If there’s indeed a hell, it’s a fitting final destination for Paul Shanley.
Shanley, a former Roman Catholic priest who played a pivotal role in the sexual-abuse scandal that rocked the Archdiocese of Boston two decades ago, has died, authorities said Friday. He was 89.
Police in Ware, a town in west-central Massachusetts where Shanley had lived since his release from prison in 2017, confirmed his death, but not the circumstances.
WFXT-TV, Boston’s Fox News affiliate, said he died of heart failure on Oct. 28.
Shanley was known in the 1960s and ’70s as a hip, street-wise priest who reached out to troubled youths. But in 2005 he was convicted of repeatedly raping and fondling a boy at a suburban parish in the 1980s, and he was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison.
During the trial, Shanley’s accuser, then a 27-year-old firefighter, said Shanley would pull him from Sunday catechism classes and rape and fondle him at St. Jean’s parish in Newton, beginning when he was 6-years-old. The man said he recovered memories of the abuse as the clergy sex-abuse scandal unfolded in the Archdiocese of Boston during the early 2000s.
Incredibly, not only was Shanley’s predatory conduct tolerated, but rewarded, as in 1984 when Cardinal Bernard Law promoted him to pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Newton.
Shanley’s release in July 2017 triggered a collective chorus of vehement protests from some of his other victims, who alleged he also sexually abused them as children.
“Unfortunately, there is no mechanism in place which will prevent Paul Shanley from sexually abusing once again,” said attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented many of those men and others in lawsuits against the Boston Archdiocese. “When it comes to a sexual abuser abusing an innocent child, the abuser can be 35 or 95 — there’s no age limit.”
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said at the time that her office hired two psychiatric experts to evaluate Shanley, then 86-years-old, to see if he should continue to be held after completing his sentence. Both experts told prosecutors that he didn’t meet the legal criteria for civil confinement as a sexually dangerous person.
He unquestionably met the moral criteria.
After his release, Shanley began 10 years of supervised probation, and was prohibited from interacting with children.
Shanley was a notorious figure in the clergy sex-abuse scandal that exploded in Boston in 2002 after The Boston Globe revealed that dozens of priests had molested and raped children for decades, while church supervisors covered it up and shuffled abusive priests from parish to parish.
Shanley finally was defrocked by the Catholic Church in 2004 after those dozens of men came forward and said he had molested them when they were children.
Internal church records that were made public during the scandal contained documents indicating Shanley had attended a forum with others who later went on to form the North American Man-Boy Love Association, or NAMBLA, a pedophile advocacy organization.
We can’t contemplate a more reprehensible act than the sexual and psychological violation of children entrusted in the care of clergy or other adult authority figures.
The fact that Archdiocese of Boston enabled Shanley and many other priests to continue their sickening behavior for years constitutes a moral stain for which no financial settlement can compensate.
Paul Shanley, you deserve the eternal hell in death that you put so many innocent children through in life.