Off goes former Father Paul Shanley to state prison in Massachusetts for twelve to fifteen years, convicted of digitally raping and otherwise sexually abusing Paul Busa two decades ago. Shanley’s now 74; the earliest he can hope for parole is when he’s 82, at which point the DA could determine that he is still, though frail, “a sexually dangerous person” and should be confined for whatever years remain. A DA in Massachusetts exercised just that option in the case of another ex-priest, James Porter, who was released last year after pleading guilty in 1993 to molesting twenty-eight children. At the time of his death in February at the age of 70, Porter was in civil confinement, with the state seeking to keep him behind bars indefinitely.
So Shanley must know that most likely he will never see the light of day, unless through a barred window. He has more pressing concerns, namely the distinct possibility that he will be murdered in prison. “I want him to die in prison, whether it’s of natural causes or otherwise. However he dies, I hope it’s slow and painful,” declared Shanley’s accuser, Paul Busa, a 27-year-old firefighter, in a written statement read in court.
The menacing words “or otherwise” were no doubt intended to evoke the fate of John Geoghan, a priest sent to a Massachusetts prison in 2002 for fondling a 10-year-old. Although Geoghan was being kept in “protective custody,” he was strangled to death by a man serving a life term for killing a gay man. There have been allegations that prison guards were complicit in his murder. Paul Busa’s father, Richard, is a corrections officer, and other relatives, including Paul’s wife, are in Massachusetts law enforcement.
In his written statement Busa said that Shanley “is a founding member of NAMBLA and openly advocated sex between men and little boys.” It’s this supposed distinction, as the man who created the North American Man Boy Love Association, that has earned Shanley his throne in the Ninth Circle of the damned. It was one of the credentials in his reacute;sumeacute; as presented in a two-and-a-half-hour PowerPoint presentation to the press in April 2002 by Roderick MacLeish Jr., the personal-injury lawyer representing Busa. At that presentation MacLeish released Shanley’s ample diocesan file to the media, which hurriedly repeated MacLeish’s allegations without pausing to scrutinize the file.
Had they done so, they would have found nothing to buttress the claims that Shanley founded NAMBLA, or was ever a member, or had ever advocated sex between men and little boys, or had a thirty-year record of child abuse complaints made against him or a history of being moved from parish to parish. Yet all these allegations have become the common currency of Shanley’s biography, and if guards usher a murderer into his cell, the killer will probably have the NAMBLA charge at the top of his mind. Shanley’s defense counsel, Frank Mondano, has said that during jury selection every potential juror was aware of the Shanley scandal, and what they most commonly “knew” was that Shanley was somehow involved with NAMBLA.