At times, the accuser sobbed on the stand and begged the judge not to force him to testify in graphic detail how Shanley pulled him out of Sunday morning catechism classes beginning at age 6 and molested him in the bathroom, the rectory, the confessional and the pews.
On Monday, Shanley was convicted of repeatedly raping and fondling the accuser at his Roman Catholic church during the 1980s. He is perhaps the most notorious figure in the sex scandal that rocked the Boston Archdiocese nearly three years ago.
The accuser, now 27, put his head down and sobbed as the verdicts were read after a trial that hinged on the reliability of what the man claimed were recovered memories of decades-old abuse.
Shanley, 74, showed no emotion as he stood next to his lawyer, Frank Mondano. Bail was revoked and Shanley was immediately led to jail.
``It appears that the absence of a case is not an impediment to securing a conviction,'' Mondano said, vowing to appeal.
Victoria Blier said she and fellow jurors were swayed by the accuser, believing the man would not have come forward if he wasn't telling the truth. He received a $500,000 settlement with the archdiocese nearly a year ago.
``I think a persuasive sentiment was he had already gotten a half-million-dollar settlement and he had no reason whatsoever to pursue this criminal case, and he knew that pursuing the criminal case was going to lay a painful life bare,'' she said.
Shanley, once a long-haired, jeans-wearing ``street priest'' who worked with Boston's troubled youth, sat stoically for most of the trial, listening to his accuser's testimony with the help of a hearing aid.
The accuser had said that he repressed his memories of the abuse but that they came flooding back three years ago, triggered by media coverage of the scandal that began in Boston and soon engulfed the Catholic church.
Shanley's conviction on all four charges gives prosecutors an important victory in their effort to bring clerics to justice for decades of child sex abuse at parishes across the country.
The defense called just one witness — a psychologist who said recovered memories can be false, even if the accuser ardently believes they are true. Shanley's lawyer also argued the accuser was either mistaken or concocted the story to cash in on a multimillion-dollar class-action settlement between the archdiocese and abuse victims.
The accuser, now a firefighter in suburban Boston, was one of at least two dozen men who claimed they had been molested by Shanley, but the only one to testify. His wife testified that he had night sweats and curled up on the floor after recovering memories of the alleged abuse, and four classmates backed up his story that he was frequently absent from religious education classes.
The archdiocese's own personnel records showed church officials knew Shanley publicly advocated sex between men and boys, yet continued to transfer him from parish to parish.
In the end, jurors believed memories can be repressed, said Blier, 53.
``We agreed after discussion that you can experience something up to a point, and then not think about it and have plenty of other things in your life that are more important,'' she said.
Shanley could get life in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 15.
The state attorney general's office concluded that about 1,000 children in the Boston Archdiocese had been molested by more than 240 priests since the 1940s. Shanley is one of the few priests prosecutors have been able to bring charges against.
Most priests accused of wrongdoing escaped prosecution because the statute of limitations ran out long ago. But shortly after leaving the Newton parish in 1989, Shanley left the state, effectively stopping the clock.
He was arrested in California at the height of the scandal in May 2002, and brought back to Massachusetts in handcuffs — charged with raping four boys from the Newton parish. All four claimed they repressed memories of the abuse, then recovered them when the scandal broke.
But the case ran into numerous problems. Prosecutors dropped two of the accusers in July in what they said was a move to strengthen their case. Then, on the day jury selection began, they dropped a third accuser because they were unable to find him after a traumatic experience on the witness stand at a pretrial hearing last fall.
Rodney Ford, whose son also had accused Shanley of abuse, called the verdict ``a relief for my son, and all the other victims.''
Shanley's niece disagreed, saying, ``There are no winners today. There are only losers. We're no closer to finding out the truth about this scandal or finding out what happened.'