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Lawyers: Boston Archdiocese knew about sex abuse

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Catholic Church documents show the Boston Archdiocese knew that a priest who worked with troubled youths had sexually abused children and teen-agers for decades, according to attorneys for a couple who say their son was molested.

Attorneys for Rodney and Paula Ford released the documents Monday at a press conference, where they alleged Cardinal Bernard Law -- who has been under fire for his handling of a series of sex abuse allegations against members of the clergy -- failed to take action against Paul Shanley, who is now retired and lives in California.

Instead, they say, Shanley was shuffled from parish to parish, and no restrictions were placed on his access to children.

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"All of the suffering that has taken place at the hands of Paul Shanley, serial child molester for four decades -- three of them in Boston -- none of it had to happen," said lawyer Roderick MacLeish, who alleged at least 30 people were abused by Shanley.

The couple's son, Greg Ford, alleged he was molested by Shanley between the ages of 6 and 11.

MacLeish read aloud from letters and documents a court forced the church to release Friday. Attorneys for the archdiocese lost a bid for a gag order to prevent anyone from speaking about the documents.

They include letters from some individuals who say they heard Shanley talk about "love" between men and boys and his belief that there was nothing wrong with such a sexual relationship.

Documents from church officials also indicate they knew of the many allegations against Shanley.

Shanley, now in his 70s, was transferred to California in 1990 after serving in parishes in the Boston area. He lives in San Diego, where he has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment.

CNN contacted the Boston Archdiocese repeatedly for comment, but phone calls were not returned.

Law was named cardinal of Boston in 1984 and dealt with Shanley at a Newton, Massachusetts, parish from 1984 through 1989. The Boston Globe reported that the archdiocese has settled at least five cases against Shanley.

Reputation as 'street priest'

Shanley was ordained in 1960.

In 1970, he launched his "ministry to alienated youth" based at St. Philips in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Sporting long hair, sideburns and casual clothing, Shanley ran the ministry for eight years, during which he attracted widely favorable attention in the local community for embracing ostracized minorities, including runaways, drug abusers, drifters and teen-agers struggling with their sexuality.

Referred to as a "street priest," Shanley rode around on a motorcycle and openly questioned church teachings such as the Catholic Church's admonition against homosexuality. He often clashed with his superiors, including the late Cardinal Humberto Medeiros.

In 1979, Medeiros transferred Shanley to St. Jean's, even though the cardinal had been told of a sexual abuse allegation four years earlier, according to one of his accusers. It was at that parish that Ford alleged he was molested.

The Boston Archdiocese transferred Shanley to California and didn't tell officials there about his background, according to plaintiffs' attorney MacLeish.

Until last week, Shanley was a volunteer in the San Diego Police Department. After hearing of the allegations, San Diego police notified Shanley that his services were no longer needed.

There are no known allegations against Shanley in California.




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