Thursday, January 27, 2005


lapsed catholic, but still concerned

now i'm NOT saying that i think this is the case, but it occurred to me to wonder if some of the hysteria and mass accusations against catholic clergy in sexual abuse cases in the past few years isn't at least in part a bit of a...witch hunt? or more importantly, i hope that other people besides myself see how easy it would be for it to devolve into a witch hunt situation.

of course, once accusations got to trial, i like to think that our judiciary system now is a bit more sophisticated than it was in puritan america, and therefore presumably false accusations will be noticed by a judge. but then there's the other dimension to a witch hunt--the destroyed reputations. and in this case the reputation of an entire group of people is harmed with every accusation against an individual. i may not practice catholicism anymore, but i knew and know a number of wonderful priests who i have a great deal of respect for.

Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter

Dear Mr. Roberts,
Your recent effort to present the other side of the story concerning Paul Shanley came very late indeed. Perhaps if you had printed something like that earlier, Shanley might not have been convicted on the type of evidence that was presented at the Salem Witch-hunt trials. "Recovered Memory" is the modern equivalent of "Spectral Evidence."

It is clear that many journalists are well aware that the charges are ludicrous. The hysterical attacks from early 2002 to mid 2004 dwindled away. I think the Boston Globe, which led the Witch -hunt, published hardly anything in the second half of 2004. However silence is not repentence. The great American public was unaware that the case against Shanley was dis-integrating fast. You should have done a great deal more. How do you think the NCR will look when the modern Salem is being dissected by historians?

Yours sincerely

Rory Connor
11 Lohunda Grove
Dunlin 15



The conviction of the former priest Paul Shanley for child rape is incredible considering that the only evidence was the Recovered Memory type. Four men accused him of raping them in the 1980s when they were under 10 years old. All four claim to have repressed the memory of the rapes for decades and only recovered their memories in early 2002.

Shanley's original chief accuser was a man called Gregory Ford. As his parents tell it he had tried in vain for years to recall being molested by anyone. They showed him a newspaper article and photo of Shanley and he did not even remember the priest. Finally they showed him a snapshot of his first communion with Father Shanley and he collapsed sobbing and said that from 6 to 11 he had been raped by the priest. He alleged that Shanley took him from his one hour Sunday school class, raped him and then returned him to his schoolmates. The Fords say that Gregory never exhibited any unusual behaviour during those years. THEY CLAIM THAT AFTER EACH ONE OF 80 SEXUAL ASSAULTS, GREGORY FORGOT WHAT HAPPENED AND APPROACHED EACH NEW ASSAULT AS IF IT WERE THE FIRST. "AS SOON AS IT HAPPENED, EACH TIME HE LEFT THE ROOM, HE FORGOT ABOUT IT," GREGS FATHER RODNEY FORD SAID. "THE SPECIALISTS HE SEES NOW ARE AMAZED HE COULD BLOCK THIS OUT, THAT HE HAD SUCH CONTROL". [1]

The specialists were not the only amazed ones. The director of the Sunday school program says she never saw Shanley take any kids from the class. Moreover even firm supporters of Recovered Memory Syndrome do not believe in this kind of serial forgetting scenario. The prosecution eventually dropped Gregory Ford from the case in July 2004 because his fantastic allegations gave too much useful material to Shanley's attorneys.

In the meantime something amazing happened. Three of Gregory Ford's friends also began to "recover" memories of having been abused by Father Shanley. One of these was dropped by the prosecution at the same time as Greg Ford. Another failed to turn up for a pre-trial hearing in October 2004, having been heavily grilled by Shanley's attorney at a previous hearing. That left one accuser named Paul Busa. Shanley's original accuser had been deemed unreliable and this man was just following in his footsteps. In any normal society this should have meant the end of the case. However Shanley had become the chief whipping boy of the anti-clerical lobby in the USA and the prosecution could not be abandoned.

During the recent trial, Paul Busa's Recovered Memories were the only evidence on offer. But there was a strange twist. The judge dismissed one of the rape charges because Busa, even when prompted by prosecutor Lynn Rooney, could not remember anything about it. Does the Recovered Memory Brigade believe it is possible to

A) Forget a sexual assault for 20 years;

B) Remember it and report it to the police;

C) Forget it again?

Well that’s what Busa did and it didn’t seem to upset the jury. If the judge had not dismissed the charge forthwith, they probably would have convicted Shanley on that count also! [2]

Shanley’s attorney said that Busa started proceedings for “Compensation” as soon as he “recovered” his memory i.e. 11 February 2002. Busa denied this. The attorney was able to produce records from the law firm showing that Busa became their client on 11 February 2002. (The records of Busa’s psychologist dated 12 February confirm that Busa wanted leave to consult with his attorney in Boston so that he could pursue a class action lawsuit). How did Busa explain this? Well he said that the law firm’s records were mistaken! He also suggested that his psychologist was only trying to help get him get a 10-day leave to visit friends in Boston, not to consult with a lawyer! [3]

Paul Shanley was convicted on ludicrous evidence because the USA is gripped by hysteria about child sex abuse. It is the same blind hysteria that secured Nora Wall’conviction in June 1999. Who can forget those touching headlines “Vile Nun”, “Pervert Nun”, “I was Raped by Anti-Christ”. It was not only the tabloids that created this lunacy. ONE OF NORA WALL’S DEFENCE TEAM TOLD ME THAT SHE WAS CONVICTED IN A CLIMATE OF HYSTERIA CREATED BY THE MEDIA AND SPECIFICALLY BY MARY RAFTERY’S “STATES OF FEAR” SERIES.

Paul Shanley was also convicted because of hysteria created by the “liberal” media in the USA and specifically by the Boston Globe. Let us hope that his conviction will be overturned as quickly as that of Nora Wall.

[1] “Sex, God and Greed” article by Daniel Lyons in Forbes Magazine, 9 June 2003.

also "The Passion of Paul Shanley" By J Wypijewski in Legal Affairs magazine September/October 2004

[2] AP Legal Affairs writer Denise Lavoie on 2 February 2005

[3] Pam Belluck, New York Times, 29 January 2005
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