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. AMP

    These preists must be treated like a common man and must be prosecuted. Vatican should change their stone age laws and allow priest to marry so they can stop abusing innocent kids. What a Shame? Are we in 21st Century or still living in Stone Age? In stead of sending out merceneries to convert the people from different religion, Vatican should like in its own back yard and fix the problems.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  2. Coopercoop

    Amazing that it took a grand jury for the church to get off it's hypocritical bum & do something about the perverts amongst them. I abhor this "religion" and this "church" for being unwilling to practice what they preach, of sanctimoniously telling others how to live their lives in a walk with God, all while abusing those who trust them the most. Please, instead of celibacy, how about neutering.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  3. Richard

    All organized religion is a sham. It is purely established to drive revenues. How many "Mega-Churches" in your town with world class health club facilities, pools?

    March 9, 2011 at 11:57 am |

    If adherents to the faith were concerned why do they not donate their 10% instead to child and family advocacy groups instead of to a church that enables child molesters. If there is a christian god, he would prefer that the poor and abused be provided love and support rather then those who are the predators of helpless children.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  5. flyonthewall

    I am ashamed to admit that I was brought up Catholic......not ashamed to say that I no longer believe in organized religion of any kind. Creates more problems than anything else.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  6. lady T

    all cathlics have the devil with with in and those preist that u all love so much have done witchcraft on a daily basis without any of u knowing its only in hisstory books

    March 9, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Gog

      If you keep your tinfoil hat on tight, the devil can't hear your thoughts and tell them to the ufo reptile men. Wait for the sign. P.S. Are you the keymaster of GoZur?

      March 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm |

    Now I understand the church's stance which opposes abortion and contraception. If the faithful have no children, who will these fine examples of holiness prey (pray) on?

    March 9, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  8. Looking for Sanity in Religion but can't find it

    Organized religion is a facade for organized crime. Just ask the Gambino Crime Family. They pay the Catholic Cardinal a big percentage every month. This crime family can hardly make it since the own the corrupt Catholic Church so much.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:46 am |
  9. Ants?

    Hang 'em high!

    March 9, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  10. Ants?

    It's the end time for the RCC. If the police are charging the higher ups for the cover ups, it's over. A whole sale house cleaning. It's about time. Pray for forgiveness, 1000 hail marys.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:44 am |
  11. Looking for Sanity in Religion but can't find it

    If we could shut down a church a day in this country we would be so much better off. Better yet close one church in every city every day. Now there is a goal to get those pedophile church criminals out of reach of our children.

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

      We would probably have more abuse on minors if we shut down all churches since we would no longer have a standard moral boundary saying that it is wrong.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • PulTab

      Hey Jorge:

      You need a church to tell you it's wrong to molest children? There is something wrong with your brain!

      March 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  12. citizenUSA

    Yeah, they're on leave in Bangkok.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  13. CJ

    Just say NO to organized religion.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:40 am |
  14. Looking for Sanity in Religion but can't find it

    It pains me to think that people contribute ten per cent or more of their income to pedophiles of the church.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:38 am |
  15. Rabbit One

    All jokes aside, out of pure respect and solidarity for the victims, we need seriously to work together immediately to turn these creeps over to law enforcement. No amnesty.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:37 am |
  16. MASTERdeBator

    The religion of B@tt F@.king.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  17. LANCE

    Truly amazing after reading of the multiple credible
    incidents of pedophile Catholic priests and the cover-ups by their superiors that ANYONE with one rational cell in their brain would still willingly go to any catholic church and continue to support it financially. I guess WC Fields said it best...There's a sucker born every minute.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • pourquoi pas


      March 9, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Jorge

      But what about those that effectively work to stop abuse. Are their efforts useless? In my Diocese, a priest was only accused of misconduct and the Diocese de-frocked him. It probably didn't make it to mainstream news outlets because it's boring to hear that a Diocese in the Catholic Church is being responsible

      March 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Gog

      Actually, WC Fields said "Anyone who hates dogs and small children isn't bad." PT Barnum said there was a fool born every minute.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  18. silentseeker

    This is one of the prime reasons that I do not F with organized religion. I hate to think of how many lives has been destroyed by their actions. I really wish hell did exist so that they could get a pass to go straight thru the gates of hell and burn for eternity.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • MikeT

      It does and they will.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Ravak

      What makes you think it doesn't exist?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Even if there were a Hell it is irrelevant. It is up to people to put a stop to real problems in the real world. An imagined future retribution may feel satisfying, but it accomplishes nothing.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  19. Embaressed to be Catholic

    OH and they want me to give up something for Lent?? Why dont they give up little boys and girls then I will think about it!! disgusting

    March 9, 2011 at 11:33 am |
    • Jorge

      Umm... They should not do that at all.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:50 am |
    • Laughing in the Midwest

      Give up something, save the money and give it to us!

      March 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Gog

      I lent something for Lent. Now I want it back.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
  20. Observer

    Continuous proof that the church's position on celibacy is wrong. Half the time the church argues for people to "be fruitful and multiply" and the other half of the time the church praises the Pope, priests, nuns, etc. for not being fruitful and multiplying.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      You cannot use imposed celibacy as a rationale for explaining child molestation.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:36 am |
    • Time to change

      You are so right! These criminals (the priests) should be jailed. The Catholic church needs to wake up and allow priests and nuns to marry.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Jorge

      But the Church has stated that they believe more people should NOT seek marriage because of the rise of people seeking annulments.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:57 am |
    • Observer

      @Not All Docs Play Golf,

      Obivously,there is no single cause for the child molestation. It is reasonable, however, the see some linkage between prohibited inherent physical drives and the easy accessibility of children as a means to satisfy those drives.

      March 9, 2011 at 11:58 am |
    • Observer


      So the church is advocating shacking up?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
    • Soldierboy35

      Damn right Observer!!!! Celibacy vows are the main reason for the massive amount of urges these preists get from having to listen to the sins all of mankind commit on a daily basis. Stop making these men take these ridiculous vows. There was an article the other day about the Pope allowing a man who was married to a nun to convert to Catholicism for the sole purpose to become a priest and the Pope decreed that he may stay married. So, where does is say that its ok for some and not for others??? (By the way, you can Google the article mentioned above by typing in "German married man a priest".

      But for the record....If a man is suppossed to listen to the sins of the flesh by his followers and then expected to give advice on what to do and how to act and how to request forgiveness...I'm sorry, but I would first want to get the advise from someone who knows what the hell they are talking about. I mean...you're not going to go see a marriage counselor who has never been married, right???

      March 9, 2011 at 12:06 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.