False Witness

Dear Mr. Cavanaugh,

The attached is from the "Gay" magazine The Guide. Its not that it is the best account of your country's Salem Witch-Hunt (I will send you details of better ones). Its just that they cannot possibly be accused of making excuses for the Catholic Church. (I see they also have an article this month).

Will you defend this lunacy or (more likely) will you ignore it and the questions is raises about anti-clerical "liberals"?

Regards

Rory Connor

Dear Mr. Cavanaugh,

Summary follows. Plenty of material for an article on the effects of anti-clericalism. It's not so much that I expect journalists like yourself to disagree. What I expect is that you will remain silent and let the Witch-Hunters run riot. You don't actually believe what they are saying but they are attacking your enemies and that's all that counts.

Is that correct?

Rory Connor

I never turn down a challenge, Rory! The articles you refer to can be be found here, and though they're a bit out of date, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick (whose article on this topic I came across just before I got your email yesterday—divine intervention?) covered some of the same ground in covering the actual case against Paul Shanley.

So, in case anybody out there doesn't know, Shanley, recently sentenced to 12-to-15 years in prison for child rape, was convicted solely on the basis of recovered-memory testimony; three of his four accusers were dropped as unreliable, and the one remaining accuser had ample opportunity to coordinate his tale with the stories of at least two of the others (boyhood friends of his); no witnesses were able to corroborate any of the accusations, in whole or in part, and to the degree that there was forensic evidence, it would seem to clear Shanley (for reasons too complicated to go into here, and which did not involve Shanley at all, one of the boys actually had his cloacal region examined by a doctor at the time of the alleged crimes, and no evidence of abuse was found); Shanley appears to have had an active and varied sex life, which was widely distorted and misreported in press accounts; he was not actually a member of NAMBLA; nothing in Shanley's 1,600-page personnel file from the Boston Archdiocese supports any of the claims made about him prior to and during his trial... For more information, read JoAnn Wypijewski's coverage of the case, and since on the internet a thousand-word screed is worth a million pictures, don't miss Alexander Cockburn's post-sentencing hit.

For what it's worth, I have consistently believed, and written, that the real scandal here has been about management; what made the RCC sex-abuse story of 2002 take off wasn't the behavior of accused priests but the loony personnel decisions high-ranking church officials seemed to be making. That applies here as well: If they didn't think Shanley was guilty they should have defended him instead of shuffling him around and then throwing him to the wolves when he got too hot. However, I didn't pay any attention to the details of the Shanley case beyond noting that he had "multiple accusers" and a "30-year history" of allegations, both of which turn out to be largely chimerical.

But hey, way back in 2002 I was warning about the possibility of a witch hunt: When a priest in Baltimore was shot by a guy who claims the priest had molested him, a New York Times reporter astoundingly referred to the shooter as the "victim," and I called bullshit on that. And as it turns out, that Times reporter's name was...Jayson Blair?

And now you know...the rrrrest of the story!

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  • ||

    [anti-Catholic evangelical] Obviously the Black Internationale has gotten to you, Tim. [/anti-Catholic evangelical]

  • ||

    Tim,
    I live in the Boston area, and know 2 guys that absolutely, positively swear that this guy molested them also. They aren't interested in testifying because of the embarrassment involved. They've put it behind them (not a pun). And have seen what it's like to testify in these proceedings.
    Also, the media hereabouts reported that the other 3 accusers decided not to testify for the same reason, not that they had been disqualified as unreliable.
    There was another case locally where recovered-memory testimony was used to put away the owners and workers of the Fells Acres Daycare, only to have most of those convictions overturned some time later.

  • ||

    I thought all that recovered memory, sex abuse, "satan ate my baby" stuff went out in the 80's. Is everything old really new again?

