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. William Demuth

    Apparently CNN gets cranky if call Christianity a c#lt. Way to go, lets not offend the feelings of the RAPISTS

    February 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  2. William Demuth

    We are a society of cowards, who have refused to address the suffering of tens of thousands of children over generations of time.

    We instinctively permitted them to portray themselves as both celibate and pious, while the children suffered. We failed to challenge them in any way, in the name of religious freedom and tolerance

    February 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  3. William Demuth

    Crucify these animals on the imaginary altar of their bogus church. Let the children blind them and pierce their sides with swords. Nail them up and let the whole world see their hypocrisy,

    Leave them to rot for three days, with their decay being broadcast to every home in the world, so that every man woman and child can see for themselves that the very essence of their beliefs are evil lies.

    February 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  4. Jeanne

    I am a Catholic and raising my kids Catholic. Also happen to live within the Archdiocese of Phila. Grand Jury report of 2005 put the Church on notice. Great steps were SUPPOSED to have been taken to protect our children. Now comes out another Grand Jury report that the abuses continued and were covered up. Many of us are disgusted with how criminals were protected and victims were ignored. ALL criminals need to be brought to justice. .

    February 18, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • geraldh

      If you read the article the incidents occurred BEFORE 2005 so I wouldn't think changes after 2005 could do much to help these incidents. I have not heard of any recent (post 2005) incidents anywhere (i.e. when they actually occurred, not when reported by the press).

      February 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      This goes way beyond the date of the act. This is also about the fact that many of these men were known offenders and yet were STILL there to this day.

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

      "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"

      They are finally going after those that covered it up as well as those directly involved in the assaults. There should be a LOT of priests shaking in their boots right now.

      February 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  5. al

    all of them molestor i guess

    February 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Ken

      Someone calling a group a cult usually says more about that person than about the group he's talking about.

      February 17, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  6. Muneef

    Yusuf sura 12:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    I do not exculpate myself. Lo! the (human) soul enjoineth unto evil, save that whereon my Lord hath mercy. Lo! my Lord is Forgiving, Merciful. (53).

    An-Naziat sura 79:
    But as for him who feared to stand before his Lord and restrained his soul from lust, (40) Lo! the Garden will be his home. (41).

    Al-Fajr sura 89:
    But ah! thou soul at peace! (27) Return unto thy Lord, content in His good pleasure! (28) Enter thou among My bondmen! (29) Enter thou My Garden! (30).

    Al-Ankaboot sura 29:
    Recite that which hath been inspired in thee of the Scripture, and establish worship. Lo! worship preserveth from lewdness and iniquity, but verily remembrance of Allah is more important. And Allah knoweth what ye do. (45).

    Al-Ankaboot sura 29: (Moderate Terror)
    And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender. (46) In like manner We have revealed unto thee the Scripture, and those unto whom We gave the Scripture aforetime will believe therein; and of these (also) there are some who believe therein. And none deny Our revelations save the disbelievers. (47) And thou (O Muhammad) wast not a reader of any scripture before it, nor didst thou write it with thy right hand, for then might those have doubted, who follow falsehood. (48) But it is clear revelations in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge, and none deny Our revelations save wrong-doers. (49) And they say: Why are not portents sent down upon him from his Lord? Say: Portents are with Allah only, and I am but a plain warner. (50) Is it not enough for them that We have sent down unto thee the Scripture which is read unto them? Lo! herein verily is mercy, and a reminder for folk who believe. (51) Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Allah sufficeth for witness between me and you. He knoweth whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth. And those who believe in vanity and disbelieve in Allah, they it is who are the losers. (52).

    February 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  7. Mary Magdalene

    All priest and nuns world wide should be investigated including the "vicarius Christi" himself!!!!!

    February 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • gerald

      And Mary you should be investigated because people of classes and categories that you belong to have molested children as well.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @gerald: Sorry, the Church knowingly protected child molesters in it's ranks. That is the difference. But hey, you keep defending the child rapists, if it makes you feel better.

      February 18, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • geraldh

      Eric G.,

      You miss my point. Maybe Mary protected her husband. That happens alot. You keep accusing me of defending rapists. I am defending innocent priests and bishops. The other day you said their were some. Now if you say I am defending rapists apparently you think you think there are not any. If we agree with Mary's statements, then to be fair we must investigate all categories of people in which there are child molesters. Mothers may be harboring sons of fathers. It's true. That happens a lot. You see Eric, you are just not very rational about this but it makes you feel oh so good to broad brush and point fingers. That is really all the likes of you are about is having a little fruedian orgazzzm about how good and better than priests and Catholics you are. If we looked in to your life I bet we would find some skeletons in your closet to now wouldn't we.

      February 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @gerald: There are innocent Priests and I do understand your point. You continue to avoid the point that your church claims to be the moral authority to it's followers and has systematically protected pedophiles.

      Your personal attacks on my character not with-standing, I am still interested in how you can justify defending a church that makes claims of absolute moral authority while protecting ped-ophiles.

