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. Jenna

    Will someone explain why churches don't pay taxes? Do all pedophiles get a break on their taxes or just the churches?

    March 9, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • diredocjr

      Because back when the Pope was the supreme ruler of the lands, it was the Church's job to collect taxes, not pay them...and hence, that continues today with the passing of the "Offering Plate"

      March 9, 2011 at 11:39 am |
  2. Thinkb4Upost


    March 9, 2011 at 11:32 am |
  3. jared

    the catholic church as an organization is a business that has a bottom line. If your going to worship jesus/god, do it and not worship some church-business that makes an appearance of a religion. A relationship with jesus and god is between you and the farther, not a church. And I think thats a big point that everyone forgets.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:30 am |
  4. diredocjr

    Gosh, I'm sure glad I got to spend my Sundays as a youth playing sports and video games instead of going to church. I'll have to tell both my parents how thankful I am that I enjoyed those years. I'm also glad that my parents pushed learning about ACTUAL life and science instead of 2,000 yr old fairy tale garbage. Can I get a Hooray for non-practicing Agnostics everywhere? As soon as we as a people stop believing in this trash and START trying to figure out the REAL mysteries in our universe, perhaps we MAY, as a species, evolve. On a lighter note, just think...if it weren't for religion keeping science at bay for thousands of years, we'd all be traveling the galaxies in Starships by now.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • Gingeet

      Hooray from an Atheist!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • diredocjr

      I'm not saying that I'm Atheist....I'm just saying that life's answers to questions asked will not be found through organized religion. One's spiritual beliefs should be just that...One's own. I'm open to all possibilities in the universe, except the fiction written in religious texts.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Maybe


      Hear, Hear !

      March 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  5. clarke

    Why aren't any of these child abuse people in jail.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The trial hasn't started yet?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  6. Gingeet

    Off with their heads!

    Enough of this bull with protecting them. Any other business that would harbor so many child rapists would be destroyed!

    It's about time our gov't does something about this! Close this entire group down!

    Enough is Enough already!

    March 9, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  7. tim turner

    Wow. And they have so much to say about Baptist people.
    Don't see any of us playing in little boy's butts.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Kirstyloo

      They do, but they don't get that kind of attention. The pastor at my grandparent's church was removed a few years ago as was the elder in our church. The protestant churchs are smaller than the Catholic church so their individual numbers are smaller. In addition, because they are allowed to marry...it isn't as "interesting" to report. Regretfully, it happens in all churches and all faiths as it happens whereever adults can prey on children.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  8. Jeff

    Are these priests giving up molesting boys for Lent?

    March 9, 2011 at 11:23 am |
    • Paulie

      Do you stop molesting children on the holidays you choose to celebrate... I know that is stupid, as stupid as your comment.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:29 am |
  9. Looking for Sanity in Religion but can't find it

    There is no need for church schools. Church teach a myth. The myth in not true. The children are learning lies if they are not learning the honest truth. Church is out for ever. Imagine no religion. No people dying to support a myth. Church leaders have always taken advantage of people. From the beginning the Romans created a system to fool people into believing that they had authority since only they through their Pope could communicate with God. So wrong. So dishonest. It still goes on today.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:22 am |
  10. JAdams1776

    As far as religion goes, I contend that the disgusting behavior of many of their alleged 'holy men' relieves us of any intellectual obligation to take the stuff seriously. No amount of sanctimonious rationalization can make such behavior anything but pathological.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:17 am |
  11. Barb Jones

    Does this sound like a real live prophecy coming true before our eyes??-(Revelation 18:4-8) “4 And I heard another voice out of heaven say: “Get out of her, my people, if YOU do not want to share with her in her sins, and if YOU do not want to receive part of her plagues. 5 For her sins have massed together clear up to heaven, and God has called her acts of injustice to mind. 6 Render to her even as she herself rendered, and do to her twice as much, yes, twice the number of the things she did; in the cup in which she put a mixture put twice as much of the mixture for her. 7 To the extent that she glorified herself and lived in shameless luxury, to that extent give her torment and mourning. For in her heart she keeps saying, ‘I sit a queen, and I am no widow, and I shall never see mourning.’ 8 That is why in one day her plagues will come, death and mourning and famine, and she will be completely burned with fire, because Jehovah God, who judged her, is strong.”
    I think people are waking up.But are they getting out??

    March 9, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • Jeff

      Just sounds like boilerplate psychobabble to me.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:25 am |
    • lenoirlady

      Wow. No they aren't getting out. My Physician is a puffed up Catholic convert who refuses to prescribe birth control to ANY young married woman – ANY. She is disgusting in her atpproval of her "Priest friends" I am told. I hope and pray none of her brood are molested. OH, I forgot – she home schools. Talk about a cop=out???

      March 9, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Observer

      “Get out of her, my people". Actually it's boys. : )

      March 9, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • Gog

      Wow! It's the old prophecy thing! I bet that mixture is one part cough syrup, two parts whiskey, and one part LSD. Sounds TOTALLY convincing to me. Perhaps I should get out of her. Oh, wait, I'm not IN her.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
  12. Roe

    I totally agreen with LEO...he is 100% correct.
    The priests are MEN first, then a priest. They should be exposed by name and photos as well. Once they are exposed to the public, many more will come forward. Everytime I look at a priest, I wonder, is he one of them too.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  13. w

    we should hang them all

    March 9, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • cyndi

      Another question to ask is why are almost all the victims boys? Are all priest Gay?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Larry and Darryl

      Cyndi, you were serious? Pedos are generally gay or straight like the rest of us. The gay ones are into boys, the straight ones into girls. If they are into both they are probably psychopaths who are into causing pain and not really pedos at all.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • CM

      @larry and daryl

      "The gay ones are into boys, the straight ones into girls."

