One of the most notorious figures in the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal has died, police said Friday. He was 89.
Paul Shanley, a former Massachusetts priest who served 12 years in prison after he was convicted of raping a boy at a Newton church in the 1980s, died late last month, Ware police confirmed. A cause of death was not provided.
"Respectfully, the passing of Paul Shanley will now allow innocent children to be safer in society," said Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented more than 50 victims who allege Shanley sexually abused them. "The pain caused by Paul Shanley could have been avoided if the Archdiocese of Boston had properly supervised him and not practiced an almost unspeakable cover up."
Shanley was a popular street priest who ministered to gay and troubled youths in the 1960s and 1970s. Decades later, dozens of men came forward and said Shanley had molested or raped them.
He was defrocked by the Vatican in 2004 and convicted of rape in 2005. After serving his prison sentence at the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater, Shanley was released in July 2017 and he moved to an apartment in Ware.
Shanley's release prompted a firestorm of protest from sexual abuse victims and advocates, with many calling for the former priest to be placed in a secure treatment facility far from children.
Prosecutors also opposed his release and sought to have him held beyond his criminal sentence under a law that allows civil commitment of people deemed sexually dangerous. But two psychologists found Shanley did not meet the legal criteria to hold him.
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Garabedian said at the time the evaluations by the two psychologists were incomplete because they didn't interview Shanley. Instead, they reviewed police reports, prosecutors' files and Shanley's church personnel file containing numerous sexual abuse complaints against him.
"The fact that neither expert spoke to Paul Shanley leaves a hole in the report you could drive a trailer truck through," Garabedian said at the time. "Paul Shanley should be in a hospital being treated and not in the outside world where he can easily gain access to innocent children," he said.
Several men who allege Shanley abused him also said at the time they were concerned Shanley would reoffend once released from prison.
Shanley was designated a Level 3 offender in the sex offender registry, considered the most likely to reoffend. But the two psychologists hired by state prosecutors cited Shanley's advanced age and his health issues in concluding that his likelihood to reoffend is low.
Shanley's appellate lawyer said at the time his client had served his time and was not dangerous.
"We've never believed that he was dangerous, and we didn't believe that what he was convicted of was a valid conviction, given that it rested on repressed memory evidence that we did not believe was valid," Attorney Robert Shaw Jr. said in July 2017.
Reporting by the Boston Globe's Spotlight team helped break open the priest sex abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002. The reporting uncovered how dozens of priests in the archdiocese had molested and raped children for decades while church higher-ups covered it up and shuffled abusive priests from parish to parish.
Internal church records that were made public during the scandal contained documents indicating Shanley had attended a forum with others who later went on to form the North American Man-Boy Love Association, or NAMBLA, a pedophile advocacy organization.
The Boston archdiocese, the fourth-largest in the U.S. with more than 1.8 million Catholics, has called Shanley's crimes against children "reprehensible.''
The Associated Press contributed to this report