  • gaius marius||

    I live in the Boston area, and know 2 guys that absolutely, positively swear that this guy molested them also.

    which is fine, mr mojoe. but that doesn't mean the trial of shanley as it happened was not a horrible miscarriage of justice.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    WSDave, that's why I figured there must really be something to the charges against Shanley. You know: There's no way they'd convict a guy on the basis of voodoo brain science just for the sake of the children! That would be unreasonable!

    What was I thinking?

  • Rory Connor||

    Dear SR
    You are absolutely right: The Black Internationale has got Tim! I was a De La Salle Brother from 1966 to 69 and it was the formative experience of my life. My novice master Brother Maurice Kirk was as important as my parents if not more so. (He became head of the De La Salle Order in Ireland and was killed in a car crash on 10 April 1974.)
    In September 1967 at the end of our training a Jesuit priest Father Michael Sweetman gave us a 9 day Retreat (spiritual conference for you pagans). It's true what the Jesuits say: when they control a child's education they have him for life!
    Rory

  • Jeff||

    The Catholic church scapegoating somebody for the sake of convinience? Unheard of!

  • ||

    Rory Connor,

    I am a heathen thankyou very much.

  • ||

    Gary Gunnels,

    Was he talking to you?

    Or do you have a new housemate? ;-)

  • ||

    I'm very gratified that someone recognized the "Black Internationale" reference.

  • ||

    crimethink,

    If you read his comments you'll see he was referring to anyone reading his comments who happened to be rational enough not believe in Christianity.

  • ||

    A number of people in the Catholic blogosphere take the same position as mojoe: This was a scumbag who got caught by a rare case in which he was innocent. I don't know enough details to say whether that's true or not.
    As for the Jayson Blair anecdote, all I can say is, "Wow."

  • ||

    Sometimes it is very difficult to keep the outside world from invading the jury room. Does anyone know if the NAMBLA claim arose at trial? I doubt the prosecution would raise it (its not in their interest to dispel this rumor), and if the defense didn't, then that claim could have tainted the entire jury pool. Even voir dire might not have rid the jury of this notion if the prosecution or defense avoided or didn't think of it.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    I'm also too lazy (busy) to go looking but to my recollection the denial of the NAMBLA connection turns on a technicality. He was involved but it wasn't NAMBLA yet because the organization was just getting off the ground. It ultimately evolved into NAMBLA. A nice bunch of folks I'm sure.

    I don't doubt that Shanley is guilty. I also think the evidence was thin. Too thin for a conviction if it was anything else but a sexual assault case.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Meant to also say that (from memory) the Archdiocese of Boston has written records connecting Shanley with NAMBLA around 1979 or 1980 so, no, it didn't arise at trial for the first time.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Gary and TWC: This claim was not in evidence at the trial, but according to the Wypijewski story, the jury pool showed close to 100-percent awareness of Shanley and the media reporting on the case, so it's a good bet at least a few of the jurors knew about the claim. I'd say his non-membership was more than just a technicality, though he wasn't pure as the unsunned snow either. From the story:



    By 1977 anyone wanting to report molestation could call an anonymous tip into a hotline instituted by the Boston D.A. Innuendo poured in about hundreds of gay men. It was a year of panic that set the stage for Shanley to articulate his most "deviant belief." In nearby Revere, a police dragnet implicated 25 men and 64 youths in an alleged sex ring. Police detained the young people, or enlisted psychiatrists and priests, to coerce them into cooperating. A group called the Boston/Boise Committee was formed to defend civil liberties. Ultimately none of the men did time, and the district attorney responsible for the scandal was swept from office. Afterward, the committee held a conference to discuss sex between men and teenage boys. Shanley was among the clerics, ethicists, lawyers, activists, and psychologists invited to speak. He told the story of a gay teenager, rejected by his family, who took up with an older man. When the boy's parents found out, they called the police and the man was imprisoned. "He had loved that man," Shanley said of the boy. "And when he realized that the indiscretion in the eyes of society and the law had cost this man perhaps 20 years . . . the boy began to fall apart. We have our convictions upside down . . . the 'cure' does far more damage."

