Boston — One of the most notorious figures in the sex abuse scandal engulfing the Roman Catholic Church was arrested Thursday on charges he repeatedly raped a young boy, sometimes in a church confessional, during the 1980s.
The Rev. Paul Shanley, 71, who has advocated sex between men and boys, voluntarily surrendered at an apartment in San Diego on three counts of raping a child in Massachusetts.
Neither Middlesex County Dist. Atty. Martha Coakley nor the victim's attorney gave his name, but a source close to the case identified him as Paul Busa, 24, a former Air Force policeman.
Busa went public with allegations last month in Colorado, where he was stationed, saying that he had repressed all memory of the abuse until hearing about a childhood friend who accused Shanley of molesting him.
Shanley was arrested early Thursday at an apartment complex for senior and disabled citizens that overlooks San Diego's Balboa Park.
He had kept such a low profile since the molestation allegations surfaced in March that the manager of the complex thought Shanley had moved out of the unit he shared with another man. No one answered the apartment's buzzer Thursday, and telephone calls went unanswered.
Shanley's Boston attorney, Frank Mondano, did not return repeated calls seeking comment Thursday.
Until recently, prosecutors believed Shanley may have fled the country. Coakley said her office acted quickly to arrest him after television reporters found him last week in San Diego. An extradition hearing was scheduled for today.
In a civil lawsuit against the archdiocese, Busa said Shanley began abusing him in 1983, when he was 6, and continued through 1989.
Shanley took the boy involved in the criminal charges out of religion classes almost weekly and brought him to a bathroom, the rectory or the confessional at St. Jean Parish in Newton to abuse him, Coakley said. She said the boy, now an adult, came forward in the past week after seeing media reports about Shanley, including details from his personnel file that showed the archdiocese knew of allegations against him.
Busa, who declined comment through his attorney, has said he quit his job in the military after memories of the abuse led to a physical and mental breakdown.
"In the beginning, I questioned myself a lot," Busa said in a recent interview. "I thought, 'Was I making this up?' The way my body was reacting, I knew it had happened."
Shanley also has been sued, along with the archdiocese, by Gregory Ford, 24, and Ford's parents, who claim Shanley repeatedly raped Gregory when he was a child.
Prosecutors said they were looking into several other "credible" allegations that have recently emerged against Shanley. Shanley faces a possible life sentence if convicted of the criminal charges.
"Today is a very big day for us," said Ford's father, Rodney Ford. "But it's only the beginning and we will continue to seek the truth for all the families."
Focus of attention
During the past month, Shanley has become a central figure in the explosive abuse scandal that has consumed the Catholic Church.
The former "street priest," as portrayed in more than 1,600 documents recently released by the archdiocese, actively preached to Boston's gay community after his 1960 ordination and established a ministry for runaways, drug abusers, drifters and teen-agers struggling with sexual identity.
The documents also reveal a darker side of Shanley's ministry his endorsement of sex between men and boys, his treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, and his attendance at a conference at which the North American Man-Boy Love Assn. was apparently created.
Church officials transferred Shanley to Newton in 1980 despite knowledge of his NAMBLA affiliation, the records show, and they sent him to California in 1990 without warning that he had been accused repeatedly of sexually abusing children.
Once in California, Shanley and another former priest operated a Palm Springs, Calif., resort that catered to homosexuals. Until 1993, he was assigned part-time to the San Bernardino Diocese, where he sometimes supervised children. He then moved to San Diego.
The Boston archdiocese's knowledge of allegations against the priest extend as far back as 1967, when a colleague claimed Shanley had taken boys to a cabin and molested them, records show.