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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. Former Philly Altar boy

    The first beer I ever drank was at 14. It was given to me by a priest! In the sacristy, other priests allowed us to smoke and joke! One in particular allowed us to check out his p o r n. We now know that this was fishing. And we know that the poor altar boys who went to the priests living quarters for private music lessons or to check out Father's new stereo equipment were the unfortunate ones who took the bait. Ah, the prodigal life of an altar boy. Yes, this had been going on for a VERY long time in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Evangelist Peggy Smith

      did you ever take it up the poop- shoot?

      February 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • Former Philly Altar boy

      No but we gave it to your mother in the confessional

      February 16, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Mary

      I remember when a couple of priest tried to make the move on me as a teen. Your story sounds very familiar. But I can also remember some really good priest. But your right I'm sure this has been going on since the first man put on a robe and claimed spiritual power over other people 1000's of years ago.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Power? You don't understand the priesthood. They call it a roman collar for a reason, look it up.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • Reality

      The "puke-producing" topic will hasten the following:--–

      Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" will converge these religions into some simple rules of life, e.g. DO NO HARM .

      No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

      Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

      February 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  2. W00K

    Way to deflect Cardinal Justin Rigali.

    You're a definite kid toucher.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Wow. Did we not learn anything from the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords?

      February 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  3. John

    That's ashame they are praising Rigali – how long has he been Archbishop and aware of all the records? Rigali initially challenged the claims....,,, Church first, children second, rock on Philly Catholics, do your homework and study the history – Inquisitions, Crusaders, nothing new my friends!!!!!

    February 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      I assume by your passing shot, you know little of the Crusades or the Inquisition. Incredible reading if you ever get the chance. Yes, bad things happened, but do be too quick to dismiss this time in history. Again, take off hind sight and put yourself in that time and place.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
  4. Mary

    So what are all that were messed with boys? Does that mean there is a problem with g@y priests? Let's be honest better than half are. The church wants a future but it can't get there if it can't face the truth, and the news refuse to question anything g@y.

    I just say let the g@ys be open and you would prevent a lot of problems, along with letting married men be priests.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • Eric G.

      They are pedophiles. They may or may not be gay. Being gay has nothing to do with it. Statistically, most pedophiles are straight men.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Mary

      Hmm, how often do you hear of priest messing with little girls? Next to never!

      February 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • gerald

      Pedophilia is with pre-pubescent children. Less than 10% of these fit that category. Most are post-pub teenage boys. That is a different category. HMSXL.

      February 19, 2011 at 11:41 am |
  5. terry

    Maybe the anti-christ is actually the church itself.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Naa.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • LOL Religion

      **DING DING DING**

      February 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  6. Eric G.

    To me, the most important part of the article is the charges brought against the Church official who gave the alleged pedophiles access to children. If he is convicted, a precident will be set that opens the door for future conspiricy charges against the church itself. The conspiricy charge is the key. If they can prove the conspiricy was widespread, they could possibly use RICO because of the payoff of previous cases. I, for one, will follow this one very close.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  7. ijreilly

    So if you went to one of these child molesting priests for confession, were your sins actually forgiven or does it not count because the Roman Catholic priest was a child molester?

    February 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      God's grace and power is not limited by men. In spite of the serious state of their soul, God power will work through them. They are not unlike a vessel. The fact that some priest doubt the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, does not preclude God from the act. Priest in the end are servants, not the masters.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
  8. Randy Dowdy

    They should be castrated, each and every one of them. This is happening far too often, and no one seems to ahve learned a thing.

    These people are not Christians, not whatsoever. I hope intelligent people know so.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • John

      You're damn right Randy!

      February 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  9. LANCE

    This is probably only the tip of the iceberg. A completey foul and corrupt to the core organization. Members that have a conscience and are willing to facilitate change need to leave the catholic church and join another denomination that isn' t so thoroughly befouled all the way to the vatican.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • gerald

      check out the studies of phil jenkins. The protestants do it too.

      February 19, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  10. Joshua Ludd

    Maybe they can move the old Arch Bishop who covered it up out, make him a cardinal, then make his replacement a cardinal for gladhanding the victims and sweeping things under the rug... then plead poverty and go about a few punitive church closings to teach the lay parishoners not to stand up to them no matter what their crimes... like they did here in Massachusetts.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Dorkus

      You Lie!!!

      February 16, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  11. NB

    I have no sympathy for the Catholic Church. Nearly two millenia of unchecked corruption that only gets progressively worse. Pathetic.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • dennis

      Agree

      February 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  12. Evangelist Peggy Smith

    We pray for our nation that God will deliver us from all evil judgement must first begin in the housewhole of faith. And what goes on in the dark shall be brought to light. To the ones who were abused put your trust in God seek him as never before for he is a God of mercy and will strenghten your heart.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • John

      You can go ahead and pray Peggy, nothing will ever change those pedophile's mind.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • mt

      you misguided fool–they did put their trust in God and what happened?! would you give the same advise to your own children, grandchildren, neices, nephews similarly victimized?

