THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A former priest seeks new trial

Challenging victim's repressed memory evidence

Paul Shanley is serving a 12- to 15-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2005 of raping and fondling a boy. Paul Shanley is serving a 12- to 15-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2005 of raping and fondling a boy. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/2005 FILE)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Denise Lavoie
Associated Press / May 29, 2008

A former priest at the center of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston is challenging the repressed memories of his victim in a bid for a new trial.

Former priest Paul Shanley is serving a 12- to 15-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2005 of repeatedly raping and fondling a boy at a Newton parish in the 1980s.

In a motion for a new trial, Shanley said his former lawyer did not properly challenge the repressed memory evidence that helped convict him. The victim testified that he repressed memories of the sexual abuse until 2002, when they came rushing back as the clergy sexual abuse scandal was reported in the news media.

Judge Stephen Neel, who presided at Shanley's trial, is scheduled to hear arguments on Shanley's motion in Suffolk Superior Court today.

Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone said that the verdict was just and that Shanley has not raised sufficient reason for a new trial.

"The concept of recovered memory by victims of abuse has been accepted by both the scientific and legal communities, as well as the jury who convicted Mr. Shanley after hearing the full evidence in this case," Leone said. "We remain confident in the jury's verdict."

Shanley, 77, was known in the 1960s and 1970s as a street priest who reached out to troubled children and homosexuals. He became a central figure in the abuse scandal after internal church records released in 2002 showed that officials were aware of sexual abuse complaints against him as early as 1967, but that they continued to transfer him from parish to parish.

Four men said they were molested by Shanley at St. Jean's Parish in Newton during the 1980s. All but one of the men were dropped from the criminal case before Shanley's 2005 trial.

Shanley was convicted after the alleged victim, then 27, testified that Shanley repeatedly took him out of Sunday morning catechism classes and molested him in the church bathroom, rectory, confessional, and pews. The abuse started when he was 6, he said.

In his motion for a new trial, Shanley's new lawyer, Robert F. Shaw Jr., argued that the man's memories of the abuse are unreliable. The man testified that he began remembering abuse by Shanley in 2002, after learning that his childhood friend had recovered memories of abuse by Shanley.

Shaw argues that Shanley's trial lawyer should have presented evidence that the theory of repressed memory is challenged within the scientific community. "There is no solid empirical support for repressed memory," Shaw said yesterday.

The men who said Shanley abused them at St. Jean's were among at least two dozen who said they had been molested by Shanley. Many of those victims reached civil settlements with the Boston archdiocese, including the man whose complaint led to Shanley's criminal conviction.

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