July 30 (UPI) — Paul Shanley, the defrocked Boston-area priest whose actions helped touch off a global child sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, was released from prison Friday after serving 12 years for raping a boy in the 1980s.
Despite prosecutors’ objections, Shanley, 86, was deemed a low risk to reoffend, in part because of his age and also because the circumstances surrounding his crimes have changed.
Shanley was one of the first Boston-area priests to face public allegations from dozens of men who said he sexually abused them when they were children and teenagers. Though the number of priests in the Boston archdiocese accused of sexually abusing children grew into the hundreds, Shanley was one of only a handful to face criminal prosecution.
The victim in the case said his abuse happened repeatedly in the early 1980s, from the ages of 6 to 9, when Shanley was his Sunday school teacher. Shanley left the commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1990 and moved to California, a fact that put a stop on the statute of limitations for the crime, enabling prosecutors to bring charges more than 20 years after the crimes took place.
Shanley was arrested in San Diego in 2002. He was defrocked by the Vatican in 2004 and convicted the following year. He was sentenced to 12 to 15 years in state prison.
He will now live in a halfway house in the small town of Ware, Mass., along with four other Level III sex offenders. Police in the town said they would step up patrols in the neighborhood, both to ensure Shanley does not pose a risk to the public, and to prevent residents from harassing him.
Middlesex County District Attorney Marian T. Ryan sought to have Shanley permanently incarcerated as a “sexually dangerous person” arguing he is a risk to re-offend. However, under Massachusetts law, in order for someone to face lifetime incarceration for sex crimes, a psychological evaluation must show them to have “a mental abnormality or personality disorder which makes such person likely to engage in sexual offenses if not confined to a secure facility.”
The report commissioned by psychiatrists hired by Ryan’s office found while Shanley remains sexually attracted to young boys, he is not likely to engage in sexual offenses again because of his advanced age and the lack of circumstantial opportunity to commit the crime, namely that, because he is no longer a priest, he no longer holds a position of authority over potential victims.