    At his 2002 PowerPoint show, MacLeish projected a sentence from a 1979 account from Gaysweek that read, "At the end of the conference, 32 men and two teenagers caucused and formed the Man Boy Lovers of North America." The suggestion or assertion that Shanley was among the 32 has been repeated in the press many times since. But Shanley wasn't part of that group, say a Catholic priest and Protestant minister who were.

  • ||

    Repressed memory syndrome or RCC discussion aside, my feeling is, what convicted the guy was the sole witness sobbing and breaking down on the stand. After decades of indoctrination, no juror wants to feel that the obviously terribly affected victim did not get justice and a potential molester might be allowed to roam freely.
    The child sex abuse hysteria should serve as a textbook case of subverting important foundations of justice, such as assumption of innocence, retroactive legislation, due process rights and more. All to the great enhancement of power of prosecutors, social service groups, NGOs and ably pushed along by an often gullible and uninformed media. Sex sells.
    Ending the WOD will be magnitudes easier than halting the sex abuse hysteria train.

  • ||

    PS:
    Even if Mr. Shanley ever was a member of NAMBLA, that is not what he was at trial for. To all advocating it should make a difference to a jury, you need to seriously check the consequences if such thinking takes hold in practice. Undeniably, especially in molestation cases, it already has.
    Just because a guy was a sympathiser or even a member of the KKK, doesn't mean he is criminally liable for the atrocities committed in their name.
    Looks like Government mind control to me.

  • ||

    Thanks Tim....

    Certainly this stuff is troubling. But the entire legal system is insane, and when it comes to sex crimes, it's a crap shoot.

  • ||

    martin,

    Having now had some experience with trial work I can tell you that I have a very jaded attitude toward juries. A talented trial attorney can manipulate the fuck out of them.

  • Rory Connor||

    From my reading of the case Paul Shanley may well have been guilty of sex with underage but ADOLESCENT boys. Consensul sex with a 16 year old youth is a crime, but very different from raping a 6 year old. So why wasn't he charged with his (possible) real crimes?

    In the 1970s Paul Shanley was a Gay and Liberal icon. He was part of the Church's outreach to the Gay community and reached out so far that he swallowed their agenda hook, line and sinker. When he was removed from that ministry about 1980, Cardinal Madeiros (?) was denounced as reactionary.

    Part of the Gay agenda was (and is?) to reduce the age of consent. If Shanley was prosecuted for consensual sex with teenage youths, the trial might have focused on the issue of homosexual priests. Instead the prosecution brought vile and fantastic charges in order to demonise Shanley and the Catholic Church.
    Just a suggestion!

    Rory

  • ||

    What the hell is in the water up there, anyway?

  • Jon Ihle||

    Everyone here - especially Tim - should know that Rory Connor's aim here is to exonerate the Catholic Church's complicity in widespread sexual abuse by drawing attention to exceptional miscarriages of justice. He's been bombarding my blog and email for over a year now trying to get me to write about this stuff, too. He contacted me because I'm a Jew who occasionally writes about anti-Semitism and he sees the sex abuse allegations, trials, etc. as an anti-Catholic campaign. As you can see from his last comment, his paranoid exculpatory fantasy involves a conspiracy theory about an organised attack by homosexuals on the Church. From what I can tell, his group, Voices Emerge, is struggling with the complete loss of Catholic authority in Ireland, where not only has clerical sex abuse been revealed, but also a widespread longstanding system of virtual slavery for orphans, unwed moothers and other moral undesirables. This is an institutional problem with the Church, but Connor wants you to pay attention to an individual case so that you forget that.

  • Rory Connor||

    Jon Ihle is right. I have been bombarding journalists trying to get them to write about a gross miscarriage of justice that bears comparison to the (Jewish) Dreyfus case in France over a century ago. The evidence against Dreyfus was forged but it was not ludicrous. The accusers of Dreyfus had more respect for the intelligence of their audience than the advocates of Recovered Memory which is more like voodoo brain science.

