Archive for the ‘Shanley’ Category

Paul Shanley is (Somewhat) Free

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

On July 28 ,2017, former priest Paul Shanley was released from prison after serving over 12 years.

From three days before his release, the media coverage has been relentless and merciless. “Child rapist Paul Shanley” is a favorite phrase. Most of the stories have come from people who neither attended the trial nor researched the case, but know that Paul Shanley is a monster from other media reports. To suggest that Shanley is not a monster is now heresy. To raise the question creates suspicions of one’s being in league with the devil. Yet most of what has appeared in the media is misinformation.

My partner, Jim D’Entremont, and I attended the trial. Jim covered the trial for The Guide, a magazine that has since ceased publication.

Two points. One, Paul Shanley did not commit the acts for which he was convicted. Two, Paul Shanley is not a danger to anyone.

The Boston Globe’s famous Spotlight series on sexual abuse by Catholic priests began in January of 2002. On January 31st, they published an article about Paul Shanley by Sasha Pfeiffer. Pfeiffer cited four sources: a man who met Shanley when he was 15, two siblings of another alleged victim, and, the principal source, Arthur Austin, who claimed to have begun a sexual relationship with Shanley when Austin was 20. He said he became Shanley’s “sex slave” for several years.

One of the people to see the Globe article was a troubled young man named Greg Ford, who had been a member of Shanley’s parish when Ford had been a young boy. Ford had been in 17 mental institutions or halfway houses, had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, and a well-documented history of violence. (See “The Passion of Father Paul Shanley,” by JoAnn Wypijewski, in the September 2004 issue of Legal Affairs.)

Ford instantly recovered long “repressed” memories of nearly weekly violent sexual abuse by Paul Shanley. The abuse took place at the church on Sunday mornings and memory of the abuse was instantly repressed. Ford’s parents contacted other parents from the parish, and soon three more had recovered identical memories. They all consulted the same personal-injury attorney and all received generous settlements from the Archdiocese. Ford received nearly a million and a half dollars. (For an excellent account of the Ford family, see Our Fathers, by David France)

Charges were brought against Shanley for raping all four boys.

There were problems with the cases. Greg Ford was proving to be a loose cannon who couldn’t keep his stories straight Eventually, Martha Coakley, the Middlesex DA dropped Ford and two other accusers. Wypijewski noted in the previously cited Legal Affairs article:

“This July, the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office announced that ‘in order to make this the most manageable case for a jury to hear,’ it would not go forward with charges on behalf of Ford and one of the other men. In other words, prosecutors have deemed the allegations of Shanley’s headline accuser too risky or unsupportable, yet the prosecution proceeds. The Boston media have barely noted this development.”

Coakley offered Shanley a deal: plead guilty and be sentenced to two years house arrest. Shanley refused, and the case went to trial.

The remaining defendant was Paul Busa, who had received half a million dollars.

“The accuser asserted that from the age of 6, in 1983, he had been raped and otherwise indecently assaulted by the defendant for three years in a busy church on Sunday mornings. Each assault, it was alleged, instantly erased his memory of what had just happened, so that the boy re-approached the defendant in a state of innocent unknowing, to be assaulted again, to forget everything again and again, and then move on in life without the slightest inkling of the experience until twenty years later, when it all came back to him. “ (JoAnn Wypijewski, “Crisis of Faith,” The Nation, 16 March 2009)

At trial, Busa angrily told his story. But not a single witness corroborated it. No one had seen Shanley take Busa or any other child out of class. One student had been sent to Shanley for misbehaving. Shanley gave him a brief lecture and sent him back.

No one had ever seen Shanley with Busa. There was no physical evidence of these violent rapes. No one noticed distress on the part of Busa or any other child.

Cognitive scientists have been studying memory for many decades. Thus far, none has discovered any evidence showing that the mind is capable of “repressing” traumatic events. For an excellent discussion of the research, I recommend Remembering Trauma, by Dr. Richard McNally, director of clinical training, Psychology Department, Harvard University. I also recommend the books on memory by another Harvard psychologist, Dr. Daniel Schacter.

By the time of Shanley’s trial in 2005, evidence based on repressed memory had ben ruled inadmissible in multiple jurisdictions. Judge Stephen Neel, however, ruled that “the theory of repressed memory is generally accepted by the relevant scientific community.”

