Philadelphia cardinal orders investigation of 37 priests
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 16th, 2011
04:57 PM ET

Philadelphia cardinal orders investigation of 37 priests

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (CNN) - The Catholic Church in Philadelphia will investigate as many as 37 priests identified in a grand jury report as remaining in "active ministry with credible allegations of child sexual abuse," Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, said Wednesday.

"Sexual abuse of children is a crime. It is always wrong and gravely evil," Rigali said in a news release. "The grand jury report makes clear that for as much as the archdiocese has done to address child sexual abuse, there is still much to do."

He also announced that three priests were placed on administrative leave pending a review.

"The actions we announce today build on the changes that the church has already announced," Rigali said.

He noted the church had already hired a victim services consultant and a compliance officer, and created a new position of delegate for investigations to assist with the review.

"Many people of faith and in the community at large think that the archdiocese does not understand the gravity of child sexual abuse," Rigali said. "We do."

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams on Wednesday lauded the church announcement.

"I commend Cardinal Rigali and the archdiocese for this latest action," Williams said. "The cardinal's strong words and recent efforts are the correct steps at this time."

Last week, three Philadelphia priests and a parochial school teacher were charged 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, 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 then-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 last week, by knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to kids.

"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 counts following the results of the 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 grand jury believed that more than 30 priests have remained in ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse, Williams said.

Rigali had initially challenged that claim.

- CNN's Sarah Hoye contributed to this report

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity • Courts • Pennsylvania • United States • Vatican

soundoff (332 Responses)
  1. http://0rz.Tw/hB5Gd

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    April 16, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
  4. gruzoperevozki

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    March 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  5. Joe Jones

    During the past 300 years, there have been 1,000's of priests that have done great work dedicating themselves to God and the Parishiners. Where are all of the great CNN Staff Writers and their great articles about their interesting lives? What more can be said about CNN's news worthiness?

    March 10, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      People doing what they said they would do, excepting those doing evil, even if inspired by bullish!t tribal myths, is not news. Cult members setting themselves up as role models and then committing crimes against children are. The bad behavior of believers is not the media's fault. Just as believers can, all by themselves with no changes to any existing laws, reduce abortions by about 70%, they can also improve their image if their members would simply comply with their cult's beliefs.

      March 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  6. Ramblingwriter

    I am an Old Catholic and lay religious, and offended greatly by comments below that the Catholic faith is only the purview of those who are completely under the direction and obedience of the Bishop of Rome, as well as the inference that it has always been thus. This is not historically accurate, as the early Jesus movements were often not connected at all, and the closest to a single church existing was only during a brief period in the 300's. Even at that point, the Thomas Christians of India and the Syrian Orthodox Church were also in existence.

    That said, the reason many Old Catholic and Independent Catholic denominations have avoided the pedophilia scandals has more to do with the form of governance (synod-based decision making, laity inclusive or laity directed), recognition that clergy are mere humans with a special calling and ministry (as opposed to "always to be obeyed" representatives of the "monarchy"/Vatican and king/Pope), clergy are often members of the community at large (married or not, they have homes, careers, and lives outside a rectory), and the fact that clergy have not been brought up in seminary/parochial schools as young boys where they learned how to be abusers because they were abused themselves, but in homes. I believe many of these same reasons also indicate why various Orthadox, Episcopal, and Anglican Catholic denominations have also not had these issues.

    Pedophilia is a small percentage of crime in any community, but became more so in the Romanist denomination because of the way the Romanist denomination developed, governed, and valued status and wealth over truth. There are many from women priests to small parishes trying to reform in many Romanist churches, and they deserve the support and prayers of Catholics and people of the Book everywhere. There are many like this official who literally have blood on their hands in ading abetting and covering up, and many who continue to value status power and money over children's lives. They deserve to be hunted down, exposed, and punished.

    Do not paint all Catholics, not even all Romanists, with one brush.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Joyce

      I\'m impressed. You\'ve really reaisd the bar with that.

