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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Vatican bars US sex abuse priest
Paul Shanley
Shanley has pleaded not guilty to raping and sexually assaulting boys
The Vatican has defrocked a key figure in the clergy sexual abuse scandal that rocked the US Archdiocese of Boston.

Paul Shanley, 73, and another accused priest were relieved of their duties, the Archdiocese said.

"They are no longer to be referred to as a priest nor to exercise sacramental ministry as they do not have the faculties of the Church," it said.

Mr Shanley has pleaded not guilty to raping and sexually assaulting four boys at a church in the 1980s.

A victim's father told the Boston Globe newspaper that Mr Shanley's defrocking was "quite unexpected", but that the news came as a relief.

"At least, Rome sees what's going on here," Rodney Ford said.

"Rome was well aware of what Shanley had done; they had known for a long time."

Serious misconduct

Defrocking - or what the Roman Catholic Church call laicisation - is a reportedly rare action for serious cases of misconduct.

Mr Shanley's defrocking came two years after he was charged, but observers said they were surprised at the church's speed.

"Normally it takes years and years and years to do this," said a Boston lawyer whose firm represented hundreds of alleged clergy abuse victims.

Mr Shanley is accused of sexually assaulting Gregory Ford, Paul Busa and two other boys who worshiped at St Jean's Parish in Newton.

He is awaiting trial, which has been tentatively set for October.

Timeline: Boston sex scandal
13 Dec 02  |  Americas
US priest faces fresh sex charges
21 Jun 02  |  Americas
Priest to face Boston rape charges
03 May 02  |  Americas
US press: Vatican must go further
25 Apr 02  |  Americas

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