Ex-priest convicted of child rape set to leave prison

A defrocked US Roman Catholic priest is set for release from prison 12 years after his conviction on child rape charges, a Massachusetts prosecutor said Tuesday.

Paul Shanley was among the first clergymen to stand trial after the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team unearthed allegations against priests of serial child sexual abuse and coverups by the Boston Archdiocese.

The scandal reverberated through the church, exposing similar allegations worldwide that compromised its moral authority and led to years of multimillion-dollar settlements.

Shanley was 74 years old when a Middlesex County jury convicted him in 2005 of repeatedly raping a boy from his parish in the 1980s. His victim, who was 27 years old during the trial, testified Shanley regularly pulled him out of Sunday catechism class for what he called “special duties” and molested him in various rooms of St. John the Evangelist, a defunct parish in the Boston suburb of Newton. After one day of cross-examination from Shanley’s lawyer, who tried to cast doubt on the victim’s recollections and credibility, the victim begged the judge to not make him return to the stand.

Prosecutors asked for a life sentence on two counts each of child rape and indecent assault and battery, but Shanley received 12 to 15 years.

Now 86, Shanley is scheduled to be released from prison and begin 10 years of supervised probation, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a statement Tuesday.

His exact release date was not revealed. He will be monitored by the probation department for the next 10 years and has been ordered to have no contact with children under 16, Ryan said.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests condemned his release.

“While we understand and respect the American judicial system, we fear for the safety of children now that Shanley has been released,” said Managing Director Barbara Dorris in a statement. “Research and experience teach us that age does not cure pedophilia. Often, age gives predators an advantage. People may see an old man and assume he is harmless. That is not the case.”

It is not clear where Shanley will end up after his release. The Catholic Church has treatment facilities for clergy and former clergy accused of sexual abuse, Dorris noted.

“We hope that they will insist Shanley live in a facility where he can receive treatment and where he will have no access to children.”