    I know a lot more about the witch-hunt in Ireland than in the USA. However I do know that Shanley was one of the chief whipping boys of the anti-clerical child abuse lobby. Since Shanley is innocent of the charges against him (as even Jon Ihle seems to accept), it is a reasonable conclusion that the entire scandal in the USA is fake.

    I know for certain that our Irish scandal is a fake and a witch-hunt. I have been in contact with a number of the chief accusers and leaders of "victims" groups. One of them told me on the steps of the Catholic Cathedral in Dublin, that there are mass grave in Artane and other institutions run by the Christian Brothers. (This encounter took place in front of journalists and TV crews and was - briefly- reported in the media. His group was picketing the Cathedral after Mass).

    Another gentleman told the Irish Times that he attended the funerals of boys who died after being punched in the stomach by the Christian Brothers. No boy died of any cause while this gentleman was in Artane. I had a sharp E-Mail exchange with him in which I invited him to name the dead boys. Of course he produced no names. I know of several other accusations of this type. I call them "Murder of the Undead" allegations and they seem to be the Irish equivalent of Recovered Memory Syndrome.

    I am not talking about isolated individuals who jump on the bandwagon of a genuine scandal. These allegations come from the leaders and spokes-persons for "victims" groups in my country.

    The Irish Minister for Justice and the Gardai (police) have confirmed that they are unaware of a single murder.

    It is impossible to disprove allegations of child abuse, decades after the alleged events. You cannot prove a negative. However when the people who allege systematic child abuse are also making "Murder of the Undead" type claims, then you know that we are dealing with a new Salem.

    Rory

  • ||

    Rory Connor,

    I've known many, many gay people in my life; I don't ever recall any of them having a burning desire to lower the age of consent laws.

    Even if Shanley is innocent, that hardly undermines the numerous other cases of sexual abuse of children (and nuns for that matter) by RCC priests. Of course, its not like the RCC doesn't have a long and inglorious history of persecuting or victimizing people; thus, the latest revelations are just par for the course.

    Jon Ihle,

    Thanks for the heads up.

  • ||

    i have to say i was heartened at recent protests at Catholic school closings by parents in carroll gardens and other parts of brooklyn. the direct connection between hush money payouts and budget woes was being addressed directly. (not that there's much of a solution there, unless these parents could somehow double their tuition fees, which is, ahem, unlikely)

  • ||

    "it is a reasonable conclusion that the entire scandal in the USA is fake."

    yes, well...we all have to hold onto something.

  • ||

    I went to catholic school for 12 years and had a lot to do with priests, nuns, and brothers. I'm from a very Irish part of town and know hundreds of others who had similar upbringings.

    In all that time and all those people I've heard of 1 case where something sexual might have happened.

    Sure, they were willing to hit you for punishment, but at the time (1960s to 1980s) this was not considered abuse. A lot of them were assholes, and had some other issues, but that doesn't mean they were abusers.

    I understand people who are not Catholics and who only hear the horror stories of catholic school (which I too was all too happy to share with friends at the state college I went to) don't understand the culture and assume all members have the same failings when there are well publicized allegations. The same can be said for any fringe group, such as the Jews or Mormons.

    I would think of all the blogs out there, folks on this one would understand how the actions of a wacky few can unfairly tarnish the reputation of the moderate majority. (e.g. Badnarik)

  • ||

    Rory:
    Most of the sexual abuse claims in the U.S. have not been based on recovered-memory syndrome. On the contrary, in most of these cases diocesan archives show that the bishops were notified of the abuse at the time and chose to hush it up.
    The stories you report from Ireland do sound outlandish and Maria Monkish. (For starters, why would dead children be buried in a mass grave instead of returned to their parents? Was this Artane school you mention for orphans?) However, we are talking about two different countries and two different scandals.

