Paul Shanley, Darling ‘Street Priest’ of The Globe

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.”

Paul Shanley 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 ’69.

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 activities.

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 Courant.

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 staff?

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 activities.

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

from Boston.