Accuser Testifies at Trial of Ex-Priest in Abuse Case
AMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 26 - A 27-year-old who has accused a defrocked Boston priest of molesting him 20 years ago took the witness stand on Wednesday and testified that the defendant, Paul R. Shanley, sexually abused him in the church bathroom, the pews, a confession room and the rectory.
In the bathroom, the accuser testified, Mr. Shanley "unzipped my pants," and, "if I had to go to the bathroom, he'd watch me go to bathroom."
Then, he said, Mr. Shanley would touch him, and "sometimes he would kneel down and try to teach me how to perform oral sex."
The testimony from the sometimes-teary accuser, a barrel-chested firefighter in a Boston suburb, came on the second day of the trial of Mr. Shanley, who became a lightning rod when the sexual abuse scandal erupted three years ago in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.
In cross-examination, Mr. Shanley's lawyer, Frank Mondano, tried to discredit the accuser by pointing out inconsistencies in his statements and memory and by suggesting that his history of other troubles, including problems with his parents and his behavior in high school, raised questions about his credibility.
"The point is, there were times when you had memories of things and other times when you have no memories of those same things," Mr. Mondano said.
The accuser, who several times became testy and argumentative with Mr. Mondano, answered that his memory "comes and goes."
About 24 people have accused Mr. Shanley, 74, of molesting them since the 1960's, most of them coming forward after the scandal broke. This is the sole time Mr. Shanley has faced a criminal trial.
The accuser was originally one of four men who made accusations in the case. Prosecutors recently dropped the charges of the other three. Mr. Mondano suggested that the accuser created his account after having talked with the others.
The prosecution case has not included witnesses who seem able to verify the accusations that Mr. Shanley pulled the accuser out of Sunday morning classes to molest him when he was 6 to 9 years old and groped him in the halls for three years after that.
A prosecution witness on Wednesday, a woman who taught the accuser in a second-grade doctrine class at the church, St. Jean the Evangelist Parish in Newton, seemed to lend support to the defendant's case.
The teacher, Ann Mari Rousseau, testified in cross-examination that on Sunday mornings the church, which closed a few years ago, bustled with people. People attended Masses at 8, 10 and 11:30 a.m., she said. Priests prepared for the Masses and chatted with parishioners. Lay leaders and choir members milled around, and parents dropped off children for the 8:50 doctrine classes and picked them up at 9:50.
"Sunday mornings were very hectic," Ms. Rousseau, now a minister in the United Church of Christ, said in testimony that seemed to raise doubts about whether a priest had time and opportunity to abuse a child.
"Would you say that there was a big pile of leisure time?" Mr. Mondano asked.
"No," Ms. Rousseau replied, "I would not say that there was any leisure time."
Ms. Rousseau also testified that Mr. Shanley never called children out of her class, that she never requested his help in dealing with children who needed discipline and that she never saw him alone with a child.
Mr. Shanley is charged with three counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery, accused of orally and digitally assaulting the boy. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. His lawyer has said the accuser was motivated by a civil suit he filed against the archdiocese, for which he received a $500,000 settlement last year.
The accuser has spoken publicly about his accusations several times in the last three years, but has asked news organizations not to identify him by name during the trial.
The accuser has said he recalled his years of abuse in 2002, after his girlfriend called him in Colorado, where he was an Air Force police officer, to tell him about a newspaper article on the abuse and Mr. Shanley. The accusations were first made by a childhood friend of the accuser who became one of the three people later dropped from the case.
The accuser said on Wednesday that he was so traumatized by his memories that "I felt like my world was coming to an end" and was unable to function in the Air Force.
In relatively short testimony about the accusations, he sniffled, teared up and covered his eyes with a hand.
Consistently referring to the priest as "Shanley," not "Father Paul," the name most parishioners seemed to use, the accuser said the abuse took several forms. Sometimes, he said, Mr. Shanley asked him to put pamphlets in the church pews and took him to a pew in the front and "put his right arm around me and start touching my penis."
Other times, he said, he was summoned to a confession room, where Mr. Shanley "used to undress me and he himself would get undressed and stand in front of the mirror and put his arm around me." Still other times, he said, Mr. Shanley took him to rectory to play a card game called war.
"Every time I lost a hand he'd tell me take off a piece of my clothes," the accuser said, adding, "I always lost."
Asked by the prosecutor, Lynn Rooney, what happened when his clothes were off, he said, "I'd somehow get on a winning streak, and he would take his clothes off."
Mr. Shanley, once a popular priest known in part for looking like a hippie in the 70's, when he ministered to street youths and spoke out against church restrictions on homosexuality, looked calmly at the accuser as he testified. On a lunch break, Mr. Shanley, wearing work boots with his suit and tie as a defense against a snow storm, walked around part of the courtroom, chatting on a cellphone.
Ms. Rooney's questions elicited troubled aspects of the accuser's background, including that he rarely saw his mother after his parents separated when he was 3 and that as a teenager he was kicked out of the house by his father because of steroid use. He testified that he slept in a park, a parking lot and a friend's basement.
Mr. Mondano brought out that the accuser had been repeatedly suspended from high school and that he had told a therapist that his mother had hit him with a wood spoon and that his father had slapped him or kicked him, discipline that he described as "physical abuse."
Ms. Rooney's questions also revealed what were apparently memory lapses. When she asked whether he remembered any other type of touching between him and Mr. Shanley, the accuser said he did not. Ms. Rooney showed him a page of a journal he kept, and asked, "Does that help you to remember whether there was any other type of touching?"
The man replied, "I see that I wrote it down, but I don't remember it right now."