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. Geri


    Aerobicqueen, open your bible and read Jesus words when Peter says "then it is better not to marry" in Matth 19. Jesus says "some are celibate for the sake of the kingdom". Paul also affirms the superiority of celibacy in 1 cor 7. Where is this manifest in your protestant denominations? Pretty much not. It is protestantism that is unbiblical. Jesus prayed that they all be one, not 30,000 (denominations). We are told by Paul that division is of the devil. Ever heard of divide and conquer. Priests choose between celibacy and marriage. They are not forbidden to be married. They make a choice. And hey, guess what Jesus was celibate. Learn your bible hun.

    Gerald. you said above:

    Where is this manifest in your protestant denominations? Pretty much not. It is protestantism that is unbiblical. Jesus prayed that they all be one, not 30,000 (denominations). We are told by Paul that division is of the devil. Ever heard of divide and conquer. Priests choose between celibacy and marriage. They are not forbidden to be married. They make a choice. And hey, guess what Jesus was celibate. Learn your bible hun.

    GERI COMMENT**********
    Gerald, Why are you attacking the protestants to justify this argument over Catholic priests celibacy or marriage issue? You yourself just said that "it is not forbidden to marry, but a choice". Then you ask where this is manfest in protestant denonminations? I ask you, if its a choice, why does it matter?
    You further your attack on protestanism, saying that it is "unbiblical". Gerald, you are wrong. You state Jesus prayed that they all be one, not 30,000 denonminations. You back it up with saying, Paul said "division" is of the devil. (cherry picking scripture again)Ever heard of divide and conquer? You then tell the person you are addressing," to learn thier bible, hun"

    Gerald, I know my bible. Want me to show you where YOUR wrong? According to my bible, (and I am a saved, baptised Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit) it is you who has divided what God has instructed us.
    Let me know if you want to debate this issue. You do want the truth, don't you? Or, do you think you know the truth?

    How it it you condemn your sisters and brothers in Christ?

    I am wating Gerald. Just bring it on, and I will show you where you are failing to discern the word of the Lord.

    March 11, 2011 at 7:23 am |
  2. The Truth

    @geraldh: Your wacked.*******

    First off, it is "you're" not "your." Based on items like this and from reading your other posts, it is pretty clear that I get to deal with yet another person who believes strongly in religion who isn't overly educated.

    Secondly, calling someone "wacked" is VERY Christian of you. Perhaps you should study your Bible some more and then you'd know better.

    *********First of all yes money goes to build parishes and cathedrals so people can go to a place and be taught the faith, which motivates them to give to the organizations that take care of the poor.**********

    LOL... listen to yourself and your justifications. Guess what... those same people can meet out in a public park for free instead of in a 1/4 of a BILLION dollar building and do the same thing. The fact that you are even attempting to rationalize out the expenditures I mentioned earlier are hilarious. And before you get your panties all up in a bunch, no I'm not saying that people should meet in a park (though there is nothing wrong with that), but just that they don't need the uber extrava-gance that they choose freely to expend their money on as that is not what Jesus was even remotely about.

    Here's a newsflash for you: JESUS WAS A CARPENTER. HOW MANY BUILDINGS KNOWN AS CHURCHES DID HE BUILD? Oh, that's right... none. lol

    *******Ever heard of Catholic Charities?********

    Ever heard of child ra-pe?

    ******Sharing and caring hands?*******

    Money laundering for the mafia?

    ******No the local parish doesn't always have money for everyone but they will direct them where to go and there are places.********

    Why don't they have money at the local parish? They take it in don't they? It is because they go and send it off elsewhere instead of in the hands of the people in that particular community. And yes, the Church will offer up other alternatives on many occasions (as I've already said they do help some people), but many of those alternatives are out of money as well and can't help either.

    The item that you seem to be unable to grasp is that while they do help people, they take in a fortune and not nearly a large enough piece of that fortune goes to help the needy. If the Catholic Church brings in say $1M and donates $100K of that to charity (randomly selected numbers) or if a poor person who only has $10 to his name gives $5 of that to someone in need, the person giving the $5 is doing better because he is giving a much bigger piece of his pie to help the needy.

