otherwise, as we saw at the Vatican summit, is to ignore every respectable, clinical study that has ever been written about sexual orientation and pedophilia.

This crisis in the view of everyone that I have talked to is about leadership. We will never rid ourselves of child molesters in any setting like Paul Shanley, but we must rid ourselves of those who harbor and protect them. No policy will be effective unless there is a moral will to enforce it, and I would just draw a contrast between what has occurred here in Boston and what has occurred 70 miles down in Fall River with Bishop O'Malley, Sean O'Malley, who since 1992, when he was thrust into the middle of the Porter case, developed an absolutely extraordinary policy and a will to enforce that policy to protect children.

In the view of those I have spoken with, the church needs to undertake the following actions. One, Roman Catholic archdiocese of Boston and dioceses around the country, all 190 of them, must recognize that when sexual acts are committed by priests or those wearing a collar against children, whether male or female, it is a crime. There can be no one-strike policy. There is no walk to first base. There is no free pass for past molesters. It is zero tolerance or it's nothing.

The other thing that my clients have expressed to me is that the truth here in Boston, which has been the epicenter of all of this, it has to come out. Yesterday, we were in court seeking the files of 11 other priests who have multiple accusations against them and who are here in the archdiocese of Boston during the time that Cardinal Law started in 1984. The truth about what happened here, who was protected and how it happened has to come out.

Victims also need help. We've heard a lot from Cardinal Law about his satisfaction with the policy. We've also heard that he's met victims. He has never met anybody that I've represented and I probably have represented more people for the past 10 years than anybody else. But we've heard a lot about his satisfaction with the policy. Right now, today, if you are a victim of clerical abuse, you must go to the chancery in order to get clearance for mental health assistance. We heard Donna Morrissey say approximately three weeks ago, they're in the process of establishing an off-site treatment center. The "Boston Herald" had an editorial about this eight weeks ago.

This process is not working. People are in crisis. And there has to be a recognition that the mental health assistance program of the archdiocese and other dioceses around the country, it's not just for the victims themselves. That should be the orientation. But there are people like Marjorie Mahony (ph) and her siblings and her mother who have been so profoundly affected by this, they need assistance too.

There needs to be input at the upcoming U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from victims. I have written in good faith to Bishop Gregory asking that some of the people sitting in this room and some of the clinicians who are helping them be permitted to have a meeting with the so-called ad hoc committee at the conference to give their input. Another item that has been expressed by my clients, legitimate victims of clerical abuse with credible claims should not be gagged nor should they be blamed, and those within the archdiocese of Boston who are critical of what has happened, and we saw that as recently as two days ago up at St. Matthews in Lowell (ph) and I think we're going to be seeing more of this, those people should not be gagged either. They should not be silenced.

My clients have also expressed, and I think this is critically important, that those charities, such as Catholic Charities, who may have the name Catholic on it but are not affiliated in any way -- in only a marginal way with the archdiocese of Boston and who do incredible work, who are helping to fill the gaps in our budget crisis, those organizations cannot be punished. The Fords are going to be writing a check today to Catholic Charities. I wrote a check last week. And no one who truly cares about the good work done by priests and nuns and organizations that have the name Catholic in them, no one should at all hold back on their contributions to Catholic Charities.

Healing needs to start is another theme that we heard today from clients after they learned about the arrest of Paul Shanley. It starts with the work of many good organizations that have been developed here in Boston and around the country, like the Voice of the Faithful, where Paul and Rodney will be next Monday to speak at the invitation of Dr. Mueller (ph), and Joe Gallagher's (ph) organization as well. Those organizations are reaching out to victims and families and they should continue to do that good work.

HEMMER: That's the attorney for Greg Ford in Boston meeting with reporters, announcing essentially a long list of items that have come to the forefront here regarding the Catholic abuse case. Earlier today though, the reason why we are watching this, the Reverend Paul Shanley, a retired priest, was arrested in San Diego, charged with three counts of child rape. This going back to the years 1983 to 1990. The individual involved is a gentleman by the name of Greg Ford. He's 24 today. He was six years old back in 1983. He alleges that Paul Shanley came into his CCD class, which is a weekend class for young Catholic students to attend religious classes, that oftentimes, that Reverend Shanley would come in and take several students out for walks. That's the allegation by prosecutors, district attorney's office there in Middlesex County in Massachusetts.

But at this point, that is where we stand. We did not anticipate Greg Ford to be at that briefing today. We do know his parents are there. And it is quite possible they will have something to say as well.




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