      I am not talking about other groups, rather specifically about the Catholic Church. Please address this topic without trying to divert attention with unsupported references to statistics or further personal attacks. I say again, there is no moral ground to defend the systematic protection of known ped-ophiles within the Church.

      February 20, 2011 at 9:07 am |
  8. William Demuth

    Seek therapy. You can still be deprogramed.

    If it works for Moonies and other cults, it should work just as well for you.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  9. William Demuth

    Why do we continue to permit people in the throes of the full-blown hallucination that is Christianity get anywhere near children?

    We are so ready to condemn all the other religions of the world for indoctrinating them, yet we turn a blind eye to the truth of the matter?

    Roman Catholicism is a cult by ANY measure of the world, and should be treated as such.

    February 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • gerald

      Your only a small step away from killing and imprisoning Christians. No wonder Atheistic Russia and China have no problem persecuting and murdering Christians. Atheists claim morality and many of them I am sure practice some form of morality. But posts like yours show there are no bounds on their morality.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • Seceding From The USA

      If America invades the Vatican, American Catholics will revolt!

      February 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  10. melissa

    Is it only catholic preists who do this???? Is it required to be a molester to become a catholic preist????

    February 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • gerald

      No actually the incidence of abuse is far higher in the general public. There are 38 million Americans who were abused by family, friends, stranges, atheists, policemen, school teachers, coaches, etc. Protestant pastors, Muslim leaders, Jewish Rabbis do it as well. Only about 6000 at most of the 38 million are by priests. But they get the most attention because of the scandal, rightfully so, and because of the huge amounts of money involved because Catholic Church structure allows a diocese to be sued instead of just a local church as the protestant churches would be.

      February 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
    • chief

      re gerald.... what a total load of bunk...... the general public puts the peds in jail.... the cathcolic church protects them, the catholics like you deflect it.... hell is where they belong ... they are serving "God" while doing this..... gimma a damn break

      February 18, 2011 at 7:04 am |
    • geraldh


      7% of the Population is not in jail for child abuse. 7% of the population by statistics has committed an act of child abuse. 38million abused. Only a small number of those are by priests. Society keeps child abuse quiet. It is no different when a priest commits this heinous act. The kid is threatened not to tell until much later when the statute of limitations is passed. Its not this huge cover up that everyone believes. Yes, there have been a few Bishops who have covered it up. But not as many as people like you who do nothing really abuse except use it as an excuse to well up bigotry against Catholicism would have us believe.

      February 18, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • chief

      its people like you that have caused more kids to have been abused ..... the catholic church has paid out over 3 BILLLION ( thats billion ) in out of court settlements regarding abuse..... there have been 1000's priests arrested for it..... why in hell do people like you divert the facts.... its sickening....

      February 18, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • geraldh

      I presented you with facts. You don't like them and so attack. Bigotry is sickening as well. If the shoe fits..... Your small minded chief.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  11. dajubester

    When the Church quite praying, at the time that it was infiltrated at the highest levels by Luciferians, when liberal theology and moral relativism kicked in, God was separated from government. kicked out of schools and banned from the halls of justice, then the gospel was thrown out of the sanctuary, replaced by rock and roll and want-a-be Johnny Carson David Letterman funny guys, this is what resulted. A message to every individual and every married couple. Quit praying together along with your children, and your demise is assured. This is what has happened, the courts are filled and not once yet did we hear of the remedy. I pray for us all.

    February 17, 2011 at 11:01 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually, the world seems a much better place since those bad old days you love so much. Its the death throes of old time religion that is still making the stink.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  12. ImLook'nUp

    Ever notice how God gave us a brain to think with? Ever notice that justice will ultimately be had in God's court? Ever notice we live in a fallen world? Ever notice the power you have in your little corner of the world??

    These men did a terrible wrong! They will have their day in the courts.....

    February 17, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Yeah, but in the meanwhile, without earthly justice, they will continue to prey on young children. A Heavenly court protects no one and helps no one.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • ImLook'nUp


      Please note that I did write: "They will have their day in the c o u r t s...." as a refrence to the "here" and "later" aspect.

      February 17, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  13. Randalle

    And a hearty "get bent" to all the anti-Catholic bigots this fine morning!

    February 17, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  14. ken

    OK.. time to give up. How many "this is the last straws" must we learn of? The "church" is broken, its children long betrayed. Please go away.

    February 17, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  15. David Johnson

    Ever notice how Tiger Woods sucks now that they took away his women?

    Didn't a woman bring down Samson?


    February 17, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Seceding From The USA

      "Cheers!" Yeah well my ending statement is "F- you!"