Shanley was not helped by his expensive lawyer, who did the minimum. He only called one witness, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus. Loftus is a leading expert on memory. Shanley’s lawyer, however, had no idea what to ask her. He was woefully unprepared. Under cross examination, ADA Lynn Rooney tried to persuade the jury that Loftus was a heartless defender of pedophiles. Shanley’s lawyer did nothing to rehabilitate her.

Shanley was convicted. A persuasive member of the jury was a therapist with a master’s degree who was a believer in repressed memory.

Some have argued that while Shanley may have been innocent of abusing Busa, there were other more credible accusations of sexual misconduct stemming from his days as a street minister. Therefore his conviction was “rough justice.”

Robin Washington covered the case for two years for the Boston Herald. He left the Herald to become op-ed editor for the Duluth News-Tribune. He wrote a couple of articles in which he made it clear that he felt the case against Shanley had not been proven. He concludes an op-ed from 14 February 2005 with:

“Maybe Shanley did do it. And whether he did or not, his life or death behind bars for crimes for which there is a degree of doubt engenders about as much sympathy as Al Capone’s trip upriver for tax evasion. But for all the pain and lies and betrayal victims have endured, those seeking healing will find little solace in a questionable verdict and another dead ex-priest.”

Washington clearly has no love for Paul Shanley. But he has a deep concern about justice. In another op-ed, dated 9 February 2005, Washington concedes that perhaps Shanley belongs behind bars:

“But not for a crime he didn’t commit, or at least one for which there is reasonable doubt that the journal clearly raises. Not if our legal system is worth anything. And not if the hundreds of genuine victims of abuse, whom I have gotten to know, cry and even laugh with over years of covering this tragedy, are to celebrate any real victory.

“That’s one that would result in true justice, which didn’t happen in Massachusetts on Monday.”

Due process is supposed to be a right belonging to all, not a privilege reserved for “good” people. An essential premise of any reasonable criminal-justice system is that one has the right to defend oneself against charges. One cannot defend oneself against charges that are never explicitly brought. Jailing Al Capone — who actually did evade his taxes — may have been a good thing. But there has been collateral damage to our criminal justice system. As bad as the damage done to free speech by the you-can’t-yell-fire-in-a-crowded theater argument.

Paul Shanley served his time. Jim and I went to visit him shortly after his conviction. We continued to visit him. We saw him age. Prison accelerates the ageing process. Constant stress, horrible nutrition, terrible medical care.

Paul Shanley is now 86, in frail health with mobility problems. He cannot leave his home unassisted. This would be true even if he were not at risk for physical assault. If no one were with him he might easily fall.

He is a threat to no one.

At the time of his trial, Paul Shanley was one of the most hated people in America. Over the past two weeks, the media has been doing its best to rekindle that hatred.

My organization, the National Center for Reason and Justice, is well acquainted with hate. We have sponsored Paul Shanley for a long time. But all of the people we have sponsored have been hated, including those who have since been exonerated. Bernard Baran. The San Antonio Four. Dan and Fran Keller.

All of these cases were closed. No one would look into them because it was so obvious that these people were guilty.

Until someone finally did.

The media is very powerful. But I am still naïve enough to believe that the truth is more powerful. As John Adams once famously said, “Facts are stubborn things.” The day may yet come – perhaps not in Shanley’s lifetime and not in mine – when someone will make generally known the facts about this case.

For more information about the Shanley case, please visit his website:

I thank Jim D’Entremont and Paul Shannon for their assistance in preparing this post.

Why Spotlight is a Terrible Film

Monday, February 29th, 2016

“I was in Boston in the Spring of 2002 reporting on the priest scandal, and because I know some of what is untrue, I don’t believe the personal injury lawyers or the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team or the Catholic “faithful” who became harpies outside Boston churches, carrying signs with images of Satan, hurling invective at congregants who’d just attended Mass, and at least once – this in my presence – spitting in the face of a person who dared dispute them.”

Read the article in Counterpunch by JoAnn Wypijewski.

The National Center for Reason and Justice sponsors the cases of Paul Shanley and Gordon MacRae.

Paul Shanley Web Site

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have long been convinced of the innocence of Father Paul Shanley. My partner Jim and I attended his trial. No credible evidence against him was presented. Unfortunately, he had already been convicted by the media, especially by the Boston Globe.

Jim and I visit Paul, write to him, and talk with him on the phone. He has begun to share some of his prison writings with us.

The National Center for Reason and Justice — who sponsor his case — have long had information about Shanley at their web site. But we decided he deserved a site of his own where we could also publish some of his writings.

