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. geeeno

    kids believe in cartoons, adults believe in the bible. when will the adults grow up?

    February 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
  2. Dennis

    Why do people still go to church?

    February 17, 2011 at 7:48 am |
  3. mike harding

    the church is an excellent hiding place for perverts. Why dont they just get life in prison?. Why is this discussed as if special rules apply? Lock them up, throw away the key. Keep a keep eye on all priests and "holy" men. We know what hole they are interested in. Rectum.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  4. Max

    Any parent that leaves their children in the care of the catholic church or any member thereof should have all parental rights stripped from them. Only a fool would do this.

    February 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  5. James Reeves i live in long branch nj 94 branchport ave

    heyyyy baby i love these priest

    February 14, 2011 at 9:59 am |
  6. Nique

    The problem is the Ctholic church will and have hidden their child molesters under the disguise that "they are receiving treatment for their behavior". They are then removed to another congregation to molest again. I was born and raised Catholic and stopped attending due to their behavior regarding these predators.

    February 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  7. Name*UNC

    The priesthood attracts pedophiles.

    February 12, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • Jack

      Do you have a point?

      February 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  8. Ian Kempton

    Things like this are the reasons as to why the vatican should allow the authorities to handle these kind of things, not the church. Give all files to government law enforcement agencies now. Please. Unless you have something you need to hide that is.

    February 11, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  9. anand

    The twelve (one less and one added) acted like cowards when HE WAS BEING HELD ON THE TREE = HE WAS ALIVE. And then HE DIED. And then within days THE TWELVE turned the world upside down just by calling on THAT NAME. This is not fiction or fabricated. Why blame HIM for all the evil done by this wretched generation. if HE IS NOT EXISTING well we are not loosing anything. ON THE OTHER HAND IF HE EXISTS what a tragedy it would be for this wretched human race. I PRAY LET SANITY PREVAIL

    February 11, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  10. chief

    i think this may a good time for those peds to get the i-confession app for confession while in jail

    February 11, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  11. marc Ray

    I will tell you what the vatican has to see to it that filth of this sort is removed from the priesthood and besides these religious men need to learn how to fight their own battles and not use other innocent people to fight your battles for you lets face it the man was just tending to his business and minding his own and all of the sudden they decide to attack that man for no reason at all and now they are trying to get others to fight their battles for them sorry thats not possible a good skillful excorsist or necromancer should know how to raise the devil and if the need arises send him back to where it came from you raised the devil now you deal with it.

    February 11, 2011 at 9:26 am |
  12. m

    what is wrong with white folks???

    February 11, 2011 at 8:59 am |
    • Nonimus

      Is this a white thing? Hadn't heard that.

      February 11, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  13. Visionary

    Regarding the article, this is horrible, and I think that the privacy protection clause that is in the Catholic chruch, needs to be done away with, A criminal is a criminal, and should not be allowed to hide behind the churches "rules and laws".
    These men need to be punished, the sooner the better!

    Now, regarding the rest of the comments, there is no God, bible is a lie, etc..... That is simply not so, and most of you know it.
    It is always easier to explain away, those things that make you uncomfortable, by saying "no proof", despite many existing personal accounts acknowledging that they did exist. Anything that shines light into the darkness, and convicts, making your comfort zone or personal preferences conflict, it is just easier to convince onesself that it is bogus.

    There seems to be no sense of right or wrong for some people, as long as they make it fit, with what they want to believe. That way, the wrong, will always be right! Right?

    February 11, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • Alyssa

      Lots of schizophrenics have personal accounts that unicorns live in their underpants. Does that make it true? Your argument seems to be "well if 80% of population believes something is true then it must be true!" That's completely irrational.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  14. pedophile hater

    castrate them and put them in the general population. let them pray on their knee's to their new god.

    February 11, 2011 at 8:26 am |
  15. Bill

    What did this kid have a sign on him. It sounds like everybody abused this kid. Or does the story sounds better adding more people. And this was not done in the 50 or 60's, this was 1999. And he still didn't go to the cops. Sounds like they want some money.

    February 11, 2011 at 8:01 am |
  16. roy d powers

    what happend to my post

    February 11, 2011 at 7:50 am |
  17. roy d powers

    i was hit on by a visting priest while doing time in prison 5 years i was 24 years old it came as a shocked to me i was taking classes to become a cathloic was offered 50 dollars to masterbate whle would do them the same i tunred him down flat at the time.i couldnot belive a priiiest would do somthing like that i was so into jesus at that timewas realeasd three years later and never set foot in a catholic church again i also told preist on the outside he laughed an said i was lying he was caught with 2 alter boys 1 year later and was transferred to another parish. i am 78 years now have been reading about boston and los anglesfor a long time the catholc priests are still doing it so sad

    February 11, 2011 at 7:48 am |
    • gerald

      so you go to a protestant church now?

