McCormack, Shanley in court

The Union Leader/January 26, 2005
By Kathryn Marchocki

Cambridge, Mass. -- Former classmates ordained priests the same day nearly 45 years ago faced off in a criminal courtroom yesterday, this time one as a bishop, the other as a defrocked priest on trial for child rape.

Manchester Bishop John B. McCormack, whose own handling of abusive priests while a Boston archdiocesan official has drawn strong criticism, testified as a cooperating witness for the state against ex-priest Paul R. Shanley, one of the most notorious figures in the clergy abuse scandal and one of the few to face criminal charges.

Shanley, 74, is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a boy from 1983 to 1989 at St. Jean the Evangelist Parish in Newton.

The alleged victim, now 27, is expected to take the stand in Middlesex County Superior Court today during the second day of testimony in a case expected to largely hinge on the credibility of the alleged victim's repressed memories of the six years' of abuse he said began when he was six years old.

Shanley is charged with three counts of rape of a child under 16 and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14.

Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney Lynn C. Rooney's questioning of McCormack and three Boston archdiocesan priests was aimed solely at establishing a time line of Shanley's whereabouts after he left St. Jean's in 1990 to go on medical leave.

Their testimony backed up internal church documents from 1990 to 1999 showing Shanley moved first to California, then New York City, and later returned to California.

Rooney also introduced income tax and motor vehicle records showing Shanley was a resident of San Diego, Calif. from 1997 to 2002 when, she said, authorities brought him back to Massachusetts to face criminal charges.

Many priests accused of sexually abusing children could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations expired when alleged victims came forward. Charges against Shanley were allowed to stand because the clock stopped on the statute of limitations when he moved out of state.

Shanley is accused of taking the boy out of religious education classes and orally and digitally raping him in church pews, the confessional, rectory and bathroom.

"If you tell, no one will believe you," the prosecutor said Shanley warned the boy afterwards.

"And he didn't tell. He didn't tell for over 20 years," she told the jury of eight men and eight women in opening arguments.

Memories of the abuse weren't triggered until the Boston Globe began reporting on clergy sexual abuse, Rooney said.

"Those memories were buried deep inside and, in January 2002, those memories started to bubble to the surface," Rooney said.

But Shanley's lawyer Frank Mondano said the alleged victim did not recover his memories until after he filed a civil lawsuit against the Boston archdiocese, which he settled last May for $500,000.

The alleged victim "had his personal injury lawyer in place before he recovered his memories," Mondano said, adding what the alleged victim claims occurred "simply did not happen."

Mondano also challenged the existence of repressed memories, calling it a "psychiatric, medical quagmire" that is contested by medical professionals.

"This case is all about two things: old memories, and really, really old memories," Mondano said.

Mondano also noted the alleged victim has given contradictory statements since he came forward in 2002.

"(His) story is not reliable," Mondano said.

McCormack took charge of Shanley's case when Shanley went on medical leave in 1990. Then still a priest, McCormack was the Boston archdiocese's secretary for ministerial personnel from 1984 to 1994 and was appointed its delegate for matters related to sexual misconduct from late 1992 to 1994.

McCormack's testimony lasted about 30 minutes and was directed to 10 letters and memorandums he either wrote to his superiors or to Shanley that indicated where Shanley was living from 1990 to 1994.

With the jury excused, Mondano asked McCormack if he knew if Shanley ever was allowed to return to Massachusetts since he left the state in 1990.

McCormack said yes, but initially was unsure of the date.

Later, under questioning from Rooney, McCormack said Shanley came back to Massachusetts for about six weeks in late 1993 to respond to a "review board" matter.

While internal church documents show church officials knew about abuse complaints against Shanley as early as 1967, McCormack has maintained he did not know of any allegations of sexual misconduct with a child against Shanley until 1993.

"Bishop, do you know Paul Shanley?" Rooney asked at one point.

"Yes, I do," McCormack replied.

When Rooney asked the bishop to identify him, the slim, graying former priest stood at the defense table and faced McCormack. The bishop described the gray suit and blue tie Shanley wore.

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