      December 21, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • hwwvlrgjx

      v8OAPt jffexwlndrin

      December 22, 2011 at 6:59 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      The following does not show a small percentage of pedophiles:
      Total – 739,853 (per 100,000 Population)

      This info comes directly from the Center For Missing and Exploited Children and is dated June 2011.

      Keep in mind that this is only those registered and does not include those not yet caught or convicted.

      December 22, 2011 at 7:12 am |
    • dmbktkqzn

      x7SYPk ykprrlfnxmzz

      December 23, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  7. StepUp

    WOW! Nice 2 see so many grown ups playing 'nice'. Im not catholic, know many very reputable ones, dont agree w/ the religion nor harboring any kind of criminal activity. It's not the religion that ought be under fire but the disobedience to the laws and requirements thereof in our land. Keep letting people do these things w/out any repercussion, then teach our youth that it is a natural way of life. Its called 'enabling'. I have been mistreated as such in my Church as a child & so on but Im not going to use it as an EXCUSE to blame God, that's ridiculous and I do not even blame my Church. I placed y;the blame DIRECTLY upon the person responsible & told him I forgave him to his FACE! He said, "For what?" and I told him that I would refresh his memory if he'd like, lol. Then SUDDENLY he REMEMBERED! Isnt that FUNNY? This is actually the 1st time in which Id even THOUGHT of it since 1980 something really. I got my point across & I was a youth even when I faced him. People all need to get pro-active in helping themselves. Everyone seems to remain "victim". Well I say not only become a 'survivor' (which is STILL being controlled by the abuse and is truly a recycled victim) but lets become CONQUERORS of it's affects! I was 9 for the abuse and 14 when I talked to the abuser. Notice I did not call him 'MY' abuser. I dont 'own' it since 14! Lets all move forward & see it for what it is. Cant blame God, He is truly the one that gave me what it took to come through & heal. Anyone can. Sorry atheists, I've just seen WAY too many miracles in my life to not know where credit belongs & it's to our Almighty God!

    March 7, 2011 at 11:06 am |
  8. gerald


    You didn't specify the NorthEast. No wonder, they voted for Ted Kenedy all those years. God punished them. I general Catholicism tends to increase in numbers.

    February 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  9. GoingDown

    Gerald Read..Going down as in Decline


    “The decline of Catholicism in the Northeast is nothing short of stunning,” said Barry Kosmin, a principal investigator for ARIS



    February 21, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • gerald

      By the way any decline in Catholicism is due to the liberalism that has crept in and is the same source of these child molesters being ordained and kept in. Catholicism will reform and already is. These things will get rooted out.

      February 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  10. Nonna

    In 2002 while protesting outside the Bishops Conference in Dallas, I spoke at length with a young man in his late twenties who had been molested by a priest when he was a child. He had been able to successfully get over the trauma of the assaults by sincerely forgiving the offender, understanding that " most of these men who were preying on boys were USING the Church to get to their victims, or were just plain sick." Though his parents, siblings left the Catholic Church because of what had happened, the young man not only returned to the Church as a devout Catholic, but was happily married, had 2 children, and was reaching out to help others.

    I thought this young man was very inspiring, because he reflected the only authentic way to get over childhood traumas and betrayals, whatever they may be, is by following the Way of Christ., which is always about repentance, forgiveness, and living in His Love. Only in Christ can ALL things ( hurts, wounds, assaults) be healed and made new.

    February 21, 2011 at 9:01 am |
    • Just Deserts

      What trite nonsense. Straight from the Abuser's Handbook I suppose.

      February 24, 2011 at 4:47 am |
  11. dan


    February 20, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  12. jp

    The sad part regarding these terrible atrocities are those Roman Catholics who will be leaving the church in droves to protect their children, effectively having to give up their faith for ineffective screening of potential priests.

    I hope that many Roman Catholics know there are many independent Catholic churches (not under the jurisdiction of the pope) that have a spotless record when it comes to abuse. Maybe its because many of the independent Catholic churches are wise enough to allow their priests to marry.


