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. Jhon Fitzgerald

    If you wish to be a priest you should be castrated first.

    March 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Hooser Catholic


      March 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  2. Recovering Republican

    As another Catholic who refuses to subject his children to sick whims of the Catholic Mob ("Church" just does not fit.), I suggest other Catholics do the same. God will not judge you for saving your children, but He will judge you for smugly looking the other way as the children you are supposed to protect are abused. This abuse is not what He means by "Suffer the Children."
    Time to do the right thing, and not the Catholic thing. God will understand.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  3. Ritti

    How can anyone believe in a God who is supposed to put love above all else and yet ALLOWS this to happen within a supposedly sacred place? There is no excuse and absolutely no explanation as to why, if God is what the Catholic (Christian, Lutheran, etc) religion teaches us he is, he would let this horrible abuse take place. And take place over and over again.

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    March 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • paxman2

      God is not omnipotent if that includes being able to do something which is logically impossible. Like the old question, can God make a rock so heavy that even He can’t lift it. So He can’t make us love Him, because love by its very nature must be free.

      So then no, he’s not able to prevent evil, again because love must be free, then people can choose to be evil. And it follows then that he is not both. And the final question, He would be willing but not able because of freedom, but we still call him God because He created the universe and out of great love gave us the freedom to choose to love or not.
      I'll keep praying for you. Pax.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm |
    • Magic


      "He can’t make us love Him, because love by its very nature must be free."

      If 'He' is All-Knowing and All-Powerful and All-Just, as is claimed, he would be quite able to make his existence an indisputable fact. Instead, we are presented this little maze game of following an ambiguous trail of breadcrumbs (often right off a cliff), with personal appearances and dialog with a few special pet rats, knowing beforehand which ones will survive.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Ritti

      Paxman2. There is no doubt that what these so called Priests have done is nothing short of evil, and that these crimes against children were committed by their own free-will. Under this pretence your argument holds ground. However there is a great deal of evil and pain in the world not caused by the actions of evil men and their freedom to do what they chose. Evil; is a toddler with leukemia or an earthquake that wipes out half of a cities God fearing population only to leave the survivors to battle cholera and starvation. There is no freedom of choice for these people. There is also no explanation as to why God would choose to destroy on person’s life of home rather than another’s. Much of this can however be explained through scientific knowledge of the world we live in, genetics, and history. I like your argument though and it is well spoken. I just think that it is naive to think that anyone or any religion has all the answers.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      Is this what God intended? free will do the crime pay the fine also know as JUSTICE
      Is our world now under His control? 1 John 5:19
      You bash God when you know little about Him. Funny bash, bash, bash. We will see if you have a hope for something beyond this miserable life when you are on your death bead and you need confort, and the hope for something better. God will hold all accountable for the things they say and do!!! 🙂
      The TRUE faith -not catholic- is not popular, as in Jesus's day. The like their first century counterparts are not perfict, but they are united from 1 nation to another. They do not kill-murder-their fellow man and they fulfill Jesus command to teach others bible truth. Matthew 28:19,20. Mt 24:14.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Observer


      A recent poll/test showed that the average atheist and average agnostic know more about the Bible than the average Christian.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Ritti

      Hallelujah. You speak of Justice as if the children who have been abused will ever see it let alone feel justified. No punishment brought upon these “holy men of God” will ever take away the fear and pain they have inflicted on innocent children. I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar, however I have studied the Bible and was raised Christian. There are simply too many gaps in all religion to accept. Also, scripture is really not a valid argument when the argument is over the validity of the existence of God. If God does not exist, scripture is simply stories past down through the ages similar to the game telephone only over hundreds of years and with much less accuracy. And who said that this life was miserable? This life is beautiful, or can be at least. I can see why you hold on to religion; it gives you hope of a better life than your current and miserable existence.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Abm

      The place is by no means "sacred". Rev 18:4 calls any religion that is spreading false teachings and not doing God's will, Babalon the Great. And warns people to get out of her. If people do not heed that warning, how can you blame God?

      March 9, 2011 at 6:48 pm |

    I would rather my kid go to school in the hood of Philly than send her or him to a Philly Catholic School. If it were me, I would immediately remove my child. Now that we know whats going on, its up to the parents to protect their children. Get them outta there! Better to be safe than sorry- this is not something to make excuses for. If you are a parent of a child who is attending one of these schools right now- you're just as bad as those sick priests. How can you sleep at night!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  5. Jeff Koerner

    I was adding up those numbers, 31/37 either were placed on administrative leave or would have if they were still active... That just shows how incriminating the reports have been since they NOW have to take action... Should be interesting to see what else comes to light since churches are finally being policed as they should.

