Paul Shanley

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Paul Richard Shanley
Born(1931-01-25)January 25, 1931
DiedOctober 28, 2020(2020-10-28) (aged 89)
OccupationFormer priest
Known forBoston clergy sex abuse scandal
Criminal charge(s)Indecent assault and rape
Criminal penalty12 to 15 years in prison (served 12)
Criminal statusReleased on probation
Ecclesiastical career
ChurchRoman Catholic Church

Paul Richard Shanley (January 25, 1931[2] – October 28, 2020) was a laicized American priest who was convicted of raping a child. The Holy See dismissed him from the clerical state following a conviction in 2004 for raping a child while served at St. Jean's Parish in Newton, Massachusetts in 1980. He was imprisoned at Old Colony Correctional Center[3] for this conviction in 2005 and released from prison in 2017.


Shanley first gained notoriety during the 1970s as a "street priest", ministering to drug addicts and runaways who struggled with their sexuality. His writings included Changing Norms of Sexuality.[4] During the 1980s, Shanley served as pastor of St. Jean the Evangelist Parish in Newton.[5] In 1990, he was transferred to St. Anne's in San Bernardino, California. While there, he and another priest, John J. White, co-owned "a bed-and-breakfast for gay customers 50 miles away in Palm Springs".[6]

Shanley had earned "the nickname the hippie priest for his long hair and outspoken views, including his public rejection of the church's condemnation of homosexuality."[7] He attended a conference on sexuality where the founders of NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association, conceived the idea of such an organization.[8] However, Shanley was not a part of the 32 individuals at the meeting who caucused to form the group, according to a Catholic priest and Protestant minister who were.[9]

Shanley was laicized in 2004.[10]


According to Leon Podles in his book Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church:

"In late 1993, Shanley was sent to the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut, for evaluation. The Boston archdiocese has refused to release this evaluation, but other released files show that Shanley admitted to nine sexual encounters, of which four involved boys, and that he was diagnosed as 'narcissistic' and 'histrionic'. Shanley admitted that he was 'attracted to adolescents' and on the basis of this confession, the Boston archdiocese secretly settled several lawsuits against Shanley. The archdiocese of Boston in 1993 had to admit to the diocese of San Bernardino part of the truth about Shanley, and the bishop of San Bernardino immediately dismissed him."

In 2002, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, in relation to a lawsuit filed against it by the attorney of a man who accused Shanley of repeated rape, turned over a copy of the February 12, 1979 issue of Gaysweek which included an article titled "Men & Boys" that described a meeting in Boston in which Shanley defended a relationship between a man and a boy.[11]

In February 2005, Shanley was found guilty of indecent assaults and the rape of a male minor and received a sentence of 12 to 15 years in prison. His case remains controversial because the allegations of abuse came only after the victim (now an adult) alleged that he "recovered" memories of the abuse from approximately 20 years earlier. The notion of "repressed memory" is highly controversial and has been excluded from several courts of law.[12] The manner in which the accusations against Shanley arose together with the enormous attention in the media formed the basis for an appeal.[9][13][14][15][16]


In 2007, Shanley's new attorney, Robert F. Shaw, Jr., filed a motion for a new trial on his behalf challenging his convictions as unjust.[17] During a hearing in May 2008, Shaw argued that Shanley is entitled to a new trial because repressed memories of childhood rape and sexual assault by family and clergy were without general acceptance in the scientific community, were so-called "junk science," and that the court had not been presented with accurate information about the scientific status of repressed memories before trial.[18][19]

On November 26, 2008, Superior Court Judge Stephen Neel denied the motion for a new trial.[20] Shaw filed a petition for review in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, arguing that the judge had erred, and that "repressed memory" is an unproven, hypothesized phenomenon that has not been accepted in the scientific community and should not be admitted as evidence in Massachusetts courts. In January 2009, the Supreme Judicial Court granted the petition and ordered the case transferred from the intermediate appellate court for review by the state's highest court.[21]

On September 10, 2009 the Supreme Judicial Court heard arguments in the case.[22] Shaw argued that Shanley was prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned based upon inadmissible evidence.[23][24][25] The case was closely watched throughout the United States and abroad.[26][27][28][29]

On January 10, 2010, the Supreme Judicial Court unanimously affirmed Shanley's conviction. It concluded: "In sum, the judge's finding that the lack of scientific testing did not make unreliable the theory that an individual may experience dissociative amnesia was supported in the record, not only by expert testimony but by a wide collection of clinical observations and a survey of academic literature. ... There was no abuse of discretion in the admission of expert testimony on the subject of dissociative amnesia."[30]

