By Jim Smith
BOSTON — Fr. Paul Shanley, the accused rapist of boys and a central figure in the sex scandal rocking the Catholic church, told the Boston Globe in the summer of 1979 that he was disappointed that Cardinal Humberto Medeiros had not consulted him before the cardinal issued a 16-page pastoral letter about ministering to homosexuals.
“He didn’t consult with the one priest who had the most experience,” Shanley said in that July 7, 1979, article entitled “Priest Faults Cardinal for Gays Policy,” which was obtained by the Echo from the
Globe archives. “I have been running around the country updating priests because it’s important to give them continuing education,” Shanley told a Globe reporter.
In his pastoral letter, Medeiros called on priests to “minister with pastoral love to those of our brothers and sisters who have homosexual inclinations or enter into homosexual behavior.” But in that same letter, Medeiros said that he would no longer assign a priest to work exclusively with homosexuals, as Shanley had done throughout much of the decade prior to his removal from his street ministry in January 1979 and his assignment to a Newton parish, St. John’s, several weeks later.
Calling Medeiros’s letter “a step backward,” Shanley also told the Globe then that Medeiros “usually lectures me every time he sees me.”
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He said that he and Medeiros had “frequent conflicts” and that the cardinal’s views on celibacy were unacceptable. “I have searched the country and been unable to find healthy, well-adjusted celibate lay homosexuals,” Shanley said. “Gay people would see a God who would require such a thing as cruel.”
Five months earlier, in a Globe article of Feb. 2, 1979, Shanley was praised by several sources who said that he had been doing “outstanding work . . . made an important contribution . . . had an ability to reach out to people who otherwise wouldn’t be reached by the church . . . God sent me to him when I did not know where to turn.”
But recently released archdiocesan records contain allegations that Shanley had molested boys during a summer outing in 1966 after taking them to a cabin. And during the late 1970s in Boston and Rochester, N.Y., Shanley reportedly proclaimed that boys are often “seducers” of men and are traumatized by sexual activity with men only when authorities intervene. At least 30 men now accuse Shanley of having molested them as boys.
Among those who warned Medeiros about Shanley was Boston businessman and philanthropist Thomas Flatley of County Mayo.
“I cannot remain silent and tolerate the actions of Father Shanley,” he wrote in a 1975 letter to Medeiros in which he urged the cardinal to remove Shanley from his street ministry. “Already he has done a great amount of damage. . . . He has been able to grab the headlines at the expense of family life and our Catholic philosophies.”
At about the same time that Shanley told reporters he was providing continuing education to priests around the country, records of the archdiocese reveal that he was often seeking treatment for venereal disease in those cities.
One of the first things I do in a new city is to sign up at the local clinics for help with my VD. . . . I meet a lot of old friends this way,” he wrote in a journal contained in records released under court order by the archdiocese of Boston last month.
Shanley had also been interviewed by the Globe in June 1977 for an article about gays in the suburbs. In that article, Shanley is quoted as saying that most child molesters are “straight people.”
Although he evidently enjoyed a cozy relationship with the media in the 1970s, one of Shanley’s alleged victims, Gregory Ford, told reporters last month that he believes Shanley “molested hundreds of boys over a 30-year reign of terror.”
In February 1979, during the same month that the laudatory Globe article appeared, Shanley, who was evidently upset with Medeiros for ending his street ministry, threatened to go to the media with what he said would be “shocking” revelations about St. John’s seminary. “Were I to release this to the press, you would have to fire another half dozen of your top priests,” he wrote in a letter to Medeiros.
Later in that same month, Medeiros wrote to the Vatican about Shanley. “I believe that Father Shanley is a troubled priest, and I have been trying to be understanding and patient with him while continually affirming . . . the church teaching on sexual ethics,” he stated in that letter to Rome.
The questionable decision of Medeiros to transfer Shanley to St. John’s parish in 1979, and Cardinal Bernard Law’s latter decision to elevate him to pastor of that church, have infuriated many Catholics. Two men now accuse Shanley of repeatedly raping them as young boys while he served at that parish in the 1990s. He is presently being held in jail on $750,000 cash bail on three counts of child rape.