Three Philadelphia priests, teacher charged with sexually abusing boys
Left to right, from top: Edward Avery, James Brennan, Charles Engelhardt, William Lynn and Bernard Shero were charged in connection with sex abuse against minors.
February 10th, 2011
04:55 PM ET

Three Philadelphia priests, teacher charged with sexually abusing boys

By Sarah Hoye, CNN

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (CNN) - Three Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher were charged Thursday with raping and assaulting boys in their care, while a former official with the Philadelphia Archdiocese was accused of allowing the abusive priests to have access to children, the city's district attorney's office said.

CNN Senior Vatican analyst John Allen said the charges against the former church official appeared to be unprecedented and could have national implications.

"This is apparently the first time that a Catholic leader has been charged criminally for the cover-up as opposed to the abuse itself," he said. "It sends a shot across the bow for bishops and other diocesan officials in other parts of the country, who have to wonder now if they've got criminal exposure, too."

Edward Avery, 68, and Charles Engelhardt, 64, were charged with allegedly assaulting a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish from 1998 to 1999. Bernard Shero, 48, a teacher in the school, is charged with allegedly assaulting the same boy there in 2000, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said at a Thursday press conference.

James Brennan, another priest, is accused of assaulting a different boy, a 14 year old, in 1996.

Monsignor William Lynn, who served as the Secretary for Clergy for the under former Philadelphia Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the alleged assaults, Williams said.

From 1992 until 2004, Lynn was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children, the district attorney's office said.

The grand jury found that Lynn, 60, endangered children, including the alleged victims of those charged Thursday, by knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to kid

"This behavior will not be tolerated - ultimately they will be judged by a higher authority," Williams said. "We want to ensure that all victims of abuse can call us directly and don't have to filter their story with anyone else."

Avery, Engelhardt and Shero were charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and other criminal charges following the results of a new grand jury investigation of clergy sexual abuse, Williams said. The names of the alleged victims, who are now in their 20s, have not been publicly released.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is fully cooperating with authorities regarding the charges, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, said in a statement Thursday.

"It is my intention to consider carefully and take very seriously any observations and recommendations of this Grand Jury," Rigali said in the statement. "I also welcome the opportunity for ongoing collaboration with the Philadelphia district attorney's office in the vital work of protecting children."

"Victims of sexual abuse by clergy may find this news deeply painful," Rigali said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them."

The grand jury believed that over 30 priests have remained in ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse, Williams said.

But Archbishop Rigali challenged that claim.

"The report states that there remain in ministry archdiocesan priests who have credible allegations of abuse against them," he said in a statement Thursday. "I assure all the faithful that there are no archdiocesan priests in ministry today who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them."

Engelhardt, an Oblate priest, is accused of allegedly orally sodomizing and molesting a 10-year-old alter boy in 1998 in the sacristy at St. Jerome Parish in northeast Philadelphia, Williams said.

According to the grand jury report, Engelhardt allegedly showed the boy pornographic magazines before having him engage in oral intercourse in the sacristy.

Avery, an Archdiocesan priest who was defrocked in 2006 for alleged sexual abuse, is charged with the same alleged offenses against the same boy.

The priest allegedly "undressed the boy, told him God loved him and had him engage in oral intercourse," according to the grand jury report.

Shero, the boy's sixth grade teacher at St. Jerome School, is accused of allegedly orally and anally sodomizing the then 11-year-old in the back of his car, Williams said.

According to the grand jury report, Shero allegedly offered the boy a ride home and then stopped at a park. He told the boy they were "going to have fun," took off his clothes, orally and anally raped him, and then made him walk the rest of the way home.

The grand jury case began when that boy and another victim who are now in their 20s came forward.

"By no means do we believe that these are the only two parishioners who were abused during this period," Williams wrote in the grand jury report.

James Brennan, 47, is accused of allegedly assaulting a different 14-year-old boy in 1996, Williams said. Brennan, an Archdiocesan priest, is accused of allegedly "forcing his penis into the buttocks of a 14-year-old former parishioner when he was in the priest's bed," Williams said.

Brennan became a family friend who often visited the home, where the 14-year-old "was the subject of special attention from the priest, who persistently wrestled with the boy, rubbed his back and shoulders, and openly brought up sex talk," according to the grand jury report.

The boy told his parents, who confronted Brennan. The priest denied the allegations, according to the grand jury report.

The boy "suffered depression, dramatic weight loss, and drug and alcohol addiction," according to the grand jury report.

"Ultimately, he committed suicide," the report said.

At the time, Brennan was on leave from a Catholic high school. In 1997, he returned to active ministry and was assigned to St. Jerome Parish, Williams said.

"This isn't a witch hunt into the Catholic church, or an indictment into the teachings of the church," Williams said. "This is an indictment of bad men doing bad things."

Avery, Engelhardt and Brennan surrendered to the district attorney's office on Thursday, Williams said. Lynn and Shero were expected to surrender Thursday, he said.

