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THE NATION

Priest Tried to Blackmail Cardinal, Files Show

Church: Newly released documents detail an accused pedophile's threatening letter to Law's predecessor.

April 27, 2002|ELIZABETH MEHREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BOSTON — The latest round of documents released by the Roman Catholic archdiocese here shows that an accused pedophile priest shipped from Boston to California once tried to blackmail a cardinal.

More than 800 pages of records turned over late Thursday to attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. also reveal that Father Paul Shanley sought treatment for venereal disease in several cities. The onetime "street priest"--recognizable in Boston during the 1970s with his long hair, blue jeans and motorcycle--also boasted in the documents of teaching young people how to properly "shoot up" drugs.

"These are the writings of a perverted monster who was sent out into the field, unsupervised, to be with children," said MacLeish, who is representing the family of 24-year-old Greg Ford in a civil case against Shanley. Ford claims he was abused by Shanley for six years, beginning when Ford was 6 and a student in religious education classes taught by Shanley.

The newest information shows that Shanley chafed when the late Cardinal Humberto Medeiros tried to remove him from his high-profile Boston street ministry. In a letter, Shanley threatened to go to the media with allegations of homosexuality in the archdiocesan seminary.

"Were I to release this to the press, you would have to fire another half-dozen of your top priests since what they are saying is far more shocking than my poor offerings," Shanley wrote.

Medeiros replied: "I reject completely your accusation that I am inflicting punishment on homosexuals and their families."

He continued: "I shall pass over in amazed but laughable silence the threats you invoke against me concerning further public pronouncements."

Medeiros died in 1983 and was replaced by Cardinal Bernard Law. The 1,600-plus pages of documents about Shanley show the archdiocese knew of complaints about him dating from at least 1967.

Church officials here approved Shanley's transfer in 1991 to San Bernardino. With another priest from Boston as his partner, Shanley also owned and operated a Palm Springs inn that was popular with a gay clientele. The 71-year-old Shanley--who left the San Bernardino church in the 1990s--recently was fired from his volunteer post with the San Diego Police Department. His whereabouts are unknown.

The newest deluge of incriminating material comes 17 days after a court-ordered deadline to furnish all records pertaining to Shanley's long relationship with the Boston Archdiocese.

A first set of documents made public this month established that church officials here were aware of sexual abuse allegations against Shanley and knew he was present at a meeting of an organization that became the North American Man-Boy Love Assn.

Those records, also numbering more than 800 pages, showed that the Boston Archdiocese recommended Shanley to St. Ann's parish in San Bernardino as a priest "in good standing," despite a long history of complaints about him.

The revelations from the first batch of Shanley documents prompted Law to make a secret visit to the Vatican two weeks ago to discuss the possibility of resigning with Pope John Paul II. The pope refused to let Law step down.

Nevertheless, rumors of Law's possible departure dogged last week's Vatican meeting of U.S. cardinals. A spokeswoman for the Boston Archdiocese spent much of Friday fielding calls about a report in that day's Boston Herald that Law will be assigned to the Vatican.

The Boston Archdiocese also denied reports that the new batch of Shanley documents was held back until the Vatican meeting ended, to avoid further embarrassment. Father Christopher Coyne, speaking for the archdiocese, said the records simply were "overlooked" by officials in Boston.

MacLeish, however, remained skeptical. "We have absolutely zero confidence that we have all the records that are responsive to the court order," he said.

In rambling diary entries found in the newly released documents, Shanley describes signing up at the local venereal disease clinic whenever he moved to a new city, "for help with my VD." Another entry reads: "My God, I've even taught kids how to shoot up properly! How to double-sterilize your works; how to avoid a hot shot. Not very pretty. But, you see, they die."

The archdiocese last week lost a court battle to block MacLeish from deposing Law. The cardinal is scheduled for deposition June 5.

Also Friday, another priest in the Boston archdiocese, Mgsr. Francis Ryan, resigned after child abuse allegations.

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