      February 11, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  18. Robin

    Stop the bickering people! Read the message. These priests are pedifiles and abusers who must be stopped. It is not the victims fault. No kid deserved this whether he was 8, 10, 12, 16. What they did is an abuse of power. The priests were allowed to continue in this way because the officials (Bishops, Cardinals) did not due enough to stop it. It must be stopped. They deserve all that is coming to them and more

    February 11, 2011 at 7:46 am |
    • gerald

      Who said it was the victims fault?

      February 11, 2011 at 10:31 am |
  19. ac18

    I'm catholic, and have been all my life.. i really dont intend on changing that, yes their is some things i dont agree on but at the end i like my religion.. as far as "catholics" being the only ones doing this.. well you guys know that is not true.. pastors have done it too and so many other head of church. now i dont judge religions or other peoples believes... i respect them as i expect others to respect mine.. but dont judge every catholic by the actions of these perves.. yes they did wrong, and im as mad and disgusted as most of you guys, there is no way these guys were acting under the promise they made of serving God.. but not all priests are like this some do take their promise and live by it.. so please no judging all of us catholics just because some people have dishonored our religion.. not all catholics nor priests are the same

    February 11, 2011 at 7:38 am |
    • Linda

      haha, like they have done for muslims right? give me a break. They will judge catholics just as they have done muslims. you will be limped in one group just as the muslims.

      February 11, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • Kristy

      I'm also Catholic, and this was horrid. Absolutely horrible. There is no loophole in the bible where it says that preists can do whatever they want. I'd like say as a regular working class Catholic mother of 2, that I am ashamed of these preists. I believe in God, and the bible, but this is heinous. It needs to stop, and crucifying all catholics won't stop it. It's a waste of time to bash religion in general. So all of you who talk about how religion needs to be abolished, etc, remember that there are a lot of people who use this religion as a spiritual outlet, and remember to be respectful of those of us who are not child molesters. Most of the time it's someone's uncle or stepdad or father or foster parent who is doing the raping. Yet there is no label to discriminate against them, so they don't get the same pitchforks that we would get, being part of an organized religion. Those who speak like that are ignorant of religion, and have no idea what it means to be part of it. Until you know what it's all about, don't disrespect all of us. You may however, disrespect those who have actually done wrong.

      February 11, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • gerald

      Luke 12 actually says that those in authority who do wrong are treated more harshly by God in the afterlife. The scriptures also say that anyone who harms a child would be better to have a milestone around his kneck and thrown in to the sea. God will avenge these crimes for those who are not repentant.

      February 11, 2011 at 11:55 am |
    • Perfectarc

      Why would you continue to cling to an archaic, antediluvian immoral belief system that has molested and abused children literally in every single country where it has a presence?

      February 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • cordobes

      people do not think bad about you, people get mad a t the CHURCH for the cover up

      February 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • gerald


      Whatever groups you belong to I guarantee have child molesters associated with them as well. GUARANTEED. The incidence is lower among priests than the general population. You I am sure are or have been a part of familes. The rate within families is higher than among priests so should families be banned. Should schools be closed, are they bad because teachers molest children?

      February 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Stormy

      I totally agree. These poor buys were subject to evil, and so many people point the finger to God, instead of remembering, it is Satan who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Those men do not know God, nor do they know love, and it is shown by their actions, that they are far from being able to represent the church or any other religion in any fashion with a pure heart. People shouldn't focus on the fact these men were priests, because any catholic can tell you, they most obviously didn't live there life as a true catholic. There are perverts everywhere, and I think the only thing we can do is pray for God to sheild our loved ones, and for those who are demons to repent or be cast away.

      February 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • doctore0

      "Your" religion is your prison

      February 11, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • susan

      when you have a chld that has been molested, you may think differently. It scars them for life . Priests are in a place of trust. The bishops hide them , as well as the Cardinals, and the Pope. It's disgusting and a farce. They continue to do the same thing over and over. I was raised Catholic and won't step foot in a church. They (meaning the priests are a bunch of hidden pedophiles with access to our children. DISGUSTING

      February 12, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • gerald

      I am sure it is traumatic when it is your child. I feel sad for you. But how does that justify your bearing false witness against the many good priests and bishops who are innocent of this? Two wrongs don't make a right. Your hatred of all priests is not at all justified. The truth in the statistics clearly indicates you have justified bigotry against priests and bishops.

      February 12, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Eric G.

      @gerald: It is the Catholic Church that is protecting child molestors. Until they are open and helpgul in the prosecution of the guilty, they are all guilty of conspiricy. To defend their actions is horrific and you should be ashamed.

      February 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • JOregon

      Because the Catholic Church has FAILED to obey the biblical mandate on how the church is to be organized these problems have run rampant.
      The word below translated “bishop” is by definition “overseer”. That would be those in charge, from Pope to Parish Priest.

      1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
      1 Timothy 3:3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
      1 Timothy 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
      1 Timothy 3:5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

      One of the lessons good parents learn to do is communicate. For the Pope or anyone else to claim they did not know shows this skill was not learned.
      Good parents discipline effectively. The church usually just sent the offender of to another local.
      1 Timothy 3:4-5 makes it very clear the overseer must have his training through raising a family.
      The RCC is in violation of the word of God.