      February 16, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  13. Starman

    the followers of these people are the same people who endlessly attack Muslims for being morally inferior...

    February 16, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Evangelist Peggy Smith

      As they should.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  14. jiteye

    if you like to molest children, the catholic church is the place to go. I bet the pope has poked a few alter boy in his day.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Sure

      Philly cardinal: Investigate 37 priests, if you can find them. We've forgotten which dioceses we transferred them to after the complaints started coming in.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Mary

      HEY for all the bad we hear about in the Catholic church please don't forget about all the good they've brought this world – the majority of priests are wonderful and do their job very well and let's not forget about the hospitals, colleges, and elementary schools they've provided this country with!

      February 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Mary

      You know I am not sure if the pope has done such a thing but its doubtful, child molesters are sick minds, that lack mental stability. The Pope is arguably one of the most intelligent men alive. It is doubtful he would have ever reached his position had he not been mentally stable.

      But you have a point this crime seems endemic. The church must deal with the g@y issue. Better than half are g@y.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • gerald

      The incidents of sxl abuse are lower in the Church than in the general public. Fact.

      February 19, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  15. cj

    there is no way a pedophile priest can believe in god. where ,in the priest's mind ,is god the omniscient lord when he is harming a chiild? the actions speak louder than words that noone is watching and thus they cannot believe god is there.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • Rob

      Haven't you heard, you can do anything you want as a catholic, thats what conffession is for.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  16. jamie from michihgan

    Well I think its about time that some one finally stepped up to the plate to deal with this mess. and I think they should be castrated like cattle so things like this won't happen again or like in the golden era taken to a public arena and hung,shot or stoned to death,that would eradicate the problem with pedaphila

    February 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
    • Trix

      Ditto!

      February 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Mary

      No Jamie it wouldn't, coca heads will do what ever it takes to get their next high, Wall Street types rip off the American people over and over. Sick people are sick. But you could kill them others will take their place. If you still want to kill them, well there are plenty of other crimes that could fall under that category, like r@pe, infidelity, bankruptcy, r@bery, … it becomes a slippery slope.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  17. Roman, Butler, PA

    The Spirit of God will not enter into His Church until the Church has be thoroughy cleansed. The Son of Man does not enter into a place of worship that has been defiled by evil. But, this be sure, Woe to the Pastors that destroy and tear the sheep of my pasture. Judgement is upon their souls. For I AM the Alpha and the Omega.
    http://www.lordlionjc.blogspot.com

    February 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Mary

      What?

      February 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • John

      What!!!!! Are you out of your mind Roman!!!!!

      February 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
    • Rob

      Go leagally buy a firearm, one bullet and get it done.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • theresa

      kennylawrencecomedy.com says it all. checkout the guys amotw page!

      February 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  18. wekm

    Would never say that marrige is the cure but if you take the thought that your vow of purity before god will take your feelings away you don't become a priest. You then just have a bunch of pedofiles running loose on the steets. Not wearing black robes where they are easly identified.

    February 16, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
    • Rob

      It is clear that Intelligent educated men with unatural attraction for young boys flock to the church knowing something is wrong with them thinking "faith" will save them from themselves. The statistical chance of so many similar men in one profession commiting thes crimes is staggering. How many bank robber priests are there, how many priests commit any other type of crime? I bet VERY few. The Catholic church is a breeding ground for what is evil and wrong. To simply deny homan nature and leave it to faith is disgusting.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • dennis

      This is not about marriage. This is about pedophiles becoming priests to practice their trade. When will the catholic church wake up. I use the term church lightly.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Kate

      These perverts don't go into the priesthood thinking that religion can "save" them from their disgusting behavior. Child molesters are manipulative, and getting into a position of power and trust is a way to find victims. These bottom feeders wanted easy access to young children, and they chose a profession where not only would they be able to abuse children, but their "bosses" would protect them if and when they were caught. The Catholic archdiocese has created the perfect environment for pedophiles and are now acting surprised by what's happened. They can all go to hell.

      February 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • gerald

      Rob,

      You are quite wrong. There are higher incidents of abuse among other professions. Teachers for instance. Coaches, policemen, etc. etc. This gets more attention because these people claim to be religious and because of the huge lawsuits that are possible with Catholic Church structure (vs. protestant church structure, ya there are plently of prots that do it too). There are 38million incidents of child abuse in the US. far less than 1% are by Catholic priests.

      February 19, 2011 at 11:33 am |
  19. BuddyKowalsk

    2000 years and xtians haven't learned jack.

    February 16, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • theresa

      Checkout kennylawrencecomedy.com the guy sums it up on his amotw page!

      February 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  20. BuddyKowalsk

    2000 and xtians haven't learned jack.

    February 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
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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.