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. Diest

    For those of you who defend the Catholic church ask yourself this. Do you worship God or do you worship or do you worship the Catholic church? There is a MASSIVE difference. I think most worship their church. The Catholic church has NO say on who gets into heaven. If they did you have to assume they have authority over God. Think for yourself people.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  2. lalena

    Where was God?

    March 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  3. Fiona

    I grew up in the Catholic Church, was educated by nuns and priest, and had relatives who were in orders. I remember being creeped out by certain priests (and nuns, too) from an early age. Now I wonder, wasI picking up on clues? I am 99 percent sure my aunt who was a nun was a frustrated lesbian (very inappropriate eyes as I went through puberty). My skin crawls even now when I see nuns and priests.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Cat

    I don't understand this. This is a CONSTANT and RECOCCURING problem. I read about this EVERYWHERE. So why do we do nothing about it? Why do we constantly put our children in harms way? What these men do to the children is absolutely unforgivable but shame on the parents for allowing their children to be in a position where such things can happen when they KNOW it's likely to.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  5. kds562

    I don't understand why they are not being investigated by the Philly police. The church only covers it up.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  6. Echo911

    They all look like pedophiles....I mean really look at them...Especially the last one lol

    March 9, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  7. Observer

    To sum up the position of the Catholic Church, it appears to be:
    1) fight against birth control
    2) trash gays because not having children is "not natural"
    3) tell us that the very MOST RELIGIOUS people are those who do not get married and have children
    4) do not allow your MOST RELIGIOUS people to reproduce. So maybe we have found a common ground!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  8. Little boy


    March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  9. kazz


    March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  10. keiffer

    Someone should fill them in on what "turn the other cheek" actually means

    March 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  11. Angela

    WHY are these men, and the people who protected them, i.e. the archbishops, bishops, cardinals) not arrested! I do NOT understand that! Has the statute of limitations run out? What could possibly be the explanation for this? They should be arrested, shacked, thrown in jail, subjected to the same routine any pedophile or drug dealer or murderer is held to. Then they should have a trial and get the stiffest possible punishment. Rotting in hell is not enough...I am sickened.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Morgan

    The church needs Cardinal Law to sort this all out.... ooops he's hiding in the Vatican and cant come back to the US....

    March 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
  13. doihave2

    1Tim 4:1 Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 2 These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. 3 They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. 4 Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it but receive it with thanks. 5 For we know it is made acceptableb by the word of God and prayer.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Except for brussel sprouts. Those are the product of evil.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • DoubtingThomas

      If God made everything, and everything God created was good – that would mean that God created evil and evil is good. So should those children "receive it with thanks"? Please read more than one book.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  14. George

    This saddens me beyond belief. This behavior is not new. I know this behavior has been going on for centuries, and people need to wake up. The fact that these men have taken advantage of their position and damaged lives makes me sick to my stomach.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  15. Burbank

    Why are these priests in jail? The rest of us would be if accused of something like that. Our justice system is so selective. If you are a priest, politician or celebrity you are exempt from the same rules the rest of us have to follow. I was attacked by a pedophile priest at age 15 in my own home. I hate the Catholic Church! It did me about an ounce of good and a ton of bad! In some ways I am glad that priest tried to molest me, it freed me from an entire childhood of Catholic brainwashing and started to teach me to think for myself! Evil, EVIL religion!

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

    Damn are the all white ??

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

      No, they're albinos.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  17. John

    They should be in Jail for christ sake!!!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
  18. lady T

    they all disgust me they should be given the dealth sentence

    March 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • TJ

      What is the Dealth sentence?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • Echo911

      Na too easy, they should be released into prison and as they walk in the guards should let everyone know why they are there. I'm sure they would suffer for a little while until someone kills them. Most gangs in jail would tear them apart, they hate child abusers.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
  19. Josh

    Abstinence makes the church grow fondlers.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Burbank


      March 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • pinstripe


      March 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • Tom

      Actually you bring up a good point Josh. The bible said nothing at all of that you cannot marry period but what the scriptures say is it's better not to marry UNLESS (paraphrasing now) you can't kept your junk out of some else's trunk. Catholicism is a man made set of rules in addition to but our not a part of the bible. Man made'isms like catholicism lead to problems like this why the true christian church takes the rap because of many counterfeits claiming to be christian.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • TJ

      They do it in synagoges too!

      March 9, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  20. Octobersan

    Wonder how many of these priests were abused by priests. Just sayin'

    March 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Bob

      Are you really just sayin that?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Chris

      Its a good question. Sometimes that does lead to that type of behavior(not always). Either way, this proves that the bible doesn't condemn it....that or they really don't believe in "the myth"

      March 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Debi

      This is disgusting! THEY SHOULD BE ARRESTED IS RIGHT!! What is wrong with our society that people have/are doing this??????? Such a disgrace and especially being priests and clergy and higher beings.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • Randy

      I don't give a damn how many of them were abused...they are perverts and criminals and deserve jail time at the least, if not more severe punishment. They have done more to harm the cause of Christianity than the Spanish Inquisition.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • Russ

      this abuse is just a vicious circle in the priesthood.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:43 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.