  • The Wine Commonsewer||

    Altar, we do understand that this is a few bad apples in a whole bag full. With the knowledge of the good apples, the gorcery store left the bad apples on the shelf. They even disguised them by putting them in brown shopping bags filled with good apples. They then sent them home to unsuspecting shoppers, some of whom ended up with a rotting bite of the apple containing a worm.

    And that is why everyone here and the rest of America is so outraged.

    Hand me my shootin' iron regards,

    TWC

  • Jon Ihle||

    Yes, Rory, I do accept that, at the very least, there has been a miscarriage of law in the Shanley case (I'm not in a position know whether it was just, in the cosmic sense). I also accept that cases based on recovered memory are crap. The notion that people forget trauma is fanciful and probably agenda-driven. Further, the instances you describe re: Artane sound nuts and produced by hysteria. But what you can't deny is what the Church has documented itself - and I'm not just talking about sexual abuse, here. I'm talking about the Magdelen laundries and the whole infrastructure of incarceration built around unwed mothers, orphans and juvenile delinquents, wherein these people were mercilessly brutalised. And, of course, I'm talking about clergy who have admitted what they've done and about the Church which has admitted its role in covering for them. It's important to distinguish fact from fiction and to consider these cases individually, but you want to generalise too much from a handful of particulars. What should be important to you is the truth, not just the reputation of the Church.

  • Rory Connor||

    James
    I agree I have limited knowledge of the scandal in the USA. However the following is a quotation from an article by Daniel Lyons, "Sex, God and Greed", Forbes magazine, June 2003.

    "The False Memory Syndrome Foundation, a Philadelphia debunking group, says at least 100 clergy cases involve people who claim they were molested or raped, blocked it out for decades and now suddenly remember."

    Another quote about the lawyer who represents the four "victims" of Paul Shanley. "For Roderick (Eric) MacLeish, sex litigation is a big business. MacLeish says he represents 240 people bringing abuse claims against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston." The Shanley case is described as his "most celebrated current case."

    Daniel Lyons is no Catholic Church acolyte nor is Forbes Magazine. The article is largely concerned with the effects of the scandal on the American insurance industry!

    There are just too many dubious cases. Have they all jumped on the bandwagon of a genuine scandal or is there something rotten about the entire child abuse issue?

    The story is much the same in Ireland. Artane was an industrial school mainly for teenage boys I think. Some would have committed offenses, some were orphans and others were neglected by their parents. The allegation about mass graves is an accusation of mass murder against the Christian Brothers!

    There was an article in the Sunday Independent (on 22 December 2002 I think) which claimed that there had been a "Holocaust" at another school in Letterfrack with bodies buried all over the place. The man who made the claim had been at Letterfrack about 20 years after the last boy died there!

    As I said, "Murder of the Undead" allegations are the Irish answer to Recovered Memory Syndrome.

    Rory

  • Rory Connor||

    Is this discussion closed? I am going to attempt a final comment anyway. John Ihle and myself differ on most things but we both agree that Recovered Memory is crap. Since he is Jewish and I am Catholic this agreement is not ideological but genetic (i.e. we are both Irish).

    Recovered Memory Syndrome is a Freudian fable and only occurs in societies where Freudianism has made deep inroads into the culture. This did not happen in Ireland. The Catholic Church was strongly opposed to Freud's ideas because they represented a threat to Catholic doctrines regarding sin, free will and personal responsibility. (Even aetheists should be concerned about the latter two). That is why we have lunatic lies like "Murder of the Undead" but not Recovered Memory.

    Both societies are sick but I prefer the Irish disease. A liar inhabits the same moral universe as the person who is telling the truth; he just has a different attitude to truth. The Recovered Memory brigade are from a different planet altogether. It is possible to repent of telling lies but how do you repent of Recovered Memory?

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