May 02, 2002

BOSTON (AP) - A Roman Catholic priest who allegedly advocated sex between men and boys was arrested Thursday 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 the Boston sex abuse scandal, was arrested at his home in San Diego, charged with three counts of rape of a child in Massachusetts, Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said.

Coakley said the alleged victim, who is now 24 years old, said Shanley abused him at St. Jean Parish in Newton from 1983 to 1990, when he was between 6 and 13 years old.

The man, whose name was not released, told police Shanley took him out of his church instruction class on an almost weekly basis and abused him in the bathroom, across the street to the rectory or in the confessional.

The victim told police that Shanley told him, ``if he told, no one would believe him,'' the prosecutor said.

``He was 6 years old and was fond of (Father) Shanley,'' Coakley said.

She said the victim came forward during the last three months, after a wave of media reports about sexual abuse by priests in the Boston archdiocese.

The criminal charges were the first to be filed against Shanley, who has been the focus of a civil lawsuit against the Boston archdiocese.

Coakley said her office had feared Shanley had fled the country until television reporters tracked him down in San Diego during the last few days.

``We're pretty relieved. We were concerned,'' she said.

An extradition hearing will be held on Friday or Monday, said Liz Pursell, spokeswoman for the San Diego County district attorney's office.

Shanley's attorney, Frank Mondano, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday. Shanley, 71, has issued no public statements since the case began; repeated attempts to contact him failed.

Documents released a month ago in the lawsuit showed archdiocese officials had received reports of 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 allegations of abuse, officials did not warn a California diocese when Shanley moved there in 1990.

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

The alleged abuse cited in the criminal case began months before Shanley was promoted from administrator of the parish to pastor.

``I am confident that you will have a zealous and fruitful ministry in your new appointment,'' Cardinal Bernard Law wrote Shanley in announcing the promotion in December 1984.

Last week, the archdiocese released an additional 800 pages of records in the case. They included Shanley's own writings on his life as a street priest, including how he frequently visited clinics for treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Gregory Ford, 24, and his parents Paula and Rodney, are suing the archdiocese and Cardinal Bernard Law for negligence for allowing Shanley to be posted to the Newton parish where Ford was allegedly repeatedly abused and raped as a child.

The family is seeking the release still more records: Shanley's psychiatric and other medical assessments that were ordered by the Roman Catholic archdiocese during his tenure.

Mondano said Wednesday that his client never waived his right to keep psychiatric and other medical assessments private. He also said the archdiocese never had the records, though they are referenced in archdiocese correspondence.

Shanley, who was ordained in 1960, served as a street priest until 1979. He was transferred to the San Bernardino Diocese in 1990. While serving as a pastor part-time, he also owned a hotel that catered to gays in Palm Springs, Calif.

Shanley was fired from his volunteer job at the San Diego Police Department after the sex abuse allegations surfaced in Boston.

Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the group hopes Shanley's arrest will encourage others to contact prosecutors.

``While this scandal is much broader than any one perpetrator or bishop, the arrest of Father Shanley means that children are safer and Shanley's victims are now one step closer to vindication and healing,'' Blaine said.

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