    According to Childfund.org, for under a dollar per day, just $28 per month, you can sponsor a child to have food, safe drinking water, quality education, place to play, job opportunities once they graduate, etc. So now let's do some math.... if the CC didn't build this ridiculously excessive cathedral in Oakland at the 1/4 of a BILLION dollar price tag, that would be enough money to provide for 8,928,571 children for a month or 745,000 children per year. So those children get to suffer so that your pompous self and others like you get to sit inside of some gleaming building pretending to care about the poor?!?!? LOL That is so asinine that it is barely worth commenting on. Great morals indeed!

    I bet if you were one of those children starving to death, you'd hope rich Catholics in a far away land keep building superfluous buildings so that they'd feel good about themselves while you are sitting there rotting away dying of starvation and disease.

    *******By the way the local parishes where I live do give out alot!******

    They do? How do you know that? Have you seen their financial books? How much do they give? Let's be honest, you have no idea of how much or how little they really give out. You are just saying that based on what you have heard or you have surmised it with no actual proof of it. I used to work in the rectory. I used to hand out this money. I've seen it first hand.

    So if given the choice with the money that you donate each year:

    Option A: Go help "Fred, Jane and their two kids" that are homeless get back on their feet by opening up your home for them to stay and providing financial assistance to them.

    Option B: Organize and set up your own food bank to help feed the poor and hungry.

    Option C: Donate the money to a corrupt organization that has ties to the mafia and covers up the ra-pe of children so that they can purchase $1M dollar chairs for their bishops to sit on and 1/4 of a billion dollar buildings.

    Hmmmmmm.... Tough choice there.... Gee... I bet God would "really" want you to choose Option C. The only people that want you to pick Option C are the CC and their brainwashed followers. And the reason why you pick "C" is because it is simply more convenient for you as the other two options actually cause you to "do" rather than to sit around and watch.


    March 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  3. Tey

    The real crime is that these people are caught convicted and STILL permitted to work for the church...hello? Just because your god is supposed to be a forgiving god is no excuse to let these people back into those situationswith your blessings.

    March 10, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  4. William

    The Vatican along with the entire Catholic religion should be doused with gasoline and burned to the ground. They
    should use the Pope as the main ignitor. One day they will stand in front of God and be made accountable.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Angel

      William, perhaps just sold, not burn down, way too valuable

      March 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  5. shelou

    Seriously, all these years/centuries and with all this horror knowingly going on, the only moral fight that the clergy was willing to wage was against women priests? Fishy.

    March 10, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  6. Hugh

    Jesus is a myth, just like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, the chicago Cubs winning a world series etc....

    March 10, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • arfy

      Get educated, Jesus is an historical reality, that's a fact. Do you think Christians died at the hands of the Romans for a myth that was only a few decades old? No, there were eye witnesses still alive.

      March 11, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  7. Lynn

    Repeated stories of this nature continue to make me ashamed I was "born" a Catholic....Unfortunately, I did not have a choice as an infant, but I most certainly have a choice of which religion I wish to follow as an adult and Catholisim is not the one due to the fact that it continues to harbour crimes of which a "lay-person" would be sent to prison....The hypocrisy of it all....

    March 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  8. Hugh

    Body of Christ, now open your mouth little boy

    March 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  9. Hugh

    Religion is a mental illness

    March 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  10. Hugh

    Religion is the root of all evil

    March 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  11. captjet

    Bottom line. Nothing good happens when religion dominates. thankfully critical thinking is on the increase, it will take longer in the USA, but will happen.

    March 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  12. sekond2NONE

    The devil appears as a angel of LIGHT to mislead and deceive!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  13. yabbut

    "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."

    No, they were not charged with "allegedly" assaulting. They were charged with assault.

    March 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
  14. racnem

    Why would anyone give a dime to this evil organization? They can run as many hospital, charities, etc. as they want. It doesn't make up for anything. They are not doing what they were first assigned to do. Preaching and teaching the goods news of God's coming kingdom. They are slated for divine destruction. Get out of her while there's still time.