    In any job where you come in contact with children it is required that employees have clearances; FBI, Child Abuse and State Police... Why don't we come up with a law that states all Priests must these clearances up to date and on file, since they ARE around children????

    March 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  6. TerryS

    You very seldom hear of this activty in the other churches, overwelmingly catholic. It's a country club for perverts. But the tide of "It's ok to be gay, just adds fuel to this inferno that that I hope they all burn in!!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  7. Tom

    I am ashamed to say I am a Catholic. Prosecute them to the fullest – cut their balls off – and send them to jail.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      Much results from this one. Structure of life today has much to do with it. But they cannot hide from THE TRUE GOD forever. He has had enough. He has called her acts of injustice to mind. She will be forever burned with fire, or completely done away with. Rev. 18:20

      March 9, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • chief

      in another article they say that the grand jury felt there were 30 more that were guilty.... but didnt have enough to go after them...

      March 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Abm

      You don't have to stay a Catholic.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • gerald

      Chief, Nowhere does it say they were guilty. Not everyone accused is guilty.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:09 pm |
  8. A REAL American

    At what point will the world realize that pedophilia is a basic secret doctrine of Catholicism?

    Even the current Pope spent much of his career in the Vatican PROTECTING pedophiles, and for this they elected him Pope!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Leslie


      March 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  9. ART

    Catholics = hypocrites, they are anti gay unless you become a priest I guess.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm |
    • Halleluljah


      March 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  10. Huskies4u2

    "on leave" how about "in jail"!

    If a crime is committed,criminals go to jail. Period.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      I AGREE

      These men though must answer to a higher justice as well. Rev. 18:4

      March 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  11. Gratian

    Remember, the Church is poised to canonize John Paul II who failed to remove bishops involved in the coverup and transfer of priests. Benedict is operating in the same way. Look at NPR and how quickly the director resigned today! Why can't we have the same integrity and acceptance of responsibility in the Catholic Church? Folks, it's an old boy's club and the corruuption continues!! Keep giving, you fools!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • chief

      these bunch of dress wearing men are going to make a determination that a pope created a miricle after he was dead... and then on top of that, they cant make up another miricle.... HA ... this isnt Christianinty.... its a club

      March 9, 2011 at 2:08 pm |

    Goes to show just how corrupt the Catholic Church is. I'm not saying every denomination is perfect, but come on people.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
  13. irene

    Why do churches continue to get services tax free? This is nothing more than a social club for pedophiles. Tax the churches. It will help balance the budget!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • Leslie

      Well said!!!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • gerald

      How many atheist and non-religous philanthropists are there out there to take up the slack when collections go down. You have no clue how much of the money given to Churches goes to feed, clothe, shelter, and care for the poor. Not to mention educate. You say well the government will do it with the taxes they collect. That's nice but the government uses about 70% of it in admin costs. Churches use less than 10% of it for any overhead.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Observer

      Tens of millions of dollars collected from often poor people go to pay off lawsuits from the Church employees.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm |
    • chief

      re gerald... i guess since the catholic church does some good it discounts the abuse of tens of thousands of kids over the years.... i kinda think the harboring of peds is mutually exclusive to feeding the poor....

      March 9, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Halleluljah


      Any so called good this one can possibly do is not good enough to justify her existence! She has promoted the slaughtering of countless humans, as well as taught lies about God and removed His name from the book He wrote. She will suffer, yes twice as much, for Jehovah who judged her is strong!!!!!!! Rev. 18:6

      March 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  14. newhopebo

    ..how many of these poor men will contemplate hanging themselves now?? All of them, we hope!!!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Beau


      March 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  15. Tom

    This just makes me wonder what is being covered up by all the other religions we have in this country! It is not just a Catholic issue, its true in the southern Baptists as well. I live in the heart of them and I know for a fact (I worked for them for 8 years at their insurance company) and I have heard the same thing happen in their ranks as well! It is just controlled better here and not allowed to get out to the public!

    March 9, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • gerald

      Yep I have heard of the insurance claims among protestants as well. The big money is in lawsuits because of Catholic Church structure. That is why it gets more attention in the news.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • chief

      its over 3 BILLION the cath0olic church has paid out in the states as of 2-3 years ago..... keep trying,... blame everyone else, fix your damn selves

      March 9, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Observer

      If Chief's figure is correct, then the Catholic Church had collected $3 billion from people who gave that money to support the Church and it was spent on their own scandals. What a complete disgusting disgrace! The Catholic Church is very popular in countries that are often poor. It's amazing to think about the sacrifices these church members made and it's almost as amazing to think that anyone would stick up for the church.

