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BY R.T. NEARY
He’s headed for
prison now, but in the 1960s and ’70s Paul Shanley
had a 95-acre farm in Weston, Vt.; a retreat house in Roxbury, Mass.; an
apartment on Beacon Street, Boston; and access to a cabin in Canton, Mass.
He is convicted of child
molestation of vulnerable youth at that time.
During the ’60s Shanley built a reputation as a “street priest” aided and
abetted by at least six articles on him in the Boston Globe. The articles were very favorable, with the headline
on one article saying his retreat was “a way to serve kids better.”
was an ordained Roman Catholic priest, a homosexual predator, and a child molester,
all while he was hiding behind what the Globe
called, “a ministry to alienated youth.”
All the above information has
been published in the Boston Globe’s
2002 Spotlight Series with much of it contained in an article on page A21 of
their Thursday, Jan. 31, 2002, edition. The page also has three pictures of Shanley, and in the upper right, a collage of five articles
the Globe did on him in either ’68 or
Being a 40-year daily reader of
the paper, I can remember reading them and I remember musing over what a very
strange “priest” this was, while having many questions about his life and
Although the print is very small
in the articles and much of the text is obliterated by the layover nature of
the collage, anyone could see that the material presented Shanley
favorably, obviously in touch with the ’60s youth and critical of the Church’s
rules (including the ones about sex) and modus operandi (including the rules
for the way priests should live).
On April 16, 2002, I appeared on
New England Cable News to tape a program on Cardinal Bernard Law and the
scandals, for their Newsnight show at 8 p.m.
The producer knew me, as I had
been on this program on a couple of occasions when I was President of
Massachusetts Citizens for Life (1998-2001). We started taping around 3 p.m.
Joan Vennochi, op-ed writer of the Boston Globe and I appeared with Chet
Curtis, NECN host and long-time Boston TV anchor. On a video link was Susan
Campbell, writer for the Hartford
In answer to one of anchor Curtis’s
questions, I stated that I felt that the focus on Cardinal Law was taking the
spotlight off Shanley, a despicable man about whom
there is still more to be revealed. As we moved the topic from the cardinal to Shanley, Curtis seemed open to listen to what I wanted to
bring out about his life.
When we started, Curtis said that
the segment would be done without editing, and it seemed to me that the
interview with the three guests took about 15 minutes. Close to the 10-minute
mark, when we started to talk about Shanley, I opened
a folder of documentation and pulled out Page A21 of the Globe’s Jan. 31 edition, congratulating writer Sacha
Pfieffer for an extremely well done piece. I went on
to mention the collage of the stories that the Globe had done on the “street priests” back in the late ’60s,
questioning why the Globe did not
reveal then the real activities of Paul Shanley.
I pointed out that on the lower
half of Page A21 there was a shorter piece by Stephen Kurkjian
and that his byline is on two of the collage stories from the ’60s. While I
didn’t know him, I felt that if he was good enough to be a Spotlight Team
reporter, he would have an incisive mind, one adept at critical thinking.
How could a reporter like this
miss all the sordid activities this priest was engaged in with vulnerable
youth? And what about all the other Globe
Vennochi, the Globe writer, became defensive and sensed where this could go.
While she had been critical of the cardinal’s failure to act on what were
criminal activities, she seemed to be unnerved by the Globe’s unwillingness to probe the life of this man who exploited
his reputation, one created to a great degree by her employer.
Just before 8 p.m. the evening of
April 16, 2002, my wife and I sat down and watched Newsnight. The segment in which I
appeared ran along much as I expected for about 10 minutes to the point where I
call attention to the page with the collage of the Globe’s five stories on the famous “street priest.”
Suddenly, as I sat there somewhat
astonished, the segment ended with the gracious thank yous
cleanly edited into a finish. End of segment!
Several minutes at the end of the
segment had been chopped off. In those “missing minutes,” I had posited that
any reporter should have known that Shanley having a
95-acre retreat, an apartment on Beacon Street and a cabin in Canton was going
far beyond what was priestly activity. Gone was my questioning as to whether
the Globe itself was not remiss — and
accountable — for what was later revealed about Shanley’s
What happened to those several
minutes is no coincidence. I had been able to raise the issue about who was
responsible for initially establishing the “street priest” aura and reputation
which, undoubtedly, aided and abetted Shanley. The
extent of knowledge of Shanley’s rapacious homosexual
conduct by the Boston Globe is a
dimension which has to be scrutinized to the same degree that all the other
facets of this scandal deserve.
The Boston Globe would profess to be four-square and vigorously opposed
to the concept of censorship. At this point three-square would appear to be
more accurate. They appear to want us to leave out the corner the Globe occupies!
R.T. Neary writes