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. Largo Barbara

    Sweet Jesus is there no end to this?

    February 17, 2011 at 6:13 am |
  2. anon

    I AM SO ANGRY ABOUT THIS. CATHOLIC CHURCH IS THE WORST. EVERYONE A PEDOPHILE. THEY ARE ALL GREEDY AND ROOT OF ALL WORLD PROBLEMS. whoa. hey look I just had the same post as 90% of all the posts on this story. and look, it even has NOTHING to do with the story. well, what do you know...

    February 17, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  3. billy

    What does this prove? wouldn't God save the children? Praise the lord for FINALLY turning in these criminals!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 5:30 am |
  4. angela

    This is why I gave up on the catholic church. How do I know if the priest saying the mass is not a rapist.

    February 17, 2011 at 5:18 am |
    • anon

      there are many trolls here tonight... keep trying 0/10

      February 17, 2011 at 6:09 am |
  5. Whoops!

    God might be an alright guy, I'm not sure. But it's his fans that I can't stand. Popcorn anyone?

    February 17, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  6. douglas

    I think the key thing in this story that no one should miss is that "will investigate as many as 37 priests identified in a grand jury report". I wouldn't give the church any credit for this. The authorities are already investigating them.

    I would think at this point that the church would just gather up all evidence on every person who's done something, and then give it to the police, and say "hey, please help us get rid of these guys".

    February 17, 2011 at 2:26 am |
  7. Eric of Reseda

    My thoughts almost exactly. Revoke tax exempt status!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  8. theresa

    checkout kennylawrencecomedy.com. it says it all. its crude but makes the point. amotw page

    February 17, 2011 at 1:23 am |
  9. MichaeSD

    I coulda swore that said pedophilia,pa...

    February 17, 2011 at 1:19 am |
  10. NM Man

    The Catholic Church will investigate? Why not the police investigate? This is a criminal matter, not a church matter!

    February 17, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  11. Davidloc

    Hey the middle top guy is Johnny Fever from WKRP !!!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  12. Mary

    So I asked a g@y priest friend of mine in Provincetown this past summer, what percentage of priest do you think are g@y? He said 100%. Now regardless if that's a bit high, it does point to a problem. Many of these men repress their feelings and which can become psychosis that get expressed in unhealthy ways, most of the time through p_rn and alc_hol, once in a while a few will have relationships or random s@x with consenting adults, and in rare cases (although the media makes it out to be an epidemic) a few mess with children.

    If the church wants to have a future, they should:

    1. Allow married priest
    2. Allow women priest
    2. Allow g@y priest to be openly g@y

    February 17, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Davidloc

      Father sees his gay priest son after 15 years and he decides to have a beer with him in the back yard. He then asks his son "What can too men possibly do with each other son? "

      He replies:
      "Everything that you have been trying to get mom to do for the past 40 years"

      February 17, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • karl

      laying with a fellow man is against the bible so gays are sinners and cant be priest

      February 17, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Mary

      Well Karl I'm here to tell you better than 50% of priest and 20-30 % of ministers are g@y. Just because they are married doesn't mean they straight.

      February 17, 2011 at 12:40 am |
    • Davidloc

      Thanks Mary,

      And Karl the stuff he was talking about was done standing up not laying down 🙂

      February 17, 2011 at 12:43 am |
    • SDFrankie

      The entire thing is a lie. It's false from end to end. You can't get rid of the sickness by tweaking a little here and there. Religion is a lie. Its a huge organized con game run by people who don't want to work for a living. You think a straight liar is better than a gay liar? It's a fairytale for people afraid of the dark.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:02 am |
    • Reality

      Why did today's pope, prelates, preachers and rabbis, so focused on society's se-xual sins, lose sight of clerical se-xual sins?

      Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

      Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

      Neither is marriage as 50% of those men convicted of pe-dophilia are married.

      Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have s-ex with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy"-

      Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods.

      Neither is being an atheist or pagan since ped-ophilia is present in all walks of life.

      If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pe-dophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).

      February 17, 2011 at 7:40 am |
  13. LifeDust

    As a born Catholic.. I want to round up these priests and send them to their maker. If they are convicted. they should head to the gas chamber for committing such hideous act against innocent children. Their sins cannot be forgiven on Earth. Let them ask for forgivenes when they meet their maker.

    February 17, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Mary

      I hear ya, maybe we can do that with politicians that lead us to war on a lie, and business elite that bankrupt our nation too?

      February 17, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  14. Davidloc

    Maybe now this trash will get another push out the door. I really wish humanity would see religion for what it is. A child asking what happens many years ago was told by an ignorant parent that the great god in the sky would let them live forever and ever if they listen to mommy and daddy who talk directly to god. This in turn was woven into society as it developed. Does this answer sound familiar to all readers here? If religion never came about and the child was never lied to Christopher Columbus would have never discovered America..... He would have landed on the moon. Time to wake up people , there is no sandman and you are worth something NOW because that is all there is. Billions of other DNA combination could have put someone else in your place and you never would have experienced life , show life how much it means to you. you are not all dirty sinners and liars and do not need to repent all the time to make the Daddy in your head love you , phone your real one if he is still alive and ask him again "What will happen to me when I die" , tell me if I was wrong in how I think religion started !!

    February 17, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • theresa

      Cant repeat whats on there but checkout kennylawrencecomedy.com page amotw on menu. it hits the point!

      February 17, 2011 at 1:20 am |
  15. LOL Religion

    Why Wont God Heal Amputees? Google it!

    February 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Magic

      I guess that "God" just likes these guys better:

      The planarians (flat worms) can be cut into 50 pieces and you will end up with 50 smaller worms. If an arm of a starfish is cut off, you will have two starfish after regeneration. Crickets can regenerate their legs.

      Some amphibians (axolotl salamanders) have the capacity to regenerate highly complex structures such as limbs, jaws, tail, spinal cord, or eyes throughout their lives.

      And they don't even pray !

      February 17, 2011 at 12:05 am |
    • Davidloc

      Amputees? God doesn't even give teeth back , hockey players are proof of that. Show me a regrown second tooth and I will show you god. Powerful and all loving my @$$ , try non-existant !!!

      February 17, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • Lanfear

      Haha love it!

      February 17, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Zee

      I did. LOL

      February 17, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  16. SPQR

    Not just the Catholic Church.

    February 16, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  17. John

    Knowing what the Catholic Church is like, I'll bet these are the only 37 "clean" priests. They're probably the ones who tried hardest to push Church officials to clean up their act. Besides, who needs a church "investigation" when the police are better
    at looking into this?

    February 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • drwho

      John you are right. When you suspect a priest is a pedophile, NEVER, EVER, report it to the the Church. CALL THE POLICE!

      February 17, 2011 at 6:06 am |
  18. 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 11:30 pm |
  19. Orange Sunshyne

    The Church should be the safe haven for children in need, yet these pigs take advantage of children.
    I hope they pay the piper for their dirty deeds if proven guilty. It's time for the Vatican to do something about this instead of perpetuating coverups & ignoring the problem.

    February 16, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
  20. BRB San Deigo

    Only 37 ? If I were god – I would take all the catholic church properties and either revoke their tax exempt status or turn them into homeless shelters.

    February 16, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • God is BS!

      BTW, if you turn them into homeless shelters, you basically give them a tax exempt status – who will pay the taxes?

      February 16, 2011 at 11:29 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.