    February 20, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • John


      "The sad part regarding these terrible atrocities are those Roman Catholics who will be leaving the church in droves to protect their children, effectively having to give up their faith for ineffective screening of potential priests."

      If it is ineffective why aren't there more recent cases? Normally it is said that victims of pedophiles who don't complain are scared they won't be believed. Do you think that would be the case if they were molested by a Catholic priest?

      Don't be concerned about people leaving in droves just because the media focus on Judas priests. Early Christians complained about other Romans believing that they engaged in incest. Hundreds of years ago Cardinal Newman got slandered when he built a vegetable cellar as the media considered it evidence of the rumour that priests kept youths victims in underground cells to have their wicked way with them. Newman noted the way media revelled in any real case of fraud or immorality they could find. (Sound familiar?) Just like recent reports of abuse going back as far as 50 years media in Nazi Germany focussed on any clerical abuse they could find no matter how far back they had to look to find a new example. In 2011 the Church remains a scandal in spite of the profound lack of pedophilia in the ranks compared to any other large group or society in general. Episcopalian historian Philip Jenkins noted that, in spite of the headlines, but for a single priest who molested his niece the 'pedophile crisis' in the Chicago Diocese would have completely lacked actual pedophiles (cf. priests molesting youths training in the seminary)

      This seems like a big thing because the Catholic Church got a break for a few decades because people thought that Vatican II had secularised it. When Pope John Paul II and particularly Benedict XVI preached orthodoxy that break ended. Their opposition to abortion and gay marriages made the media believe that they are public enemy number one. But nothing is new. The scandal of the Church (held out so prominantly no matter how it compares with the rest of the world) has been a recurrent theme for the last 2000 years and there are 1.5 billion Catholics. Don't jump to the conclusion it will cause a mass exodus. It never has before. The 'Spirit of Vatican II' caused much more loss than the consequences of an attempt to exorcise it given the small proportion of clergy involved.

      "I hope that many Roman Catholics know there are many independent Catholic churches (not under the jurisdiction of the pope) that have a spotless record when it comes to abuse. Maybe its because many of the independent Catholic churches are wise enough to allow their priests to marry."

      Catholic means universal. How can some little new Church be Catholic Churches? That sounds like false advertising. If a Christian Church doesn't accept the Pope aren't they protestant by definition?

      February 21, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  13. Muneef

    Thank you for having helped me to correct my ways of commenting and sorry if I ever reacted strongly at the time but now I understand how that was too strong to express thoughts.
    Any way thanks again....

    February 19, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • Muneef

      Sorry the comment above was meant for
      Eric G

      February 19, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Eric G.

      You are always welcome, my friend! I appreciate your passion and conviction.

      February 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  14. Eric G.

    Cnn Moderators: You really need to address your filters. Dialog is getting edited at an unacceptable level. Fix it.

    February 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
  15. kazz


    February 19, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  16. myklds

    I've seen Atheists in a foxhole. And I see a lot in here. I wonder how they fit in this one hole.

    February 19, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  17. taruth

    I would love to see those so-called priests burn to death for what they have done.
    there is no such thing as hell, so we'll have to burn them alive here on earth, i guess.
    no god of goodness would let this go on for centuries like this.
    no god here...just sc-um who should be executed right away.
    we can start at the top and work our way down...
    watch them scatter like co-ckroaches in the light.
    and still people like gerald defend these sickos.
    down with the catholic church.
    down with all religious delusion.
    support the truth – not the liars – and demand justice in this world.
    gerald should burn to death too.
    we don't need people like that in this world.
    not even if they are the pope, jesus, or god.
    violence for violence must be the way they want it – so let's give it to them.
    oh wait, i forgot that is illegal for some reason.

    February 18, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • gerald

      God bless u taruth. 🙂

      February 19, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • chief

      great point ... especially the comment on the ped apologist gerald

      February 19, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • geraldh

      God bless you too chiefy.

      February 19, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • geraldh

      Ha taruth,

      Are there any atheist peds out there that need to be burned as well?

      February 19, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
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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.