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. felton

    The Truth regarding Man is, we are all individual islands controlled by our individual consciousness and no matter how much religion or education one has, it’s ones day to day conscious decision to decide to do right or wrong. All religion teaches some form of right and wrong or good or bad philosophy, but, it’s the individual who has to choose to do right or wrong or good or bad.

    Since humans are flawed creatures, we must recognize that each one of us is capable of being wrong or bad, so, the consequences of our actions must be consistent or no law and no amount of knowledge of any religion will matter.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      felton.. we are not flawed.. that is religious rhetoric. We are all fine and need to focus on being human rather than the play things of gods.. To me you do not really believe the rhetoric anyway, the way you come across appears that you are confused about the whole thing.. its easy..just think for yourself and ask questions.

      February 16, 2011 at 11:20 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 11:29 pm |
  2. mango

    All Priests are fudgers, that's why they joined, look at those pictures, just like the head Poop, they love fudging

    February 16, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • JR

      so true...

      February 16, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  3. Jim C

    People who criticize the Catholic Church and think that pedophilia is restricted to this one religion are really fools. Take a look at the Protestants. They are not without sin.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • JR

      The catholic church has the largest collection of perves in existance.The church used to be a secret club to molest young boys...Not know more, you pedos got caught with your pants down

      February 16, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  4. Frank

    Then the Church wonders why they are in steep decline. Between the pedophile priests and the rule of Rome the Spirit has left the building.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Fortunately, God's power will go on despite the weakness of a few.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:50 pm |

      actually the RCC grew robustly in 2010 in the US

      February 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • gerald

      Catholicism is not in decline.

      February 16, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  5. Louis

    Society has a problem. It is primarily focussed on the Catholic church at the moment, and young boys in particular. That seems to be newsworthy to a public hungry for scandal. It is possibly more repugnant. But I surmise (based on a few confidences), that not all priests are taken to young boys; young girls are also targets. We haven’t heard much from them yet, or maybe there are a lot of stories out there but they aren’t quite as sensational. You know, priest meets girl, priest seduces girl, priest threatens young girl with eternal damnation, girl confesses to parents, parents complain to diocese, diocese ships priest elsewhere so he can have a “fresh start”. This story has been repeated over and over all over the world, probably more often than priest meets boy. But we don’t hear much about it. Isn’t it about time abused ladies started to come out, or have they done that but they are just being ignored because they aren’t sensational enough?

    February 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      If you want to really search for the truth; you will find that the percentage of priests that abuse children is smaller than you'd think (try less than 1% worldwide; google it and check multiple sources). In this case; 3.74% of the Diocese of Philly that we know of. In my experience (42 years as a Catholic) I can think of only 1 priest that I met out of hundreds that gave me pause to think something didn't seem right. Believe it or not, most men and women who take vows to be religious, do so in good faith and after years of prayer. It (celibacy) is a virtue to be lived.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • Louis

      Dear Crazyhorse. For an organization that pontificates, worldwide, one is too many, particularly when you cover up. There are more than one. If the Church claims to represent God on earth, then we expect Godlike behaviour, otherwise, as in any viable organization, God should fire them because they are not representative of corporate policy.

      February 16, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  6. chris

    I am a Catholic and these types of people that abuse others should have been arrested right away. This has been going on since the Catholic Religion was started but had not been reported until recently. Its hard to go to church which I still do and watch less and less people showing up. The pope and the ones before him knew of the criminal acts that were going on and failed to act. Its time for the people that run the church to ask God for forgiviness and too forsake their evil doings.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Brother, put your faith in God not a person/thing. I'm Catholic and the Central Texas Church is growing by leaps and bounds.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • gerald

      Chris, news for you. It goes on everywhere in society. 38 million cases in the US. Only a very small percentage are from priests who as a percentage abuse at a lower rate. Granted not low enough. Jesus said their would be wolves among the sheep. Fact is the majority of priests are good men dedicated to God and their parishes. By the way protestantism is not at all immune to this as some would have you believe. It gets less attention because with the Church structure money is bigger in Catholic lawsuits.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @gerald: And again, more from the pedophile appologist.

      February 16, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • gerald

      Ah I see the bigot gallery is here too. I have no use for pedophiles or bigots. They are both of the same category.

      February 16, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      Chris.. you have the courage to speak up, and condemn this unlike others on this blog... i admire that.. Others either ignore the issue, or dismiss it. if the pope is guilty he should also be persecuted, as would any CEO of a company. If religion allows this type of behavior and hides it how can this not be a "sin".

      February 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm |
  7. Dex

    Spelling correction...5 deer, 1 headlight.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:35 pm |

    dick- another great intelligent comment. thank you for proving my point. btw, i will be able to track back

    February 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  9. True Beliver

    why do people feel such a strong need to be associated with a pedophile rearing facility? come one; there has to be a better way to practice your faith!!

    February 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • gerald

      Yes why do people associate in families and why do they put their kids on sports teams and why send their kids to school. There are higher percentages of child molesters in these groups than priests. But of course it is easy for the ignorant to spout illogical nonsense because they don't engage their brain. Bigotry doesn't take any real thought.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @gerald: First, in the interest of intellectual honesty, you will need to provide references to support your statistical claims. Second, if the Church, as an organization is found guilty of an ongoing conspiricy protecting pedophiles, that will set them apart from the references you provided.