If convicted, Avery, Engelhardt, Shero and Brennan face a maximum of 67 years in prison.

Lynn faces a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted of all charges, according to the district attorney's office.

In addition to the charges, the grand jury also recommended that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia overhaul its procedures for assisting victims and for removing priests accused of molesting minors.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Sex abuse

soundoff (589 Responses)
  1. MannyHM

    I believe that the Almighty has given us common sense to be used. Common sense should override our beliefs when in doubt.

    February 11, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  2. teepee

    And you clowns out there have the nerve to put down Islam...

    February 11, 2011 at 4:49 am |
  3. teepee

    typical white man behavior.

    February 11, 2011 at 4:47 am |
    • Nonimus

      "don't you mean white people?"
      "typical white man behavior."
      "And you clowns out there have the nerve to put down Islam..."

      Are you serious? Are you making this a racial issue or a religious issue or are you just a general purpose bigot? Hate everyone not like you?

      February 11, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  4. Dwight

    Sad to hear the news. What's wrong with people?

    February 11, 2011 at 4:46 am |
    • teepee

      don't you mean white people?

      February 11, 2011 at 4:47 am |
  5. Tyrone

    If found guilty...... OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I mean the ones that would leave them in without the ability to see.

    February 11, 2011 at 4:38 am |
  6. JakeAZ

    If jeebus or whatever _______ mystery man in the sky you want to believe in actually was active in our day to day lives....Why would He let this happen? It makes no sense on so many levels. Think about that all you religious folks. Just for a minute.

    Here come the usual irrational responses:

    February 11, 2011 at 4:20 am |
  7. carlinism

    I can't fathom how any sane parent
    would let their kids go to St. Mary's
    Catholic school or what ever name's
    been assigned to the indoctrination center
    where their child has been sent to be stripped
    of his individuality and turned into an obedient,
    mindless religious robot,dead soul conformist
    member of the American consumer culture.

    February 11, 2011 at 3:47 am |
    • carlinism

      I am the proud parent of a child
      who has resisted his teachers
      attempts to break his spirit
      and bend him to the will
      of his corporate masters.
      And he hasn't shot any of
      his classmates yet.
      But ,he does sell drugs to your
      honor student. And is probably
      the one that knocked up your

      February 11, 2011 at 4:01 am |
  8. carlinism

    I was Catholic until I reached the age of reason. Then i looked for something else to worship.Overnight I became a sun-worshiper. Well, not overnight, you can't see the sun at night. But first thing the next morning, I became a sun-worshiper. Several reasons. First of all, I can see the sun, okay? Unlike some other gods I could mention, I can actually see the sun. I'm big on that. If I can see something, I don't know, it kind of helps the credibility along, you know? So everyday I can see the sun, as it gives me everything I need; heat, light, food, flowers in the park, reflections on the lake, an occasional skin cancer, but hey. At least there are no crucifixions, and we're not setting people on fire simply because they don't agree with us.

    February 11, 2011 at 3:33 am |
  9. Sam

    At long last charges are correctly laid against the Church – no more cover-up.

    February 11, 2011 at 3:14 am |
  10. psotello

    Although such a thing has never happened to me I cannot help but cry tears of pain and sorrow for these boys. It only makes me saddened even seeing how these men who confess their faith and loyalty to our Lord only defile his name and their own souls and humanity when they do such a thing. I say it's about time we start taking down the conspirators who make cover ups and excuses for these monsters who pervert faith! I cannot help but wish ill intent for their souls yet we must all remember that only God himself will judge us.

    February 11, 2011 at 3:02 am |
  11. Romulus

    sodomeeeeeeheeeeee...(family guy)lmao. damn priest burn in hell.

    February 11, 2011 at 2:42 am |
  12. DVilla

    These fricking pedophile preists... You can't look at a preist without wandering how many kids has he done! Know what I mean? And the Vatican promotes "Catholics come home" (yea, so you can foot the bill for all those law suits!) What a shamble!

    February 11, 2011 at 2:08 am |
  13. Sal Manilla

    Religion has nothing to do with these sickos other than it is a good place to hide because "most"all the religious higher ups
    do hide the people and the problem. Unfortunatley it is done for the fear of more lawsuits which are bankrupting churches across the nation. I'm not sure what I believe in but its none of the religions on this planet because they are all made up to fit their politics and fears. Not to mention it causes more wars than any other reason. Good reason to think for yourselves and forget about religion because if there are humans involved it will end ugly. Its what this planet does best. Detroys everything good because of power and greed and the biggest reason cause we're all so damn "SPOILED"!!!!!!

    February 11, 2011 at 1:53 am |
  14. yea

    And we're worried about immigrants crossing the border. hahaha

    February 11, 2011 at 1:51 am |
  15. NotABibleThumper

    Pastor molest you?? Don't worry! It's all part of God's plan for you. Trust in it 😀

    ....stupid bible-thumpers....