    March 10, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
  15. a catholic

    @ Eli Everyone seriously needs to stop attacking me. The only beliefs that I share with the church are those found in the bible. I am not into the pedophiles or the politics of it all. Stop holding me responsible for the acts of others, I don't even know these men, just because we belong to the same religious group does not mean that I share their thinking.

    March 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
    • Angel

      why are you taking it personally?? I was a raised a catholic as well and decided early on that organized religion was nonsense. My son wanted to be a altar boy, I told him about the evil this organization has laid on mankind for centuries and that if one of these priests touched him, I would wait from Christmas eve mass and beat the crap out of the priest in the altar and let everyone know why I did it.

      March 10, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  16. Ga Peach

    How could one church have that many pedophiles! How could the church members not suspect!

    March 10, 2011 at 1:25 pm |
    • LIZ

      We do suspect and complain!
      They not only abuse children but women too!
      When I was abused by a priest in Orange County Ca I told the arch diocese. They did nothing!!
      He was promoted from head of Holy Family Cathedral where he abused several women including me. One story was even in the news.
      The church just removed him from the church and promoted him to a mentor ship position between families and the church. This exposes more women and possibly children to his abuse.
      The Catholic has done nothing to protect us!!!!!
      All they do is continue to shuffle around perverts and protect them.
      I am still Catholic but never give money to the church.
      I also have a hard time going to mass. I should have been offered therapy by the church after what happened to me. They did nothing. Now if I can get over my fear and actually attend mass the whole time I am there I am wondering if the priest officiating is a pervert or not.
      I am very afraid for the Catholic Church now that the man who is our Pope is a known and proven pervert protector!!!

      March 11, 2011 at 4:03 am |
    • Something


      Good for you for reporting it. It is horrendous that nothing was done about it. I often wonder, while reading these stories, what I, as a child in the Church, would have done if it had happened to me. My guess is that I would have been much too intimidated, embarrassed and humiliated to tell anyone; and I'll bet a lot of cases have gone unreported for those reasons.

      I wish you well.

      March 11, 2011 at 4:19 am |
    • Fr Time

      If you think this is limited to Catholic churches, think again. The tip of the 'berg. Think for a moment who, as a group, has more access to your children than you do and have this access by state decree. Think. The teacher-student 'berg is growling and creeping into the shipping lanes. Beware and be vigilant.

      March 11, 2011 at 5:48 am |
    • gerald

      It's not just a Catholic problem. In fact the incidents of abuse and percentages are less in the CC than society as a whole where 7% are said to have abused and there are 38 million victims. Our society is sic and sx disordered. Prn, TV Movies, Internet. It all breeds this behavior.

      March 11, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  17. Ga Peach

    This is sad and sickening! These innocent children are taken to the church and told to honor and obey the priests and then these sickos hide behind their robes abuse this power! They are pedophiles and should be sentenced accordingly. I am all for the dealth penalty for any pedophile! Touch my child and I will judge you and carry out the sentence.

    March 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Jim Smith

      I agree with you 100%!!!

      March 11, 2011 at 8:38 am |
    • LO

      I AGREE...100%

      March 11, 2011 at 9:54 am |
  18. Mary

    People's opinions and statements do carry more weight, then when they attack.

    March 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm |
  19. babajiska

    Did jesus not say; "by their fruit you will recognize them? (False religion)

    and that "A rotten tree cannot produce good fruits!

    So guys, if the fruit being produced by the catholic church is rotten, ..

    Please dont eat!!!!

    March 10, 2011 at 10:30 am |

    Pass the collection basket again please. We have another round of settlements to pay out. When will America wake up and tax this cabal of charlatans and pedophiles? "A new age of accountability"? The Catholic church should apply for a charter from NAMBLA! Evolve and put this nonsense religion behind us once and for all. Generations of past and future victims cry out for justice and the destruction of this life denying, female denigrating, child molesting gang of criminals who preach a fairy tale to control the ignorant rubes. EVOLVE!

    March 10, 2011 at 10:18 am |
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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.