Priest arrested on child rape charges
SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- A man who accuses Paul Shanley of sexually abusing him as a child says the now-retired Roman Catholic priest raped him in a church confessional.
The alleged abuse, authorities said Thursday, took place "almost on a weekly basis."
Shanley, 71, was arrested Thursday morning by San Diego, California, police -- the same police force with whom he had once done volunteer work. Shanley has been charged with three counts of raping a child with force.
Authorities said he would be extradited to Newton, Massachusetts, where the alleged abuse occurred. He also was to be arraigned in San Diego on a fugitive complaint.
Shanley has been at the center of a scandal rocking the Archdiocese of Boston. Church officials last month turned over internal documents that said Shanley had advocated sex between men and boys, and that church officials knew for years of numerous allegations of sexual abuse leveled against the priest.
The alleged rapes involved one male victim, according to authorities, and occurred between 1983 and 1990. Shanley was arrested without incident at his apartment here on a warrant from Newton, Massachusetts, according to San Diego police.
More charges could be filed against Shanley that involve more alleged victims, said Martha Coakley, the Middlesex County, Massachusetts, district attorney prosecuting the case.
"There are other credible witnesses that we are investigating at this time," Coakley said.
A lawsuit filed by the family of one man, Greg Ford, alleges that Shanley raped and molested him when Ford was a youth. Ford's suit prompted the court-ordered release of the internal documents last month.
Ford, 24, has claimed the alleged attacks took place at St. Jean Parish in Newton, which Ford and his family attended. That church has since been torn down.
"This is a big day for us and my son and the other victims," said Rodney Ford, Greg's father. "We've waited 18 years to get an answer to what happened to my son. There was a big piece of the puzzle missing and that puzzle laid within the Catholic church."
Authorities did not name the alleged victim in the charges facing Shanley. Coakley described the victim as a 24-year-old man who was a 6-year-old religion student when the alleged abuse began.
"What the young man alleges is that almost on a weekly basis, that Father Paul Shanley would come to take them from (youth) class for talks... to the bathroom, confessional, or to the rectory, and that is where the sexual abuse occurred," Coakley said.
Shanley told the boy, Coakley said, that "no one would believe him" if he ever talked of the abuse.
Cardinal Bernard Law, the archbishop of Boston, has been sharply criticized for his handling of Shanley, who records show was transferred from parish to parish as the church learned of allegations against him.
"This crisis, in the view of everyone that I've talked to, is about leadership," said attorney Eric MacLeish, who represents at least four of Shanley's alleged victims. "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."
According to attorneys who represent alleged victims, church documents included a diary in which Shanley wrote that he was treated at venereal disease clinics and helped young people use drugs, attorneys for the alleged victims said.
Ordained in 1960, Shanley in 1970 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 teenagers struggling with their sexuality.
Referred to as a "street priest," Shanley rode a motorcycle and openly questioned church teachings, including the Catholic church's admonition against homosexuality. He often clashed with his superiors, including the late Cardinal Humberto Medeiros.
In 1979, Shanley was transferred to St. Jean's by Medeiros, even though the cardinal had been told of a sexual abuse charge four years earlier, according to one of his alleged victims.
When Shanley was transferred to California in 1990, the Boston Archdiocese didn't tell officials there about his background, according to attorney Roderick MacLeish, who represents the Ford family.
Shanley, who worked in Boston with troubled youths, retired in San Diego.
Until recently, Shanley was a volunteer with the San Diego Police Department's retired senior patrol. After hearing of the allegations, the San Diego police notified Shanley last month that his services were no longer needed.
The documents released by the archdiocese also include a Shanley diary, in which he wrote that he was treated at venereal disease clinics and helped young people use drugs, attorneys for the alleged victims said.
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