US priest defrocked after sexual abuse scandal

PAUL SHANLEY, the priest who was a key figure in the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese, has been defrocked, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

In a letter dated May 3, Boston Archbishop Sean O’Malley told Shanley he was being removed from his duties as a priest, and that Pope John Paul II made the decision on February 19.

The letter said Shanley will no longer be eligible for financial support or benefits from the archdiocese, and his stipend and medical benefits will be eliminated at the end of the month.

“I earnestly exhort you to take part in the life of the People of God in a manner befitting your new ecclesiastical status, by offering a good example and thereby demonstrating that you are a faithful son of the Church,” O’Malley said in the letter.

Defrocking, or what the Catholic Church prefers to call laicisation, is only rarely applied in extreme cases of misconduct. It comes about only after a lengthy process involving the Vatican. At least a few other priests have been dismissed since the abuse crisis erupted in 2002.

The archdiocese intended to make the Shanley decision public by May 15 “for the good of the Church,” the letter said. The archdiocese did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Shanley, aged 73, has pleaded innocent to pending criminal charges in the rapes of Gregory Ford, Paul Busa and two other men at St Jean’s Parish in Newton in the 1980s. He was released on $300,000 bail and is awaiting trial, which has been tentatively set for October.

The Church last month settled lawsuits from four men and their family members against the Church over Shanley’s alleged misdeeds.

Roderick MacLeish Jr, an attorney whose firm represented Shanley’s alleged victims and hundreds of other victims of clergy sex abuse, said the plaintiffs had sought Shanley’s dismissal from the clergy. He said the archdiocese assured him that Shanley would be defrocked, although it was not a condition of the settlement.

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