      March 9, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • chief

      re observer ......
      wiki catholic sx abuse cases .... then for just the US look up " US Settlements, bankruptcies and closures"

      March 9, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  16. Mike Lightbody

    Way to go Catholics!!! Keep believing that a man trying to stay celebate is something decreed by God!!! Use your head, and realize it's not natural, nor is it something that God wanted.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |

      Well said Mike.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
    • TerryS

      Amen brother, I wonder how many of these waste of humanity ARE actually celebate? You are absolutely right about it's not natural......100% common sense 100%

      March 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • Muirwoods

      Agreed, celibacy was declared/enacted by a Pope for reasons to be argued forever I'm sure. Also the state of being LGB is not a choice, it is naturally occurring ( they are born that way). God loves them too, and so should we.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:49 pm |
  17. Tab

    Why priests? Why. Just why.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • gerald

      Do you mean why priests and not other groups? That would be a big misconception as FAR MORE kids have been molested by teachers, coaches, etc. The priesthood became a haven for hmsxls and this is the biggest reason why. These are in general hmsxl acts.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      It's their nature. They do god. Their god is SATAN. And they wish to do the desires of this one. John 8:44.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      They do serve. 🙂

      March 9, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • chief

      re gerald..... to blame peds on hmosxals is taking a huge leap into stupidity

      March 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  18. Halleluljah

    Revelations 17:4-6. Describes this one well.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  19. Don

    The Catholic Church needs to ditch the vow of celibacy because all it does is attract oxygen thieves like these disgusting and vile tards.

    March 9, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • IDecidedthereisaGod

      It's not about celibacy....its about the predliction of pedophiles who will become teachers, janitors, boyscout leaders, coaches, rabbis, ministers, doctors, dentists to have access to children. Among the groups I have just listed, which one should get rid of celebacy (note I did not list catholic priests....) ?

      March 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm |
    • 2711jbm

      It IS about celebacy! It's an unnatural way of life and this is the consequence of asking men to live an unnatural existence.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
    • gerald

      Funny, everbody says this is about celibacy. Funny thing is the CC has allowed altar girls for years and the problem is small in comparison to the molestation of boys. Just more evidence that this is not about celibacy but about hmsxulity.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • gerald

      I should add the CC is now screening out hmsxls from the priesthood and reports are going down. Only 6 in 2009.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
    • Observer

      Of course it's about celibacy. We are talking about the supposed ultimate in religious people and obviously they have failed under their system. Time to look at the system. More so than ANY other profession, these are supposed to be the most moral people.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Observer


      What is the number of altar girls vs. altar boys? Get serious. It's about child molesting. Advocate that all altar boys be replaced with altar girls and tell me that wouldn't be a bombshell.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Halleluljah

      Men lying with men is unnatural!!!!!!!!! Romans 1:27

      March 9, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
    • Observer


      The Bible also says that people who get divorced and remarry are committing the Ten Commandment sin of adultery, but don't expect to see any Chistians trashing their fellow Christians when it's so much more fun for them to pick on gays, who are NOT mentioned in the 10 commandments.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • The Bobinator

      > Funny, everbody says this is about celibacy. Funny thing is the CC has allowed altar girls for years and the problem is small in comparison to the molestation of boys. Just more evidence that this is not about celibacy but about hmsxulity.

      Only if you're a moron and don't realize there are more alter boys vs. alter girls. Whoops?

      March 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • chief

      re gerald.... your comments on hmosxals in relation to ped priests is very telling on your idiotic thought process...... peds are peds.... some peds are straight, some arent......

      March 9, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Halleluljah


      I'm happy for you YOUR god accepts this. The Almighty God who inspired the writing of the BIBLE condems this practice.

      1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is transparently clear about this matter.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  20. Meh

    and yet folks still keep sending their kids in to be a meal to some predator.
    Wake the hell up people. You can have faith without church or even believing in any of these so called "icons".

    March 9, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • gerald

      Ya wake up people. Stop sending your kids to public schools and letting them play sports also. More kids are abused by these professions than even priests.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • Leslie

      I couldn't agree with you more!! Religion=Hypocrites!!

      March 9, 2011 at 1:39 pm |
    • RakeBackWolf.com


      March 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • RakeBackWolf.com


      March 9, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • chief

      re gerald.... keep talking your making my point even better .... 10,000 priests? google bishop accountability.... there is a db with their crime, location and conviction.... im sure your aware of it, trying to stay off of it is more like it.,..

      March 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
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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.