Shanley was released from Old Colony Correctional Center on July 28, 2017, after serving 12 years. He was subject to supervised probation for another 10 years.[31] He died of heart failure on October 28, 2020.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Paul Shanley, Ex-Priest in Child Sex-Abuse Scandal, Dies at 89". The New York Times. November 9, 2020. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  2. ^ 'Paul Shanley, notorious pedophile priest, dies at 89,' The Washington Post, November 6, 2020
  3. ^ "VINELink". Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  4. ^ Jacobs, Sally (July 10, 2002). "'If they knew the madness in me'. A search for the real Rev. Paul Shanley..." The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Globe Partners, L.P. Retrieved October 9, 2006.
  5. ^ Orth, Maureen (April 18, 2008). "Unholy Communion". Vanity Fair. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved March 30, 2019.
  6. ^ Rezendes, Michael; Carroll, Matt (April 8, 2002). "Boston diocese gave letter of assurance about Shanley". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Globe Partners, L.P. Retrieved October 9, 2006.
  7. ^ Belluck, Pam (April 9, 2002). "Boston Diocese Protected Priest Long Linked to Abuse". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved January 14, 2010.
  8. ^ "Shanley Attended NAMBLA Meeting". New York City: News Corp. May 2, 2002. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  9. ^ a b Wypijewski, JoAnn (September–October 2004). "The Passion of Father Shanley". Legal Affairs. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  10. ^ "Ex-priest leaves prison after serving his sentence for child sex abuse". National Catholic Reporter. Kansas City, Missouri: National Catholic Reporter Publishimg Company. 31 July 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Shanley Attended NAMBLA Meeting". Fox News. FOX News Network, LLC. 2 May 2002. Retrieved 31 December 2015.
  12. ^ Davis, Wendy (April 8, 2003). "Memory questioned in abuse case". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Globe Media Partners. Retrieved October 9, 2006.
  13. ^ Lyons, Daniel (June 9, 2003). "Sex, God & Greed". Forbes. New York City. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  14. ^ Cockburn, Alexander (February 19–20, 2005). "Back to Salem: Paul Shanley and the Return of Repressed Memory". Counterpunch & The Nation. Archived from the original on May 20, 2008.
  15. ^ Miner, Michael (February 17, 2005). "Did Shanley get screwed?". The Chicago Reader.
  16. ^ Rauch, Jonathan (March 14, 2005). "Is Paul Shanley Guilty? If Paul Shanley is a monster, the state didn't prove it". Reason Magazine. Los Angeles, California: Reason Foundation. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  17. ^ D'Entremonte, Jim (March 2008). "Any Prayer for Shanley?". The Guide Magazine. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association. Archived from the original on 2011-07-27.
  18. ^ Lavoie, Denise (May 29, 2008). "A former priest seeks new trial". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Globe Media Partners. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  19. ^ Roche, Kerri (May 29, 2008). "Lawyer for Ex-Priest Questions Repressed Memory Science" (PDF). Daily News Tribune. Waltham, Massachusetts: Community Newspaper Company. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  20. ^ "Priest in Boston clergy scandal denied new trial". November 26, 2008. Archived from the original on September 5, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
  21. ^ Murphy, Shelley (January 27, 2009). "SJC to hear appeal by ex-priest in abuse case". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Globe Media Partners. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  22. ^ "Brief of The Leadership Council for Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence as Amicus Curiae" (PDF). Commonwealth of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  23. ^ "Disgraced priest Paul Shanley seeks new trial, challenges repressed memories". NECN. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  24. ^ "Convicted ex-priest challenges repressed memories". WHDH-TV. Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  25. ^ Paul Shanley appeal[dead link]
  26. ^ Zezima, Katie (September 16, 2009). "Ex-Priest Challenges Abuse Conviction on Repressed Memories". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  27. ^ "Ex-Priest Questions Repressed Memories". ABC News. New York City: ABC. September 14, 2009. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  28. ^ Saltzman, Jonathan (September 10, 2009). "'Repressed memory' is at issue in defrocked priest's appeal". The Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts: Boston Globe Media Partners. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  29. ^ Williamson, Dianne (September 13, 2009). "Repressed memory: Issue still argued". Telegram & Gazette. Worcester, Massachusetts: Gannett. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
  30. ^ Commonwealth v. Paul Shanley, 752 U.S. 455 (Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Middlessex 2010).
  31. ^ Wamsley, Laura (July 28, 2017). "Former Priest And Convicted Child Abuser Paul Shanley Released From Prison". NPR. Retrieved July 28, 2017.
  32. ^ News, Maria Papadopoulos, Boston 25. "Former priest Paul Shanley, key figure in Boston clergy sex abuse scandal, dies". WFXT. Retrieved 2020-11-07.

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