BOSTON — A former priest at the center of Boston’s Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal was quietly released from prison Friday morning after completing a 12-year sentence for the rape of a boy in the 1980s.

Paul Shanley, 86, was released from the Old Colony Correctional Center in Bridgewater. He plans to live in an apartment in Ware, a town of about 10,000 people about 65 miles west of Boston, according to the state’s sex offender registry.

Prosecutors opposed his release, and several men who say they were abused by him when they were young called on the public to help them track his whereabouts. They said they are concerned Shanley will reoffend.

The registry designates Shanley a Level 3 offender, considered the most likely to reoffend. But two psychologists hired by state prosecutors cited Shanley’s advanced age and his health issues in concluding that his likelihood to reoffend is low.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented dozens of men who say they were abused by Shanley, said the evaluations were incomplete because the psychologists didn’t interview Shanley. Instead, they reviewed police reports, prosecutors’ files and Shanley’s church personnel file containing numerous sexual abuse complaints against him.

“The fact that neither expert spoke to Paul Shanley leaves a hole in the report you could drive a trailer truck through,” Garabedian said.

“Paul Shanley should be in a hospital being treated and not in the outside world where he can easily gain access to innocent children,” he said.

Both psychologists found that Shanley meets the psychiatric criteria for pedophilic disorder. But they said in their written reports that research suggests that recidivism rates for people of his age are extremely low. They also cited Shanley’s health issues – which were redacted from the reports – and the fact that his last reported offense was in 1990.

Prosecutors sought to hold Shanley beyond his criminal sentence under a law that allows civil commitment of people deemed sexually dangerous. But the two psychologists found he did not meet the legal criteria to hold him.

Shanley arrived in Ware on Friday, walking slowly, using a cane and being helped by an unidentified man. His new home in a multiunit building is across the street from a recently opened dance studio that teaches children as young as 2. The studio’s owner, Arielle Lask, said she plans to install “state-of-the-art” security systems and to make sure every child leaves the studio accompanied by an adult.

“It’s awful that he’s even on the streets of Ware,” Lask said. “Whether it’s across the street or down the road, there are children everywhere.”

As a condition of Shanley’s probation, he has been ordered to have no contact with children under 16.

Ware Police Chief Shawn Crevier said Shanley has registered as a sex offender. Posters will be displayed around town notifying the public that Shanley is living in the area, which is typical procedure for the department.

“We’re going to do what we need to do to make sure the citizens are protected and his rights are also protected,” Crevier said.

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