    February 11, 2011 at 1:38 am |
    • Die NHell

      God never allows evil. The Devil is in these men. The demons work the Devil's bidding.

      All time will come for the retribution of these sub humans.

      February 11, 2011 at 5:09 am |
    • Nonimus

      "God never allows evil."
      Then why does evil exist?

      February 11, 2011 at 10:07 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Die NHell

      You said: "God never allows evil."

      Hmmm... So god never allows evil? I submit to you, that god does evil, immoral things. God is not good.

      God directly or at His insistence, murdered men, women and children including babies. Is this good? Is this moral?
      God had a man believe he was going to sacrifice his son to Him. Do you know how traumatic that would be for a father and his son?
      If you had the power would you do this? Would you be so insecure? Is this good? Is this moral? Is this not evil?

      There was a man who loved God. God made a bet with Satan that even if the man were tortured, his Possessions taken, and his children killed, he would still love God and never curse Him. God won the bet.
      Would you do that? Would you kill a man's children for a bet? Is this good? Is this moral? Is this not evil?

      God sent a bear to kill a group of children, because they had teased one of His prophets.
      Did the children deserve to die, because they teased a bald man? Is this good? Is this moral? Is this not evil?

      God allowed a man to sacrifice his daughter to Him, for giving the man a victory in battle.
      Is this good? Is this moral? Is this not evil?

      God created a place He can send people to be burned for all eternity. Could an all good god do this? Is this not evil?

      If a puppy wet on the floor, would you hold it over a burner? Even for a second?

      I now call Jesus to the witness stand! Remember Jesus never lies!

      Jesus had this to say:
      Matthew 7:17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.

      Luke 6:43 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.

      A good god can't do evil things!

      So, by the testimony of Jesus, I declare the god of the book, to be evil!

      Or, He may not exist and all the stories are just made up.


      February 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  16. linda

    It has nothing to do with religion. These are predators and perverts! Just men nothing more.

    February 11, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • DVilla

      Linda, yes, these are sick perverted pedophile men... And by the way, there are women pedophiles as well. Do your research.

      February 11, 2011 at 2:15 am |
  17. C.Rodriquez


    February 11, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • Marlye


      February 11, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • sockpuppet

      it sounds like the devil is controlling your English

      February 11, 2011 at 3:27 am |
    • Die NHell

      Amen, brother, Amen

      February 11, 2011 at 5:08 am |
    • ac18


      February 11, 2011 at 7:24 am |
  18. Adi

    This is another sad day in America. What have we to say to the rest of the world, when we have 100 times more problems in our own backyards, then any other country in the world. Open your eyes people. They show us Egypt on the news 24/7 so we forget about the problems here. Hey, what do people say: oh well only in America.

    February 11, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  19. roxy

    ALL the Catholics and Non catholics a like throwing stones MUST be saints! Instead of being the first to throw stones how about you worry about your own sins and instead of criticizing your start PRAYING!! Just food for thought!

    February 11, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Steve

      Nice try but other peoples' sins do not excuse another pack of horrible priests. And now back to the priests...

      February 11, 2011 at 2:56 am |
    • Die NHell

      Prayer is beyond for these sub-humans.

      They have already been judged by heaven above. The boy that killed himself will be avenged. They will pay highly for their horrid sins. Prison will take care of them.

      February 11, 2011 at 5:06 am |
    • Nonimus

      Isn't failing to protect children a sin?

      February 11, 2011 at 10:04 am |
  20. Tom Coleman

    This is just another sickening example of men abusing boys. The Catholic church hires gay men to becoming priests because of the shortage of priests. The church knowingly looks the other way. What is dishonest about all of this is that because of political correctness this story has never been brought to light. This is a bad-behavior gay men story and the context is the catholic church. But heavens knows, we don't ever want to cast a bad light on the gay community.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • 2 Dads & 3 Kids

      You're an idiot. This has been going on for centuries. The catholic hierarchy used to castrate young boys to keep them singing. This has nothing to do with a shortage of priests, it also has nothing to do with the mainstream Gay community. You're just another bigot with nothing to say.

      February 11, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • Observer

      "because of political correctness"? LOL. Is anyone NAIVE enough to think this is a recent development?

      February 11, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • Cason

      Are you stupid? Gay =/= pedophile.

      February 11, 2011 at 1:15 am |
    • Sean

      Wonder what would happen if every child molested by a public school employee made national news....

      February 11, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • Tom Coleman

      It is what it is. What does catholic church history have to do with men, using their authority role, abusing boys. Getting upset and defensive is a smoke screen and you are living in denial. Do you hear about an epidemic of of girls being abused in the Catholic church?

      February 11, 2011 at 1:19 am |
    • Cason

      In many cultures children are considered a neutral gender. Because they are. They do not give off pheromones, unlike adult men and women. Being gay is NOT the same thing as molesting/raping little boys, and should not be equated to it.

      February 11, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • dalis

      Since when has the CC ever been concerned with being politically correct?

      February 11, 2011 at 1:49 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.