Ex-priest convicted of child sexual abuse to be released Friday, alleged victims express concerns and outrage

Rodney Ford speaks at the podium as Mitchell Garabedian, right, looks on. Photo: Nathanael King.

“Paul Shanley is evil. He destroyed my son’s life, my family’s life, and many other victim’s lives,” Rodney Ford said, holding back tears. Shanley, the ex-priest who allegedly sexually abused Ford’s son from ages six to 12 in the 80s, will be released from prison Friday.

Shanley, now 86, served 12 years of a 12-15 year sentence in Old Colony Correctional Facility for the rape of a young boy. Recent evaluations by two doctors did not classify him as a sexually dangerous person, a status which could have kept him behind bars.

Ford, along with his wife, survivor advocates, alleged victims of Shanley, and lawyers who have represented alleged victims, gathered for a press conference Wednesday to express distress and concerns over his impending release.

Paula Ford condemned the doctors’ rulings, saying that the decision was based on an incomplete range of alleged victims that was erroneously limited to young boys. She said the doctors refused to speak to lawyers close to Shanley’s case and that one doctor only agreed to speak to her Tuesday.

The Middlesex District Attorney’s office declined to comment beyond their statement announcing Shanley’s release.

Though he was only convicted of one of the rape of one boy, Shanley has faced numerous criminal complaints and allegations. Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer who has represented about two dozen of Shanley’s alleged victims, said based on his conversations with other lawyers he believes Shanley molested hundreds of children, as well as many adults.

Superiors in the church were notified of Shanley’s behavior on multiple occasions as early as the 60s. He was repeatedly relocated but not defrocked until 2004.

Garabedian called for legal reform to prevent people like Shanley from re entering public life. “The laws have to be changed so the evaluation of sexually dangerous persons is more effective and reliable,” he said.

Denis O’Connor, who said Shanley sexually abused him as a teenager, encouraged Massachusetts to be a leader in dealing with child sexual abuse. “Let’s use Shanley as an example of how we can deal with this issue,” he said.

Garabedian advised that if people see Shanley in their area, they should stay away, call police to alert them of his presence, and post pictures of him in their communities.

Carmen Durso, a lawyer who represented many of Shanley’s alleged victims, said one of his clients was a woman, and that she is not his only female victim. He said Shanley also abused people as old as 50. “When Shanley no longer had access to his preferred range of victims, he adapted… This is why Paul Shanley is still a threat.”

The first known allegations against the former priest were made in the early 60’s and the most recent was in the mid-90’s.

Some studies have shown that rates of re-offence by sex offenders decrease with age—a factor which Garabedian said was cited by the District Attorney’s Office in relation to the doctors’ rulings—but Garabedian said Shanley’s method of emotional manipulation negated the relevance of those statistics.

Garabedian expressed that unnamed sources told him there could still be a “secret deal” in which the archdiocese paid Shanley a pension.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Boston condemned Shanley’s actions and assured survivors of abuse of the church’s “prayers and concerns.” Secretary for Communications and Public Affairs Terrence C. Donilon said Shanley received no support from the church and they had no present relationship.

Shanley is set for a ten year supervised probation as a level 3 sex offender, denoting the highest level of risk. He is barred from interaction with children under 16, and will be required to undergo sex offender treatment, but he will not be required to wear a tracking bracelet. Shanley will also be able to request a reclassification to a lower risk level in three years, which would decrease restrictions on his movement.

Nathanael King is an intern and writer with Spare Change News.