      This is a false, blanket statement. Please research before you make such erroneous comments.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  14. Elizabeth

    Hopefully all priests who have abused children will be brought to justice. Today is Ash Wednesday, and it marks the start of a season of penance and reconciliation for the Catholic Church and most of Christianity. There are inumerable things the Catholic Church is doing in the world to protect vulnerable people and to reconcile with people who have been harmed. It is important to remember that while a small fraction of Catholics have committed crimes against children, the majority are striving daily, especially during Lent, to be more faithful Christians and better people.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:13 am |
  15. Terry - Indiana

    I love Catholics who state that this a minor problem, with very few pedophiles actually serving as priests. Just keep dropping your hard-earned money in the collection plate, because that money is earmarked for the poor people who were molested for years, and the legal defense of these perverts.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:13 am |
    • Paulie

      People that stat that are actually factual, the number of Priests who commit this terrible act to the number of actual Priests there are is a very very small percentage. Im not defending these Priests in anyway, but the facts show that 99% or more of them are not offenders. The percentage of child molesters that are Priests is equivalent to the percentage of the general public that are pedophiles..

      March 9, 2011 at 11:27 am |
    • MarkinFL

      And the percentage of priests that cover-up the problem compared to other professions that cover up pedophilia? Those that have covered it up are guilty as well. Those that knew about it being covered up are guilty. Those that knew there was an ongoing problem and did nothing to try to stop it are guilty.
      I wonder what all that adds up to?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:43 am |
    • Nonimus

      I agree that it is probably a small percentage of priests and in-line with the general public, but that is not very comforting when you are talking about priests, which are supposed/claim to be some sort of moral authority, and the additional insult to this injury is the apparent systemic enabling of abusive priest by covering this up and moving them around. This is not a "minor problem" regardless of the number of priest involved. Another way to look at it is that there may be "very few pedophiles" seving as priests, but due to the size of the Catholic Church and apparently systemic nature of the enablement, there are 'very many victims.'

      March 9, 2011 at 11:48 am |
    • chief

      re paulie.... what a load.... there have been over 10,000 arrested for crimes as in this article,,,,, the church has paid out over 3 billion in out of court settlements..... get your head out of the sand

      March 9, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
  16. hemp22

    It has been reported they are all rehabing at the local YMCA summer camp

    March 9, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  17. Darryl


    March 9, 2011 at 11:12 am |
    • Huh?


      March 9, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • Paulie

      that is... well... It dont make any damn sense..

      March 9, 2011 at 11:22 am |
    • Larry and Darryl

      Sorry, our other brother named Darryl is out of control. We apologize.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
  18. EXPEDIAVictim

    To be a pedophile and get away: first become a priest .

    March 9, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  19. rivirivi

    Each monster who preys on children ruin the lives of at least 2,000 children each monster. Each monster ruins the lifes, intestines, physical well being as well as mental well being to at least 2,000 children! 30 x 2,000= 60,000 kids might have their lives and health ruined by those Catholic Monsters! and this is just about these 30 monsters, multiply by thousands of priests times 2,000 kids each times 500 years! DOWN WITH THE POPE and all the HYPOCRITES of the Catholic-Evil CHurch.- Am talking only about the priests scale up to the Pope- Not talking about the good humans who believe in goodness, who do good things and who love God and help one another regardless of their belief in a fake church as the Pedophile Club Catholic Evil Church. Shame Shame and SHame!

    March 9, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • @rivirivi

      Interesting stats. Care to back them up?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:14 am |
    • lenoirlady

      I could not agree more! Totaly void of morals or characture and each should be sodomized until THEIR intestines are torn and bleeding. Damn them all. PLEASE!!!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Paulie

      Wow, Ive read alot of crazy BS in my time, but this one is top ten...

      March 9, 2011 at 11:21 am |
    • Dolly Dagger

      It's rediculous to throw all members of a group in with the bad ones. Our priest vilafies them openly in church and never tries to make excuses for or cover up for them. Those men would have been pedophiles no matter what their calling in life, just like all the other pedophiles running around. The horror of it is that these ones dare to hide behind a priests robe. I believe you'd find pedophiles in every ministry, but the Catholic priests are the only ones the media find newsworthy.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  20. ZionismSux

    Gee, lucky the almost complete Jewish media control stops the many, many incidents of rabbis doing exactly the same things from ever making national and international news headlines!!

    March 9, 2011 at 11:11 am |
    • Lumn

      troll is troll!

      March 9, 2011 at 11:18 am |
    • Observer

      Sure. And they also control the entire Internet so no one except you knows about it. How did you ever find out? Why in the world did they allow you to blog that information?

      March 9, 2011 at 11:19 am |
    • chief

      i kinda doubt that there have been over 10,000 rabbis arrested for being peds...... www bishopaccountability org

      March 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bubba

      Wow, you sound like a loony to me. Are you sure Zionist Jews aren't hiding under your bed?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
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.