- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

BOSTON (AP) A Roman Catholic priest was arrested yesterday on charges that he raped a young boy repeatedly for years, sometimes in the church confessional, prosecutors said.

The Rev. Paul Shanley, who has been at the center of the Boston sex-abuse scandal, was arrested at his home in San Diego and charged with three counts of rape of a child in Massachusetts, Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said.

Neither Miss Coakley nor the victim's attorney gave his name.

Paul Busa went public with accusations last month in Colorado, where he was stationed, saying that he had repressed all memory of the abuse until hearing about a childhood friend who accused Father Shanley of molesting him.

According to Miss Coakley, the victim said Father Shanley abused him at St. Jean Parish in Newton from 1983 to 1990, when he was between 6 and 13 years old.

The man told police Father Shanley took him out of his church-instruction class on an almost weekly basis and abused him in the bathroom, across the street in the rectory or in the confessional.

The victim said to police that Father Shanley told him, "if he told, no one would believe him," the prosecutor said.

"He was 6 years old and was fond of Shanley," Miss Coakley said.

Father Shanley's Boston attorney, Frank Mondano, did not return repeated calls seeking comment yesterday.

The 71-year-old priest has kept such a low profile since the sex accusations surfaced in March that the manager of the complex thought Father Shanley had moved out of the unit he shared with his homosexual lover. No one answered the apartment's buzzer yesterday, and telephone calls went unanswered.

Until recently, prosecutors believed Father Shanley may have fled the country. Miss Coakley said her office acted quickly to arrest him after television reporters found him last week in San Diego. An extradition hearing was scheduled for today.

The criminal charges were the first to be filed against Father Shanley.

Father Shanley also has been sued, along with the archdiocese, by Gregory Ford, 24, and Mr. Ford's parents, who claim Father Shanley repeatedly raped Gregory when he was a child.

Prosecutors said they are looking into several other "credible" accusations that have recently emerged against Father Shanley, who faces a life prison sentence if convicted of the criminal charges.

"Today is a very big day for us," said Gregory Ford's father, Rodney. "But it's only the beginning, and we will continue to seek the truth for all the families."

Documents released a month ago in the lawsuit showed archdiocese officials had received reports of Father Shanley's attendance at a 1979 meeting in Boston at which the North American Man/Boy Love Association was apparently created. And, despite receiving dozens of accusations of abuse, officials did not warn a California diocese when Father Shanley moved there in 1990.

Father Shanley was appointed to the Newton parish in 1980, after church officials decided to end his "street ministry," citing his unorthodox views on homosexuality.

In a statement yesterday, Boston 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."

Meanwhile, with a sex-abuse scandal convulsing the American church, the Vatican yesterday stressed the need for Catholics to confess their sins to be forgiven but said some habitual sinners could never be absolved.

In an apostolic letter, Pope John Paul II did not say who these habitual sinners were, only that they included those living in ongoing and serious states of sin "who do not intend to change their situations."

The pope's letter did not say what should be done with priests who sin, nor did it deal with the scandal in the American church, but theologians said he was referring to practicing homosexuals and divorced Catholics who remarry.

Also yesterday, Manchester, N.H., Bishop John B. McCormack, who was responsible for Father Shanley while in Boston, said he wished he had paid closer attention to signs of trouble but didn't think the priest meant what he said or would act on it.

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