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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 February, 2005, 00:45 GMT
US priest convicted of raping boy
John Harris, who says he too was abused by Shanley, is comforted in court by Robert Costello, the alleged victim of another priest
Other alleged abuse victims of priests attended the trial
A court in the United States has convicted defrocked Roman Catholic priest Paul Shanley of raping a boy at a Massachusetts church in the 1980s.

The victim, now 27, lowered his head as the verdicts were read out in the Cambridge court on four charges including rape and fondling.

Shanley, at the centre of a scandal which shook the Boston archdiocese, reportedly showed no emotion.

The 74-year-old could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

He was taken into custody after the verdicts. He had been pleading not guilty.

He told me nobody would ever believe me if I told anybody

Jurors had deliberated for nearly 15 hours in the only case against the priest to be fully prosecuted, after three other alleged victims withdrew their testimony over the past seven months.

The one person now confirmed as a victim of the former priest is a firefighter living in the Boston area.

Shanley has been accused of abusing dozens of other alleged victims in civil lawsuits.

In September 2003, the archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay $85m to settle more than 500 civil suits accusing priests of sexual abuse and church officials of covering up the scandal.

Accusations have been levelled at some 200 priests and a cardinal, Archbishop Bernard Law, resigned over the scandal.

Rodney Ford, whose son Greg was one of the three accusers dropped from the case, welcomed the verdict as "a relief".

"The validation that all the victims of Paul Shanley must feel today must be unbelievable," he said.

Abused in the confessional

Shanley's trial had turned on the reliability of the victim's memories of the abuse.

Paul Shanley (archive)
Ordained in 1960
Served as "street priest" until 1979
Appointed as priest for the parish of Newton, Massachusetts in 1980
Promoted to pastor in 1984
Transferred to California in 1990
Arrested May 2002
Defrocked May 2004
Convicted of rape February 2005

The adult man said he had repressed them as a child, but they flooded back three years ago when other allegations against his abuser were reported by the media.

During the trial, he broke down on the stand as he gave details of the abuse, which began when he was six years old.

Shanley would pull him out of Sunday morning catechism classes to rape and grope him in the church toilet, the rectory, the pews and, he said, the confessional.

"It felt awful," the victim said in court. "He told me nobody would ever believe me if I told anybody."

Shanley's defence team tried to argue that the accuser's recovered memories were unreliable even if he believed them to be the truth.

'Street priest'

Police finally arrested Shanley in 2002 in California, where he had been living since leaving Massachusetts in 1990.

Public outrage at the abuses committed by Shanley and fellow Boston priest John Geoghan, a convicted paedophile who was killed in prison in 2003, was compounded by suspicions that Church leaders had sought to cover up their crimes by shuffling them from posting to posting.

Documents revealed at earlier hearings, including a detailed diary kept by Shanley himself, showed that he had suffered from sexually transmitted diseases.

He had been in contact with disadvantaged youths as far back as the 1970s when he worked as a "street priest", dealing with drug addicts, runaways and homosexuals.

According to his diary, he helped "kids shoot up properly".

There were also grounds for believing that Shanley had associated with advocates of paedophilia in the late 1970s.

Vatican bars US sex abuse priest
07 May 04 |  Americas

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