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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Priest denies child sex abuse
Paul Shanley (left) at a West Coast extradition hearing
Paul Shanley was arrested in San Diego last week
A former Roman Catholic priest in the United States has pleaded not guilty to charges of raping a young boy.

The pleas were entered on Paul Shanley's behalf at a court in Cambridge, Massachussets.

Bail for the 71-year-old, who was extradited from California on Monday, was set at $750,000.

Cardinal Bernard Law
Cardinal Law: Under pressure to resign
He was also ordered to surrender his passport and avoid contact with children under the age of 16.

These are the first criminal charges to be brought against Mr Shanley, who faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

Cardinal Bernard Law, the leader of an estimated two million Catholics in the Boston archdiocese, has been accused of knowingly protecting Mr Shanley.

In another twist, the cardinal has been ordered to appear in court in connection with a civil lawsuit over child sex abuse allegations involving another former priest.

This follows the rejection by the archdiocese's finance council on Friday of a deal to pay millions of dollars in compensation to alleged victims of John Geoghan, who was imprisoned earlier this year.

Boston charges

Mr Shanley faces three counts of child rape, involving one child, between 1983 and 1990 in the Boston area.

Prosecutors said the priest was alleged to have sexually abused the boy in a bathroom, a rectory and a confessional when the child was between six and 13 years old.

Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of life.

The alleged victim is said to have came forward to file the first criminal complaint against Mr Shanley after reading news reports that the Boston archdiocese knew of the allegations against the priest.

Protesters were outside Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross again on Sunday, calling for Cardinal Law to step down and also urging the church to make a financial settlement to the victims now.

One parishioner who confronted him told him "no real healing will take place... as long you are the archbishop here", the Associated Press news agency reported.

Surprise decision

The Boston Archdiocese's finance council announced on Friday it was rejecting a proposed $15m to $30m settlement with 86 sexual abuse victims of Geoghan because it would "consume substantially all the resources of the archdiocese".

After the surprise decision, the lawyer for the plaintiffs filed a motion to reopen the trial preparations and compel Cardinal Law to give a deposition.

Ordering Cardinal Law to appear in court on Wednesday, judge Constance Sweeney said she was concerned he might be called to Rome by the Pope before he could give evidence.

In the US, almost 200 Catholic priests have been suspended in 18 different states since the child abuse scandal broke in January.

Pope John Paul II has said there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who harm the young.

Two weeks ago the Vatican held an emergency meeting with American cardinals to discuss accusations that it covered up abuse by priests.

See also:

04 May 02 | Americas
US Church rejects sex abuse deal
03 May 02 | Americas
Priest to face Boston rape charges
25 Apr 02 | Europe
Paedophile priests face expulsion
25 Apr 02 | Americas
Analysis: US cardinals get message
04 Apr 02 | Americas
Vatican sued in sex abuse cases
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