US priest arrested over child rape claims

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The Independent Online

A priest who has been at the centre of the child-abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church was arrested in San Diego yesterday. Prosecutors are preparing to charge him with raping a minor while serving in a parish in Massachusetts nearly 20 years ago.

Revelations about Father Paul Shanley, 71, set off the crisis that led to last month's summit between American Catholic cardinals and Pope John Paul II in Rome. They also led to the clamour for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who has so far insisted that he will remain in his position.

Most damaging were documents showing how the Boston Archdiocese had moved Father Shanley from parish to parish even though they were aware of complaints that he had molested children. They also knew that he had advocated sex between men and boys.

The archdiocese is already the target of a civil lawsuit regarding Father Shanley. Earlier this week, a 24-year-old man came forward claiming Father Shanley had raped him more than once between 1983 and 1990 when he was attached to Newton parish, outside Boston.

The victim, who has not been identified, was six when the attacks started. His complaint prompted yesterday's arrest.

Martha Coxley, the district attorney for Middlesex County, said Father Shanley had preyed on the victim and "other students" while at a Catholic school in Newton.

She said he would come to the classroom "almost on a weekly basis" and take the victim "to the bathroom, to the rectory across the street and often to the confessional, and that's where the sexual abuse would occur".