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. Burbank

    Here we go again...

    February 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  2. justin

    chemical castration, and close the church's and schools down

    February 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Dee

      Chemical castration yes but don't shut the schools down. They are amazing.

      February 10, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  3. Danny S

    Let's see how well it goes for these guys in prison. I heard they love child rapists there!

    February 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Patricia

      They'll find a way to get them out of this with the minimum amount of jail time, if any, and then I bet they'll plead to have them kept away from general population because they're not *real* criminals....

      February 10, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  4. ali

    oh yeah lets call them terrorists and blame islam for this too...right?

    February 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Dee

      The reason people get so angry at Christian pedophiles is that in Christinaity pedophilia is abhored. In countries that practice Islam its ok so what can we say...I guess the pedophiles should convert...

      February 10, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  5. JT

    Believe in a god if you want but why fall for an obvious man-made flawed con job called religion? I hope one day that weak minded deluded people are bred out of the gene pool.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • David M.

      Let us know what it's like getting bred out of the gene pool JT.

      February 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  6. MCAustx

    All pedophiles should get the death penalty. These poor kids, their childhood is robbed of them.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  7. formerNovice

    if you want to keep your faith, don't make friends with a priest.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  8. Bill

    Ahhh, the catholic church strikes again. Would someone please just stop this child molesting cult once and for all!

    February 10, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Very well, JUST for you, no more first amendment.
      Of course, you are no longer permitted to freely speak. You cannot have a free press either.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Patricia

      I'm with Bill on this.

      February 10, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • Chris

      WZRD1, your attempt to turn this debate into one about 1st Amendment rights is nothing short of bizzare. Clearly, YOU ARE the one who is intolerant of speech that you disagree with. AND the one suggesting a denial of peoples' freedom of speech if they don't comply with your wishes. Seriously?

      February 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  9. Captain_Colossal

    The guy in the upper center is creeping me out. I don't wanna even go use the potty anymore.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  10. David

    Where are the revenge attacks? We should be reading of priests beaten by the families of the molested, or by the victims themselves, years later.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Chris


      February 10, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  11. ZoeZoe

    they need to be hung in front of their church/.....all of then

    February 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Nah. Bring back the pillory. Lock them in it for a year or two.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
  12. David R. Scott

    RELIGION DOES IT AGAIN. SCREW THE MASSES. And that is exactly what they did. ALL RELIGIONS SUCK.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • Plato101

      For every chlld abused by clergy, over 100 are abused by public school teachers. What is different about the school cases is the level of secondary media coverage it has—or, in this case, hasn't—received.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Chris

      "For every chlld abused by clergy, over 100 are abused by public school teachers." And?

      February 10, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Chris

      "What is different about the school cases is the level of secondary media coverage it has—or, in this case, hasn't—received." On the contrary, school cases of teacher/student relations receive their fair share of press.

      February 10, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Plato...where are you getting your statistics from? I certainly never heard of abuse in public schools when I was a student. I certainly was aware of it in Catholic Schools. Everyone knew of it for the last 50 years. No one ever did anything about it until recently.

      February 10, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Plato101

      @BADGUY In response to your request for where my cited statistics come from, I refer to a 2004 study commissioned by the US department of Education and conducted at Hofstra University, Lead researcher was Dr Charol Shakeshaft. Look it up on google or Wikipedia. I received only minimal news coverage though. My point is that there is a much bigger abuse problem going on and it is purposely being ignored by the press.

      February 10, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Patricia

      Plato101 don't you watch the news? It seems like every week a teacher is being arrested. A couple of weeks was that latest one. They are on the news all the time.

      February 10, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  13. BADGUY

    The big question is: What is the Catholic Church doing to insure this doesn't happen again? Unfortunately, the Priesthood has always been a haven for these types of men. What has changed?

    February 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • Dee

      I agree BADGUY and hope things have changed I love the Catholic faith and hope that they don't allow male priests anymore.... I think we can only conclude that men are the problem...there are not many female pedophiles at least I'd rather take my chances with women than men....

      February 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  14. Becky

    Ah, a reason for nonbelievers in God to attack our Heavenly Father. God certainly did not command these priest to do these evil acts on children. no more than he orders people to commit other bad things. Good things come from God. Evil acts come from Satan and his influence. I have unwavering faith in God and know what he has done in my life for me. I would hope doubters here would find that true peace and happiness also.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
    • JT

      You and other pedophile supporters are the root of the problem. Child rapists depend on you and other deluded fools to enable their lifestyle. How 'bout growing a brain. You people disgust me.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      JT, your choice is simple. Either respect the first amendment or depart this land, never to return.
      Honestly, I'm beginning to prefer that you do the latter.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • David M.

      JT...you need to get back on your meds. That's a pretty serious accusation you just made about Becky. To say "you and other pedophile supporters" is pretty sorry on your part. Try thinking before you speak....or type. In the meantime, make sure you refill your prescription.

