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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. Mike

    I blame the PARENTS from this point on!! The church obviously thinks this is just fine, even after paying out over a billion dollars to the folks these PREDATOR PRIESTS have preyed on!! If you continue to feed your children to the church, then at this points the blame is on you!! So from now on don't complain if the priests destroy your childs life!!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      These ones seem much like their 1st century counterparts, the scribes and pharisees. Did jesus not call them children of SATAN? John 8:44

      March 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  2. Halleluljah

    Revelations 18:2-8. Thus with a swift pitch she will be hurled down.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Smite Me

      Too bad that you don't even know the correct name of your science-fiction-horror-fantasy storybook.

      It is Revelation - no 's'.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      to bad I quote more than one scripture

      March 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm |
    • Smite Me

      Too bad that you are not very smart (but what else to expect from one who believes that nightmare/horror fantasy?).

      If you quote several things from Matthew, do you say 'Matthews'?

      March 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  3. Jesse

    Keep your children away from church.
    Religion/spiritualism YES
    Church NO

    March 9, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      Correct. Is not Gods fault these animals act this way.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Johnna

    All the Catholic church will do is to ship these peds off to a third world country where they will be forgotten and be able to exploit the children there with impunity! The pope doesn't give a crap as long as it doesn't tarnish his image and the donations don't dwindle. Wake up people!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  5. Mike S.

    Getting caught is a cardinal sin.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  6. Nancy G.

    All of these priests should be tortured and hung. It's disgusting!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  7. dkb

    I have a hard time understanding how a normal person could continue to associate themselves with the Catholic church. Tradition doesn't save the soul.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  8. Mike S.

    They violated the Pope's 'Don't Get Caught' policy – put 'em on leave, that'll show them.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
  9. YSullivan

    There should be one response and one response to Regali. The laity of his diocese should form a group that will keep him out of the cathedral and refuse him entry to celebrate Mass. They must inform Regali that he is no longer their bishop and they depose him and demand that he retire to a monastery afteer doing public penance kneeling with ashes and sackcloth for 30 days on the steps of his cathedral. Then banish him from any pastoral work and see that he stands trial for any civil crimes he has commited.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  10. jack letizia

    keep defending and protecting pedophiles while we close Catholic schools

    March 9, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  11. RMS

    How can this type of abuse continue to be reported? This has to be a cover-up that is being supported by the highest levels of the Catholic Church. The Pope needs to seriously investigate what is wrong with a religion that fosters this type of behavior. Oh, like maybe mandatory celebacy for starters. This is nothing new and has gone on for centuries. It is time for it to stop.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
  12. BB

    Where are the police??? Why isn't law enforcement doing anything? Is this garbage legal if it happens in the church?? If this abuse happened in a Walmart or amusement park, the place would and SHOULD be on lockdown! Arrest these guys!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Roy

      BB – you nailed it. If these goons were anywhere but behind the pulpit – they would be handcuffed and escorted to jail. The mug shot of the guy in the lower right is just creepy.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • JJ

      There are no police involved because the church has THAT much money tied into our government, our schools, our military, our police. THAT is why! They are that filthy stinking rich! FILTHY STINKING RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICCCCCCCCCCCCHHHHH! Rich Rich Rich!!! Richy Richie Rich RICH RICH RICH!!!! rich rich RICH! fILTHY RICH!!!!!!! I

      March 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  13. Mike

    Exactly why does the 'Church' investigate anything? This is a job for the police and only the police. The Church's long involvement and complicity should mean it has forfeited its right to investigate a bake sale let a lone child abuse.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  14. Kathy

    The Catholic Church is a business, the sooner we realize this the sooner we'll all stop being shocked and appalled at these these MERE MENS actions (not men of God mind you). This should be treated as anyother criminal case.
    CLOSE DOWN THE BUSINESS AND LOCK UP ALL THESE FELONS! The end. NEXT!

    March 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Mike

      Agreed but they are not 'mere men' they are not fit to be called men! They are exactly what they profess to belief lurks in the place they refer to as Hell. I hope for them their myth based system becomes true just for them. Eternity in Hell.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  15. brent

    The Pope needs to come here and deal with this. Too much and too many times. Years of Catholic school, us kids were sent to. With nunns that should crack your hands as fast as a snap, should ya look at 'em wrong, it was tough.
    Where's the disipline? Where's the crackin whip to find out what has happened and toss the rotten apples to the streets? Take back your soft handed apologies and clean your house Mr. Rigali! Phone the Pope and have him come down and be the head of the church he says he is.
    Bring a batch of the nunns that squared off with us without blikin an eye. Sure n' you'll be findin the truth in it all and throw them to the law to face the justice . God can hear them repent behind bars if need be.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  16. Not Funny

    Nothing happens to these guys because the politicians are always trying to land the Christian vote (among others). Considering the church is powerful enought to move these offending priests around when they find out, you'd be a fool to think that same church isn't calling the Mayor/DA/Police chief trying to play "let's make a deal"

    March 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • dkb

      Christian vote and Catholic vote aren't always the same thing.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
  17. gupsphoo

    These pedophile priests prove that God can't possibly exist.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
    • dman

      Either God has given up or losing ground. No one God is better then the other if there is such a God.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  18. katincal

    If these men are found guilty the Catholic church needs to cut all ties with them. No more transferring them around. Criminals need to go to jail. This is why people's faith is tested.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
  19. erich555

    Such filthy pigs. I wont set foot into a Catholic church, ever again. .

    March 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • joe

      Hey Catholics, when you put money in the collection plate, a portion of it goes to pay lawyers to defend pedophiles. You're disgusting.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
    • Dom

      thanks for the really dumb generalization, I'm sure you do the same with people of color too.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
  20. Paul S

    I can't believe this man could very well have a say in the next election of the popel They should be barred from
    the Sistine Chapel. It's a shame the pope doesn't take that ikind of action.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
    • carl schmidt

      To hell with the man with the pointed hat in Rome. All 21 of them are child molesters and should be in jail. What is up with this DA who works for the people ! Not for the masters of cover up and sweep them some other place to do more harm. We have seen this story over and over. Religion is nothing but a way to control the people and make money at the same time. All religions are the reason for most our problems and wars in our world. Wake up world !!! It's make believe, it's a scam, it's for the weak minded who need something to over come the fear of life.. Put the animals down and throw all religion to the curb !

      March 9, 2011 at 1:16 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.