Priest at center of sex scandal is defrocked

BOSTON — Paul Shanley, a central figure in the child-molestation scandal that engulfed the Boston Archdiocese, has been defrocked, along with another priest imprisoned for raping a 12-year-old boy, the church said yesterday.

In a letter dated May 3 and obtained by The Associated Press, Archbishop Sean O’Malley informed Shanley that Pope John Paul II decided Feb. 19 to remove him from the priesthood.

The archdiocese released a statement later yesterday confirming Shanley’s dismissal, and announced that Ronald Paquin — who was sentenced in 2002 to 12 to 15 years behind bars for raping an altar boy — also was defrocked. Paquin, 61, also was named in 24 lawsuits alleging he sexually molested other children.

Shanley, 73, is awaiting trial on charges of raping four boys at a parish in Newton in the 1980s. He is free on $300,000 bond. His trial is scheduled for October.

The church last month settled with the four men and their families for an undisclosed amount. Two of the alleged victims, now in their 20s, have said Shanley began raping them when they were 6.

Defrocking, or what the Roman Catholic Church prefers to call laicization, is applied rarely, in extreme cases of misconduct. It comes about only after a long process involving the Vatican.

“It often takes years, and it suggests to me that the archbishop is moving forward expeditiously with these priests. It’s happened much earlier than I thought,” said Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney whose firm represented Shanley’s alleged victims and hundreds of others.

In its letter to Shanley, the archdiocese said it intended to make the decision public “for the good of the Church” by May 15.

It informed Shanley he no longer will be eligible for financial support from the archdiocese, and his stipend and medical benefits will be cut off at the end of the month.

“What has happened today is sending a strong message,” said Rodney Ford, father of one of the alleged victims. “We never thought Rome was listening to us. Today Rome is finally saying that we’re going to deal with these individuals.”

Shanley, once known for his street ministry to gay and troubled youth, became a focal point of the scandal after plaintiffs’ attorneys forced the church to release internal records showing complaints about Shanley.

Among the records were documents indicating that he was transferred from parish to parish after the sex allegations surfaced, and that he had attended a forum with others who later went on to form the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), an organization that advocates sex between men and boys.

Shanley resigned from parish work in 1989 and moved to California.

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