21 priests put on leave after review of suspected child sexual abuse
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.
March 8th, 2011
04:12 PM ET

21 priests put on leave after review of suspected child sexual abuse

By the CNN Wire Staff

Philadelphia (CNN) - Twenty-one priests have been placed on administrative leave following a review of suspected child sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, according to a statement from the city's archbishop.

The church investigated 37 priests identified in a grand jury report as remaining in "active ministry with credible allegations of child sexual abuse," according to Cardinal Justin Rigali.

In addition to the 21 announced Tuesday, three other priests have already been placed on administrative leave after the report was released in February, Rigali said.

Five others would have been subject to administrative leave, he added, but one was already on leave and two others are considered "incapacitated" and have not been in active ministry. Two other priests no longer serve in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, but the church has "notified the superiors of their religious orders and the bishops of the dioceses where they are residing," he said.

"I want to be clear: These administrative leaves are interim measures," Rigali said in a written statement. "They are not in any way final determinations or judgments."

The cardinal added that he wished "to express again my sorrow for the sexual abuse of minors committed by any members of the church, especially clergy."

"I am truly sorry for the harm done to the victims of sexual abuse, as well as to the members of our community who suffer as a result of this great evil and crime," he said.

In February, 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, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said at a press conference in February.

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 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.

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 remained in ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse, according to Williams.

Williams on Tuesday said Rigali's actions "are as commendable as they are unprecedented."

"Going forward, in cases involving allegations of abuse by clergy, my office and the Philadelphia police will investigate, and where appropriate we will charge and prosecute. I intend to use the resources of this office to the greatest extent possible to protect the children of Philadelphia," Williams said in a statement.

"In those cases where allegations are not prosecutable because of the statute of limitations or some other reason, we encourage the Archdiocese to take the necessary and proper steps to protect the children for whom they are responsible, as they have done here."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church

soundoff (896 Responses)
  1. Not a Catholic

    Religion is garbage. The Catholic Church is corrupt. I am Christian and proud to be, however will not be known as any name tag made by man. Lent, ash wednesday is just stupid rules and is not your ticket into heaven. Think about it...

    March 9, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • Sean

      "however will not be known as any name tag made by man"

      "I am Christian"

      You sir, are as self contradicting as the book you base your beliefs on.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:45 am |
  2. jwk1

    How many of you have been actually abused by Catholic priests? Or do you know someone who has been abused by a member of Catholic clergy?

    March 9, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  3. Darlene Buckingham

    The Church is the perfect place for pedophiles to be as there are plenty of young innocent children that are taught to obey authority and the Catholic Church has allowed and gone as far as to protect pedophiles. The Catholic Church and the Pope have to go. They have betrayed their sacred trust and harmed children. The Church has failed us and we must no longer support them and allow them to continue to harm us and our children.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:09 am |
  4. Chris

    My Roman Catholic brother has stopped giving to the church for years because the money is going to lawyers and victims of this abuse. The Roman Catholic Church is not inspired or anointed; it is a power base seeking to protect itself. True followers of Jesus Christ know they do not need some self proclaimed priests or prophets for fellowship with God.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  5. Ballab

    Now I am Catholic. Believe me it is very tough to have faith when you here things like this. However, this happens everywhere in every religion. Baptist, non-denominatinal, protestant, methodist, chruch of christ. It's like hiring someone for a powerful position. You really don't know if you can trust that person or not. Example: "POLOTICS" Also I believe the Catholics get way more media exposure than any other religion. Unfortuanatley it makes the good Catholic priest look bad. I went to a Catholic school and never had a notion of being abused at all. My experience there was great and our priest was a good humble man. It is just unfortuanate that people pursue a powerful position and take advantage of it. Who knows! My faith isn't exactly the greates and this doesn't help. Religion in general is being exploited and going overboard in all aspects. i don't even know what to believe anymore.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Sean

      "Baptist, non-denominatinal, protestant, methodist, chruch of christ"

      These are all forms of the SAME religion bud.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  6. Truth

    And yet they say that celibacy doesn't lead to this. Is that because they cover so much up and the statistics are skewed because of it? When will the Catholics learn that blindly accepting and following something because of a book and male interpretation of it will get you no where. Why are fewer men becoming priests and more becoming deacons? Perhaps because the child molesters are realizing they have to find their place elsewhere and those who truly care about the church have families and get married!

    March 9, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  7. Kemuel

    You would think it's a stereotype when you hear about it, but catholic priest are freaks by nature.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:05 am |
  8. Satan

    AHHHHHH ahhahahahha. It's great to be an atheist. We are always right.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Sean


      March 9, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  9. JPX

    What do the religious right think when they here these endless stories about priest molestation? How disgusting. I wouldn't let my kid within 200 yards of a priest. I question any man who chooses to spend a lot of time with children (see also cub scout masters).

    March 9, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • BigMamma

      Me too! These disgusting pedophiles deliberately place themselves in professions and situations where they have constant access to children in an authoritative manner. All parents should question and be leery of these people!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  10. Mario

    It makes me sick and angry to hear a Catholic woman complain that this harms the Catholic Church, while showing total disregard for any children that were harmed (I witnessed this not too long ago). How many more children have to be harmed before every last dangerous member of the Catholic Church is removed?

    March 9, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  11. nurse


    March 9, 2011 at 11:02 am |
  12. GynoAmerican

    If one more person says: "Let me be clear..." or "I want to be clear..." I am going to puke. And consider it a wish that they be gone.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  13. Smith

    This makes me sick.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  14. golf9883

    Throw on a Preist outfit and it allows you to do as you please cause it will all be covered up in the end. Its time parents make the decision to protect there children and keep there kids out of the church until they are of a age to be able to protect thereselfs and not be mind altered by a cult.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:58 am |
  15. Joyce

    It sickens me to see the church denying the rights of gay men and women while through their actions, they have condoned the very same bias. Let all priests marry, straight and gay and put pedophiles in jail for the criminals they are. The Catholic Church has allowed the church to become more important than its people.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:57 am |
    • BigMamma


      March 9, 2011 at 11:08 am |
  16. anthony

    How could anyone have faith in the Catholic Church??? these man are supposed to be living their lives as Jesus did by following his example. They are supposed to live to a higher standard then the rest of the church and yet they are the ones commiting these disgiusting acts on children. they are the ones that the bible calls "wolves in sheeps skin". anyone who stays a member of the catholic church has blind faith and is following satan and not God. If this organization were really of God do you think he would allow this to happen? of course not! you can see its fruits (gorss sin)

    March 9, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • goodbye

      I never could commit myself to believe in people who sin worse than me.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Al Tino

      Jesus told us this would happen; "weeds" would grow amongst the righteous in His Church. Read Matthew 13:24-30.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:10 am |
    • Rush

      To be a christian is to be a "pedophile" – That is the message these priest's have been sperading to the world.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  17. mightyfudge

    I wonder what they are giving up for Lent? "Molesting children" maybe?

    March 9, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  18. golf9883

    Its sad how kids are treated. Im starting to wonerder if the Catholic Religion is really just that or is it just somewhere that money is brought in by the billions and a place for children to be molisted. I don't think God would allow this if this was a religon that God was in.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Sean

      1. The “Catholic Religion” is just another form of Christianity. Are you suggesting there is no g0d in Christianity?

      2. Are you suggesting g0d would allow this as long as it’s not he's religion?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:15 am |
  19. Brickell Princess

    This is insane!

    March 9, 2011 at 10:55 am |
  20. r

    Jesus Christ!

    March 9, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • J.C.

      Don't blame me!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:15 am |
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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.