      February 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  16. 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 7:42 am |
    • MarkinFL

      uummm, the law does not require divorce for adultery.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  17. Joanne

    Please Lisa, PLEASE....go to your doctor and bring your post. You are suffering from some form of depression that causes you to say the world is too dangerous and the too hard. Please you need someone to take you seriously and to give you the loving care you need. Your "alcoholic" reference is NOT veiled. AA or Al-Anon can give you a safe haven. PLEASE for your son's sake, go to the doctor, confide in a friend and stay of the internet reading these sad stories.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:28 am |
  18. Lisa

    Now that the information age has shown us how widespread is the extreme violence toward children, I wish I had not been so naive as a young woman. First, I would never have had children, the world is too dangerous, and life too hard. Second, since I did have a child, I would never have been so careless with his life as to have him in daycare. I would also, had I known, not allowed any sleepovers (the kids play together all day, they don't need to sleepover too). I would not have worked but would have stayed home with him until he was school age,and then only worked part time. All kinds of would have, should have, could haves for my beautiful boy. Last, had I known that alcoholism is a disease worse than cancer, and that it ran through the family genes thus any baby born had a strong chance of becoming one.....well, that seals the deal but, I bet the parents who also fell for religiosity, not knowing it was an enclave for pedophiles....talk about regrets from hell.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:15 am |
    • David Johnson

      I felt the same as you, Lisa. I didn't want my kids to be in public school, learning Evulooshun and sitting next to kids who aren't Christian. I always worried that if god decided to blast all the nonbelievers, my kids could get hurt by that collateral damage.

      I began home schooling when they were toddlers. Little Mary Sue could recite the entire Old Testament by the time she was 8. All anybody needs is the King Jimmy. I have found answers to every problem in those pages. I just ask the Lord a question, and then with my eyes still closed, I open the bible to a page god picks for me. I can always fit the verses to my question. I think God gives Christians this ability, to see things others don't.

      Billy Bob would stand out in the yard and scream, "Your Goin' to Hell!" at all the passing cars. I was so proud.

      Billy Bob would spend hours lying on his back, staring at the sun, waiting on Jesus. Children have such faith!

      Any rate, I just wanted you to know, you aren't alone.


      February 17, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • gerald


      That post tells alot. You are just as wacky as an atheist as you were as a Christian. Nothing really has changed for you. You had a warped Christianity by the way.

      God bless

      February 17, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • David Johnson


      Can your child recite the bible from memory? Can your child preach a sermon to their toys? I think his toy soldier, actually gave his soul to god.

      My children understand what is important! Not the lessons that kids learn in public school. They won't need math. Science will send them to Hell.

      I expect any day now, Billy Bob will come running in to tell me Jesus is coming in the clouds.

      Oh, what a happy day that will be! All the nonbelievers and believers in false gods, will be screaming as their born again pilots float to Heaven.


      February 17, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Methinks perhaps Lisa is being a wee bit satirical?

      However, her point does not answer the issue of continuing cover-up by the church hierarchy. It is clear that they will only do what they are forced to do and in a way that is least visible to the public or its members.
      There is no longer an excuse to be ignorant or in denial of the problems. Hasn't been for quite some time.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • geraldh

      Worse yet Gary. The little ones didn't sin. Shame on those priests who have done this for sure.

      February 18, 2011 at 10:24 am |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "Worse yet Gary. The little ones didn't sin. Shame on those priests who have done this for sure."

      Your desert war god killed innocent children by the sackful. But I guess you won't say, "Shame on God", now will you?

      Curious in Arizona

      February 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  19. Marto

    This is an example of why some of us wander from organized religion. It doesn't have to be like this.

    February 17, 2011 at 7:03 am |
    • gerald

      So you are saying Jesus was wrong to start an organizatoin. Disorganized religion sins as much or more.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
  20. Rich

    No parent should ever entrust their child's safety to a religious person.

    February 17, 2011 at 6:54 am |
    • David Johnson


      To be fair, religious folk aren't any more likely to hurt children than anyone else.

      It does show, that god either does not care or does not exist.


      February 17, 2011 at 8:17 am |
    • MarkinFL

      However, the Catholic Church is pretty much alone in the modern world when it comes to a large(HUGE) insti.tution actually covering up wide-scale child abuse in its ranks for its own selfish purposes.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:49 am |
    • David Johnson


      Yep, that I can't excuse. I want the church officials who hid and enabled these men to be jailed.


      February 17, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Mike Malone

      Well, don't send them to public school either because the rate of abuse in public schools is about 7X parochial schools.

      February 17, 2011 at 9:15 am |
    • A~voice~crying~out

      To be fair, religious folk aren't any more likely to hurt children than anyone else.

      It does show, that god either does not care or does not exist.

      Cheers! ( Or perhaps that these religions involved in these acts are False religions.)

      February 17, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • gerald

      People keep throwing around this "fact' that religious people do these sins more. Where is the data between religious people and atheists? I haven't seen any. And where is the data between people who are living their faith and those who are not. I know there was a significant amount of time in my life when I was not. My sins and amount of sinning were much greater than they are today. Of course I suppose you don't really believe in sin.

      February 17, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Only believers can sin. The rest of us can have fun. If you are doing no one else harm then I won't try to stand in your way. Anything beyond the "golden rule" is redundant.

      Oh yeah, that is one of the good things the bible borrowed from ancient history.

      February 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • gerald

      Nonsense. God wrote his laws on all men's hearts. Rom 2:14-16.

      February 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Gary

      And Jesus said "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck." Matthew 18:6

      February 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "Or perhaps that these religions involved in these acts are False religions."

      All religions are false. All gods are no more real than Santa Claus.


      February 19, 2011 at 4:05 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.