Paul Shanley, perhaps the most notorious of those priests convicted of the sexual abuse of minors, was released from prison earlier this month.
Shanley, during his tenure as a priest in Boston, was the supposed face of compassion to what he called sexual minorities. In 1970, Humberto Cardinal Medeiros named Shanley his representative to sexual minorities. Shanley claimed that homosexuality was “a gift from God and should be celebrated,” and was involved in the formation of the North American Man-Boy Love Association in 1978. He also served as chaplain of Dignity, an organization that claims that homosexuals can live a homosexual lifestyle and still be fully in line with Christ’s moral teaching and with His Church. In 1977, Shanley said that when an adult has sex with a child, “The adult is not the seducer, the kid is the seducer.”
In short, Shanley was the golden boy of the Catholic left and their efforts to change, or rather dismantle, Catholic sexual morals. Horribly, Shanley exploited his position of trust to rape and abuse several boys and young men. He was convicted of rape and sent to prison in 2005.
Shanely is a good friend of Sr. Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry. New Ways Ministry has been repeatedly condemned by the U. S. bishops as a false Catholic organization that rejects Catholic sexual ethics. This, however, didn’t stop Bishop John Lowe of Lexington, KY and Fr. James Martin, SJ from recently lauding the organization. Sr. Gramick denounced Shanley when he was convicted of his crimes, but still felt obliged to announce that she applauded his principles. His principles? The man is on record as justifying and claiming as consistent with the teaching of Christ and His Church everything from an active homosexual lifestyle and pedophilia to bestiality and incest!
Psychologist have claimed that Shanley is no longer a danger to society because of his advanced age (he’s 86). The State of Massachusetts claims they have no legal authority to keep him imprisoned unless it can be confirmed that he is a danger to society. Barbara Dorris, of the lately discredited Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, wants the Catholic Church to insist that Shanely live in a facility where he can be treated and where he cannot have access to children. A great idea, except since Shanley is no longer a priest, I’m not sure what relationship he has with the Church or what authority the Church has over his life and whereabouts.
In fairness to Shanley, it should be noted that his conviction was based on the testimony of those relying on “recovered memories.” The idea that memories of abuse can be deeply buried in the mind and recovered later by therapy remains controversial and many experts simply reject it. Recovered Memory Therapy is not in the DSM-IV and is not recommended by mainstream practitioners as a reliable form of therapy. It may be that Shanley’s actual conviction, then, was based on false evidence. There is nothing false, however, about his many substantiated cases of abuse and his views on sexual ethics. Whether he represents a threat to society or not is outside my purview, but it’s my opinion that justice for his crimes recommends that Shanley die in jail.
I pray for Paul Shanley. I pray that he will experience the mercy of Christ pouring into his soul and that God’s grace will bring him to true conviction and conversion. I pray for his victims, that they too will experience the grace of Christ for salvation, if they’ve not already, and that the harm done by Shanley will not be an obstacle to their love of Christ and His kingdom. I pray, finally, for the Church, that her ministers will remain committed to true reform and to the safety of children and that the likes of Paul Shanley will never again be given room to maneuver within her hallowed halls.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.