      February 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • geraldh

      Eric G.

      Your comment is nonsense. So all Catholic preists knew about and protected child molesters? They are all guilty? What a distorted demented justice system you have. It is easy to with a broad brush make an issue simple so that you can make yourself feel good about hating all Catholic priests, which apparently you do. It only shows a simple minded bigot. I am all for prosecuting perpetrators. But what you are saying is not justice. It is stupidity.

      February 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • geraldh

      The logic of Eric.

      Bob is a janitor. Bob raiped a woman. Therefore all janitors are raipists. Spelled the word wrong on purpose.

      February 12, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • aformercathollic

      You have not left because you have not studied the New Testament. Start with the letter to the church in Rome. It says that if you pray to (not worship but just pray to) images of MORTAL men you will become a pervert.
      There is a letter written by a priest that says that if the Catholic Church does not stop molesting children it will not survive.

      February 15, 2011 at 5:55 am |
    • Eric G.

      @geraldh: Where in my post did I say all Catholic Priests are guilty? I said the Catholic Church covered up the molestation of children by it's priests. It did this with clear knowledge.

      To use your post as an example: If Bob is a Janitor, and Bob molests children, Bob is guilty. If the company Bob works for knows he molested children and tries to hide that crime, they are guilty of conspiricy.

      My venom is not directed at individual Priests unless they are guilty. The Catholic Church did and are protecting child molesters. Why do you find it necessary to defend them?

      February 15, 2011 at 7:33 am |
    • gerald


      You keep throwing out the phrase "the Catholic Church". Are you only claiming that phrase includes child molesters and their Bishops and the Pope? Gee last time I checked ALL catholic priests and all bishops and even all Catholics are "the Catholic Church". You point the finger of guilt at us all.
      Where have I said all of them should be defended. Where have I given any indication of that? I defend innocent priests and bishops and our pope because I believe an analysis of the evidence does not implicate him.

      February 15, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • gerald

      "It says that if you pray to (not worship but just pray to) images of MORTAL men you will become a pervert."

      Hmmm.... Checking, checking... Checking, don't see that passage in my bible anywhere. The Bible frowns on those who add to it and twist and distort it.

      "There is a letter written by a priest that says that if the Catholic Church does not stop molesting children it will not survive."

      If this is true why don't you provide me the information so I can research it. Irregardless. Even if at some point there was a similar scandal it does not mean it was occurring between the 14th and today. Funnier yet however the fact is the CC has survived despite its people. That is by the power of God. There are plently of molesters in your churches as well. You seem to like to point fingers at the CC. Look at your own clergy and you will find lots of secrets. 11-13% of them have cheated on their wives with people in the church for instance. Those are statistics by the likes of the Southern Baptist Association. There are plently of perverts among your Churches.

      February 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • JOregon

      So frustrating to deal with a computer with a dirty mind.
      This is a re-post as I try to figure out where the offending word is hiding.
      Attempt #4

      Eric makes a valid point. The Church made every effort to hide the ab-use.
      When he was a Car-dinal, Thomas Ra-tzi-nger (aka Pope Benedi-ct XVI), was the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of The Faith.
      He was in charge of promoting RCC teachings on mor-als and mat-ters of faith.
      In his posi-tion he issued a secret Vat-ican decree to Catholic bis-hops all over the world, instructing them to put the Church's inter-ests ahead of child safety.
      He recommended that instead of reporting s-e-x-ual abuse to legal authorities, bis-hops should encourage the victim, witne-sses and the per-v-ert not to talk about it. To keep victims quiet, they were thr-eatened with exc-ommu-nic-ation.
      He sent out an updated ve-rsion of the 1962 Vat-ican docu-ment Crimen Sollici-tationis, (The Crime of Solici-tation). Crimen Sollici-tationis gave the Vat-ican's instructions for covering up se-xu-al sca-ndal.
      The bottom line is none of the church leaders are qualified to lead according to the bible – so you can ex-pect these things to get out of control.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:59 am |
    • Huy

      There perverts will continue to serve in the church, perhaps not in the same one, but ones about 50 miles away or more. I'm not saying that the Catholics condone to this behavior, but the Catholic leaders aren't exactly doing anything about it either.

      February 16, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  20. Name*G

    Throw them in shark infested water . Why do people need church . When i needed a crutch I went to walmart

    February 11, 2011 at 7:26 am |
    • sokeefe

      teach your children at home the value of being a good person, let them believe there is a god who loves them and cares about them period. Keep the children out of churches and keep very close eye on the activities such as soccer bball school ect....

      February 16, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • BuddyKowalsk

      @sokeefe A god who loves them? I remember the god of the bible killing alot of kids. At best god is a deadbeat dad.

      February 17, 2011 at 6:09 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.