Thus far, we have only added two short pieces that we hope you will read. We will be adding more in the future.

The url is

-Bob Chatelle


JoAnn Wypijewski on the Terrible Shanley Decision

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

Our good friend JoAnn Wypijewski has written a wonderful article about the recent disgraceful ruling by the cadre of Martha Coakley fans who make up the Supreme Judicial Court here in repressed-memory land.

This is a must read. Pass it on!

-Bob Chatelle

Poisonous Massachusetts

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

A week ago today, the Massachusetts Supreme Court, in the Paul Shanley case, ruled that the theory of repressed memory has scientific validity in Massachusetts.

Today I was sent a link to this disturbing news story.

I don’t know for sure that the Indiana judge had read the Massachusetts decision, but I would put money on it.

Thus the floodgates have been opened, not just here in Massachusetts but all over the country.

One can only hope that eventually the U.S. Supreme Court will put an end to the nonsense.

-Bob Chatelle

Psychology Today Article About the Shanley Decision

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Dear Friend of Justice,

You might find interesting this article by Jean Mercer on the Psychology Today website.

-Bob Chatelle

The Shanley Amicus, Submitted by 100 Leading Scientists

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

Press accounts of the Shanley case have been mentioning an amicus that was submitted by 100 prominent and extremely well-credentialed scientists. You can read the brief for yourself by going here.

I am pleased that four members of the Advisory Board of my organization, the National Center for Reason and Justice, signed on to this clear and comprehensive brief.

-Bob Chatelle

We Must Stop Martha Coakley!

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

When I first heard the unfortunate news about Senator Kennedy’s terminal illness, my blood ran cold at the thought of his being succeeded by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

I fear that Coakley is going to be hard to stop. She will be the only woman in a crowded race, and she is likely to have the enthusiastic support of the Boston Globe, which does its best to influence electoral politics in Massachusetts.

The media is making much of her “stellar” record in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office. Let’s look at that record.

First, there is the case of Ray and Shirley Souza. These were the Lowell grandparents falsely accused and convicted of molesting their own grandchildren. The case was spurred by a daughter who was victimized by a recovered-memory “therapist.” The testimony was manufactured by the same discredited methods used in the other high-profile cases of the day. Ray Souza is now deceased, but Shirley — a very fine woman — is saddled with living her life out as a registered sex offender.

Coakley was also the prosecutor in the case of Louise Woodward — the nanny accused of murdering a child in her care. There was no reliable medical evidence supporting this. Woodward was convicted, but the judge changed the verdict to manslaughter, sentenced her to time served, and released her to return to her native England.

Then there was the Fells Acres case.  The Amirault family was falsely accused and wrongly convicted of abusing children at the daycare school that they ran. This was one of the classic daycare cases, along with the McMartin case, Bernard Baran, the Little Rascals, and many others. While Coakley was not one of the original prosecutors, she fought the appeals tooth and nail. And when Gerald Amirault was pursuing a commutation, she orchestrated a disinformation campaign against the Amiraults.

Coakley and the Middlesex County DA’s office also did their best to derail at least one wrongfully convicted inmate’s efforts to prove his innocence via DNA evidence, at first denying that such evidence existed, then trying to impede access to it.  Once the evidence was obtained. and the inmate’s innocence was established, Coakley still tried (and failed) to strike a face-saving deal in which the exoneree would admit to a nonexistent measure of guilt.

And then there is the case of Paul Shanley The media campaign against Shanley was so successful that few consider his innocence a possibility. But innocent he is. I attended that trial. There was no evidence against him, other than the testimony of a sociopath who had collected a huge settlement from the church and who claimed to have massively repressed for decades all memory of terrible abuse that had occurred weekly for years.  There is no scientific evidence to support the theory of massive repression. I refer you to Dr. Richard McNally’s excellent book on the subject, Remembering Trauma.

I believe that Coakley is driven more by ambition than ideology. But her willingness to sacrifice the lives of innocent people in order to further her political goals is most troubling. If Massachusetts voters wish to honor Ted Kennedy’s legacy, they should send someone else to replace him.

-Bob Chatelle

Some Documents in the Paul Shanley Case

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

I have just posted some important documents in the Father Paul Shanley case on the website of the National Center for Reason and Justice .

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will be hearing arguments in the case in early September.


JoAnn Wypijewski Talks About the Shanley Case

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Dear Friend of Justice,

Here is a link to a video:

-Bob Chatelle