      February 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Marlye

      JT, as long as there are fools that follow that ancient cult, we'll have chaos in this world. Ignore Wzrd1, he's a pedophile too.

      February 10, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • 32nd Degree

      How is it that you believe in a religious doctrine that has been wrong about everything in the observable world, but you believe that they are right about G-d which cannot be seen?

      The church tells you that the bible says 2+2=185, they also tell you that if you don't believe it you're going to burn in h3ll. You are tought that you must have "faith" that 2+2=185 and that is the only way to heaven. Despite the fact that modern science has invented a calculator that tells you 2+2=4, you are told to ignore science because the Bible is the word of G-d and it must be true somehow. Despite every fiber in your body telling you that 2+2=185 is ridiculous, you ignore your common sense to adopt nonesence.

      Well Becky, 2+2=4 and Jesus is dead. The sooner you deprogram yourself from the brainwashing, the sooner we can move forward as a society. If you want to find G-d, then stop listening to what other's tell you to believe and make your own way. You'll find the experience more wonderous and self fulfilling than any pedofile can profess at Sunday mass.

      February 10, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Who's attacking your "heavenly father"? The only attacks here are on the Catholic Church's "command and control": of their priests.

      February 10, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Amen, Becky. And for those who do blame God, I guess we can blame God for allowing these ignorants blame Him.

      February 10, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Patricia

      Nobody's blaming your heavenly father Becky, we're blaming the priests. It sounds like you're just trying to instigate a fight.

      February 10, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Chris

      Everyone that champions the cause of organized religion bears partial responsibility for what is done or hidden in any god's name. As long as REAL critical thinking is as rare in common discourse and cuture as shade in the desert, humanity will wallow in its basest form. I can only hope that we escape the gravity well of of our folly in time to save ourselves.

      Posts like yours depress me, Becky, as well intended as it seemed...

      February 10, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • CJ

      By your very own defination of what your god is it directly means that all things come from him. So yes your god is responsible. Your very own belief is that he created the universe. If he created everything in the universe then he controls it as well. So yes once again this is your gods fault. He directly caused it cause he is god of all and he also did not prevent it because he is god of all. He also created your hell and your satan, so all good and bad come from your diety. you cant cherry pick the good and not the bad. If he is god then it is he alone and if it is he alone then he causes both ill and good and either prevents it or does not. Good thing its all a fairytale though...

      February 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Patricia

      CJ is right. There does seem to be a lot of cherry-picking among the believers....I think the bottom line is you can make the rules up as you go along BUT the one rule: God does good, the devil does bad... that apparently is not ever up for debate.

      Religion does not support or encourage critical thinking or individual thinking, which is why you get the same arguments from the believers. It's mind-boggling.

      February 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Inciteful

      There is no debating that there are pedophiles in the priesthood. That DOES NOT mean that most, much less all, priests are pedophiles. Just as there are non-believers, as represented by some replying to Becky's post, who are morons, most non-believers ARE NOT morons.

      February 11, 2011 at 12:14 am |
  15. midnightrambler444

    before you read the headline/story–just look at the guy at the end. Really. Now try to be surprised after you read the story.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  16. rose

    What cletus said. Hi-5!!!

    February 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  17. Bill

    The Catholic Church is just another corrupt gang of thugs given special authority to hide and protect pedophiles, thieves and hypocrites. They should be held in contempt with the likes of Halliburton, Goldman Sacs and all the other corporate rapists that plunder and destroy all that is good for the gratification and greed of a small select group of Robber Barons.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      Wow! Did YOU miss the boat on this story!
      You compare "robberbarons" to rapists of CHILDREN?
      Astounding! Your parents must be proud of your idiocy.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
    • Dee

      Hi Bill I agree with you but I'll take it one step further the problem is not hte Catholic Church, it's Men. You don't see many peodphile women lets get rid of the men I say.

      From, a Catholic

      February 10, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
    • roxy

      Your an Idiot! Keep throwing stones. YOU MUST BE A SAINT!

      February 11, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • Matthew

      No pedophile women? How many teachers do we need to see seducing their young students for you adapt your ridiculous take?

      February 11, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  18. Ruben

    I'm not surprised.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  19. JennyTX

    I'm glad law enforcement is handling it! Too often, nothing is ever said about whether these horrible men are handed over to law enforcement.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Wzrd1

      For too many years, such things have been ignored.
      Now, things are changing. Honestly, it has gotten to the point that the populace has been offering their political leaders a choice: Arrest and charge them or have the populace summarily execute the offenders.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
  20. Betty

    The question is will any of them actually go to jail? The other question is how many other children did their victims abuse since this is often an ongoing problem from generation to generation.

    February 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • baronsternberg

      That depends on whether they're convicted. Remember, so far they've only been charged. "Charged" doesn't automatically mean "convicted," though you'd never know it to listen to some of these people.

      February 10, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Chris T

      Let the punishment fit the crime.

      February 11, 2011 at 1:37 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.