      There is no moral way for you to defend pedophiles. To do so is disgusting. You should be ashamed. Any future posts from you will be viewed with your position on this issue in mind. You are now a pedophile appologist.

      February 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • gerald

      I don't defend pedophiles. That is your bigotry talking again. They need to rot in jail. It is only your twisted mind that says I do. I don't defend gys who prey on teenagers either. Of course I don't defend people who slander and twist what other people say and spread and promote bigotry either. If the shoe fits.

      As for statistics. Go to bing.com. Type in "child sxl abuse statistics" . There will be plenty of information from which you can logically deduce my claims above. For instance.

      One in three girls and one in six boys are sxlly abused before the age of 18.

      Now if half of 300 million are boys and 1/6 of them were sa then that is 25million cases. Are you following me with the math eric buddy. Girls the number is 50million in the living population which is comparable to the population that the priesthood statistics are derived from. Now you tell me if there isn't a bigger problem here Eric?

      February 19, 2011 at 11:57 am |

    scot- very intelligent comment

    February 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  11. Dex

    5 Dear, 1 headlight.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:30 pm |

    in just the first 3 pages of comments, i woul estimate that at least 80% were bigotted and vile attacks upon catholics and the catholic church. all are in violation of cnn tos and yet not one has been removed by cnn. if similar vile comments were made against other religious groups such as muslims, they would be immediately taken down. no good catholic condones what these priests have been accused of. however, they are still citizens and i thought we had the presumption of innocence. can we at least wait to see the outcome of the trial? and even if they are convicted, this is about these particular people and i find it outrageous that cnn would allow posts that are offensive to the country's largest religious denomination-65 million proud roman catholics! cnn when will you enforce tolerance on your website?

    February 16, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • Scot


      February 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      "few people truly HATE Catholics; most people hate what they THINK Catholics are about." – Bishop Sheen

      February 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      CNN BLA BLA.. I dislike all religions including Islam.. which mean" submission" by the way.... you have the usual victim mentality of religion.. it does some stupid things then cries in the corner saying no one loves us any more.. get over it and grow up. Your church had people who broke the law and did some horrendous things to children, and all you worry about is the fact no one will like Catholics any more. Catholics , as any religious group, have so special privilege despite what you think the pope says.. he is just your leader. and if he speaks for god.. then he needs an new publicist.

      February 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  13. wekm

    Islam heard of shira?

    February 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  14. PJB

    Catholic Church-You have lost me.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Again.. put your faith in God not a priest/nun/pope/bishop/deacon/altar server/etc... ps: I'm Catholic.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Roman, Butler, PA

      I ask you to read this blog

      February 16, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      Interesting personal revelations. God speed brother!

      February 16, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  15. True Beliver

    Castrate automatically when you become a priest. Easy. Just fix them right then and there. Just like baptism.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • Dex

      Oh, I get it....Planned Priesthood.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • gerald

      Why yes and since there is a higher incident of sx abuse in families we should castrate all males in families and while we are at ti to be a coach or a school teacher they should all be castrated as well since a significant number of coaches and teachers molest. Problem solved.

      So many ignoramuses no these boards speaking in prejudice. So many very good priests.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  16. Kevin

    Have we gotten to the point where we commend the religions for saying bad things about pedophiles? I mean, shouldn't it be expected? I'll be merely satisfied when they decide to open their books and out pedophile priests that haven't been caught by police.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  17. s18022

    The catholic church needs to give up on canon law and has to actually start admitting when something wrong has happened, and go the to the police. Until such a time as this is done i fail to see how anyone could feel okay with themselves going to a catholic church. Demand it of your leaders and of your priests.

    February 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • mike ference

      Canon law has about as much credence as a person claiming pig latin as a second language. What other religion needs their own legal system.
      Mike Ference

      February 16, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Crazyhorse

      So a military tribunal is bunk? Not unlike JAG.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • gerald

      My guess is that neither of you have ever read any canon law or know anything about it really. So easy to state opinions when you are in ignorance. But they remain ignorant statements.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
  18. JB

    I don't know what these so called priests are thinking. Do they even know Gods word. It is wrong what you are doing to innocent Children. That's why God's word says It is better to marry than to burn. Where they get this foolishness about not marrying anyone. It is not WRITTEN.

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

      To live a chaste life IS possible.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • gerald

      JB you might want to consider the whole Bible. For instance Matt 19 is in my Bible and in it Peter says to Jesus "Then it is better not to marry" when discussing the topic of divorce. Jesus says "to some this has been given for the sake of the kingdom". Paul in 1 Cor 7 speaks of the higher calling of celibacy in the same passage you refer to. You missed that. Jesus was celibate as was John the Baptist and others in the Old Testament.

      The FACT is that Christianity would not have spread nearly as far had not missionary celibate priests not gone in to the jungles. They would never have brought their families. This has nothing to do with celibacy. It has everything to do with hmsxl who have infiltrated the priesthood. 80+ % of the acts were with post pubescent BOYS.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  19. Buckshutem

    Do a Google search on Father McGarvey from Millville, NJ. The local churches covered for their pedophile priests for decades. I went through school with one of the survivors, who is now a successful psycholoigist who helps other survivors. The Catholic church has some serious reparations comng due to the so-called "faithful."

    February 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  20. wekm

    I have no idea why people attack each other when the issue should be punish the gulity men and treat the victims and help them move on and adjust.

    February 16, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • RegularJoe

      They need regular poop checks on priests sticks!!!!

      February 16, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
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