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Shanley is Dropped as a Police Volunteer

Retired Boston priest accused in church sex scandal

By Sandi Dolbee and Joe Hughes
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff writers
April 4, 2002

For two years, a retired Boston priest accused of raping and molesting several boys during his ministry has been serving as a senior citizen volunteer with the San Diego Police Department.

Now, police have told the Rev. Paul Shanley that his services are no longer needed.

Shanley, 71, of Hillcrest, had been with the Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol since 2000. The volunteers' duties include making vacation house checks, assisting with traffic control and helping gather evidence at crime scenes.

A police spokesman said the decision was made to drop him this week after being contacted by Boston-area law enforcement officials and media about the accusations there of sexual abuse.

"He's a volunteer. He serves at the pleasure of the San Diego Police Department, and we just don't need to be involved, even in a periphery way, in this kind of issue or controversy," spokesman Dave Cohen said yesterday. "It's just not something we want to be tied to."

Cohen said Shanley is out of town, so the department sent an e-mail informing him he was being dropped "because of all the issues swirling around him."

Shanley, who could not be reached for comment, has been the subject of intense media attention as part of the unfolding Roman Catholic Church scandal in Boston.

According to the Boston Globe, the Archdiocese of Boston has settled at least five sexual abuse claims against Shanley and at least three other victims have notified church officials that they, too, were abused by him beginning in the 1970s.

The newspaper reported yesterday that Shanley may face criminal charges in the case of Greg Ford, 24, who said Shanley repeatedly raped and molested him during the 1980s at a parish in the Boston suburb of Newton. Ford also has filed a lawsuit.

Cohen said Shanley had no arrests on his record, which was checked by police before his approval for the senior volunteer program. The department also has not received any complaints about his service.

Police apparently were not aware he was a Catholic priest. Neither was the manager of his apartment building in Hillcrest.

Mel Lee said she learned of his clergy background when the media began inquiring about her tenant. Shanley and another man have rented a two-bedroom apartment for about five years, Lee said.

"He's a great tenant," she said. "He's just a lovely person."

She said she had not seen Shanley for several weeks and that he has "laid pretty low" since reporters from Boston began showing up. Along with some of his colleagues with the police senior volunteer program, Lee expressed surprise at the accusations.

"I can't imagine him doing anything like that," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego said Shanley is not working in any ministry here and has not applied for permission to minister.

Shanley was ordained in 1960, serving at parishes in the Boston area and running a ministry for troubled youth, according to The Globe. He left Massachusetts in 1990, when he was placed on sick leave, and retired six years later, according to The Globe. During the 1990s, he worked for a few years running a guest house for clergy, students and travelers in New York City.

Under Massachusetts' statute of limitations, the clock stops when a person leaves the state, which means the time limit on some of his alleged acts has not expired.

"We're going to be chasing this guy," said Boston attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents Ford in the lawsuit and is pushing for a criminal indictment. "He has betrayed so many lives."

This case is unfolding against the backdrop of watershed revelations that touched off the church scandal in January – that Boston Cardinal Bernard Law and other church authorities shuffled former priest John Geoghan from parish to parish despite accusations of sexual abuse.

Geoghan, 66, is accused of molesting more than 100 boys over three decades. He is now serving a prison sentence for fondling a 10-year-old boy in 1991.

Law, who is battling against calls for his resignation from angry Catholics, has repeatedly apologized and turned over to prosecutors the names of more than 80 current and former priests suspected of child abuse over 50 years.

If MacLeish's predictions are accurate, Law may be in for more heat.

"This is going to be the next big case to have the cardinal's fingerprints," MacLeish said in an interview.

Joe Hughes: (619) 542-4591;

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests