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Roman Catholic Priest Arrested In San Diego for Raping a Child

By Elizabeth Mehren and Tony Perry

A Roman Catholic priest who has been the focus of some of the most shocking disclosures in a nationwide sex scandal was arrested Thursday in San Diego on three counts of raping a child.

The Rev. Paul Shanley, 71, was charged with regularly abusing a boy over a seven-year period -- sometimes in the church confessional. He was arrested without incident at his apartment in San Diego.

The victim, now 24, was not named in the complaint. He allegedly was molested from 1983 to 1990, beginning when he was 6 years old and a student in a weekly Christian doctrine class taught by Shanley.

Middlesex County District Attorney Martha Coakley said Thursday that the young man approached authorities earlier this week after extensive media coverage of a civil lawsuit against the Boston archdiocese by another alleged Shanley victim, 24-year-old Gregory Ford.

“Almost on a weekly basis, Paul Shanley would come to take not only (the latest alleged victim) but others from that class for ‘talks,”’ Coakley said.

The priest allegedly took the young students, all male, either to the rectory, the bathroom or the confessional.

“That is where the abuse took place,” Coakley said.

The description echoes accounts offered by Ford, who also was a religious education student while Shanley was pastor at St. Jean’s parish in Newton, Mass., outside Boston.

Coakley said the priest told the victim that if he reported the abuse, no one would believe him. “He was 6 years old and fond of Shanley,” the district attorney explained.

Coverage of the sex abuse trial and conviction in January of former priest John J. Geoghan -- also assigned to the Boston archdiocese -- brought a flood of painful memories to Ford and others who claim they were abused by Shanley. Ford’s civil lawsuit forced the archdiocese last month to release more than 1,600 pages of documents about Shanley.

The records contained sexual abuse complaints against Shanley dating from 1967, when he allegedly took children to a cabin at Blue Hill, a ski mountain near Boston. In 1977, according to the documents, Shanley was present at the organizational meeting of what later became the North American Man-Boy Love Association.

The flamboyant former “street priest” allegedly tried to blackmail the late Cardinal Humberto Medeiros, the records indicate. When Shanley was transferred to California in 1990, a bishop here sent a letter to St. Ann’s parish in San Bernardino, Calif., praising Shanley as a priest “in good standing.”

While in Southern California, Shanley co-owned a hotel in Palm Springs that catered to gay clients.

Shanley next went to New York to work at Leo House, a residential rehabilitation facility for young people. He moved to San Diego in the late 1990s and recently was dismissed from his volunteer job with the San Diego police department. On his application for that position, Shanley did not mention that he was a priest, but listed his occupation as “hotel director.”

Shanley’s attorney in Boston, Frank Mondano, did not return a call seeking comment.

San Diego police spokesman David Cohen said Thursday that detectives called Shanley from outside his gated apartment complex and told him they had an arrest warrant. He invited them inside and did not protest when they placed him in handcuffs, Cohen said.