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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)
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  5. chris

    Why arent these people being arrested? Many are getting away. Separation of church and state does not apply here.

    March 20, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  6. IBINUBU

    Msgr Lynn is a scapegoat. He was made to lie and cover these crimes by Rigali. If you want to educate yourself on this issue, please read the grand juries reports form 2011 and from 2005. Both are available on the internet. Nothing has changed. The same pedophiles named in 2005 were still operating in 2011. 39 currently active priests were named in 2005 as having credible accusations. The priests were relocated and the parishoners were not informed that a pedophile was in their midsts. Bevilaqua said the same thing in 2005 that he is saying now. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. If you send your children to Cathiloc School knowing this, you are asguilty as they are. You cannot protect your children by knowingly sending them into the arms of predators.

    March 17, 2011 at 10:45 pm |
  7. Vince

    I would like to know where these priests work... I wouldn't mind getting a free session with them...

    IT'S FREE ISN'T IT?

    March 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
  8. Vince

    Nooo... don't give up relgion... it's okay for these priests to modest your kids... it's the catholic ways...

    March 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      A Monsignor told me when I worked at a Catholic church that its the children's fault...these children seduced and molested all these accused priests....and then lied. Un huh...if you believe that, I've got some swamp land in Florida you can buy cheap too. I really don't understand the point of believing in an imaginary god, or the narcissistic delusion that one becomes morally superior by belief in a divine thingy. Anyone want to tell me how that works?

      March 20, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  9. Boris Hadenuf

    I can't understand why anyone is a Catholic anymore, what with the Pope living like the richest king on earth - Vatican stuffed with treasure one of which equals the economy of many small countries per year (versus how Jesus lived) - and these disgusting sickos being found all over the place.

    I, like others here, left organized religion behind long ago. I consider myself a Christian, and try to behave as such. But year after year, the stunning hypocrisy of the organized religious set just gets worse and worse.

    March 12, 2011 at 4:22 am |
  10. Darlene

    CatholicMom

    1st Epistle Of Saint Paul To The Corinthians chapter 7

    [32] But I would have you to be without solicitude. He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. [33] But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided. [34] And the unmarried woman and the virgin thinketh on the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she that is married thinketh on the things of the world, how she may please her husband. [35] And this I speak for your profit: not to cast a snare upon you; but for that which is decent, and which may give you power to attend upon the Lord, without impediment.

    Read this:

    The words of Christ quoted by Cardinal Gibbons from Matthew 19:12, show that celibacy is a matter of one's voluntary choice and desire and NOT of compulsion. Those whom Christ referred to were people who "made themselves eunuchs" for the kingdom of heaven's sake. They were not compelled by law to be eunuchs. And Jesus added: "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." This shows that it is optional.
    When St. Paul stated that the unmarried cared for the things of the Lord, (1st Corinthians 7:32, 33) he was not enacting a law in favour of celibacy as against the marriage of priests. In fact, his exhortation was not exclusively to priests but to all disciples irrespective of class who were having the faith and willingness to serve the Lord with such devotion. He made this quite clear in 1st Corinthians 7:29-38. And he himself also said: "It is better to marry than to be burnt." (1st Corinthians 7:9; Douay Version) But why then has the Roman Catholic Church bluntly refused to allow those of its priests who have been burning – and crying aloud for it – to marry? No excuse for a flagrant violation of the apostle's spirit-directed injunction can be justified.

    March 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  11. gerald

    All you protestants who love to point fingers and talk about the conspiracy I WANT YOU TO READ THIS ARTICLE. 3500 insuracne claims per year primarily by protestant Churches for child sxl abuse. Now how many of these make the news?
    Waiting.....SILENCE.....

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0405/p01s01-ussc.html

    March 11, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      Do you really think there is a hair's difference in either Islam, Judaism, Christianity or Catholicism...that demands "belief" in an imaginary god.....or be sent to hell?

      Do you really, really think that believing in an imaginary god magically makes one born again into a morally and ethically superior human being?

      Really? How does that work? How do you change one's genetics, brain cells, the sum of one's experiences from birth on....and magically become morally and ethically superior because you believe in a god.

      This is really going to upset you, but Atheists commit less crimes, have less divorces, are more highly educated, have higher IQs...are more successfully employed, have less mental illness and do more good for the world as Scientists than all the praying and preachers and priests who have ever lived on this planet. Now what? Well...many cultures and individuals are figuring out that religion of any kind does not make anyone morally superior...this comes from the reality of knowing the consequences of one's action, and that one is responsible for one's behavior...and that there is NO easy, magically divine escape clause.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  12. Groban

    This just shows how these priests became pharisees. At some point, their servanthood, became more about power and influence than their love for God.

    March 11, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      But they profess they "love god," they state clearly that loving and fearing god has made them and everyone who believes morally and ethically superior. They read the scriptures, they spend years in obedience to god and the church...and has it made a single bit of difference among the 20,000 priests that this current pope hid all over the world to keep them from being prosecuted? Excuse me...but its glaringly obvious, that believing in imaginary gods, prayer to nonexistent divine thingies...does not make anyone moral or good...that comes from one's genetics, family, an education, and a study of reality and the consequences of one's actions. What religion preaches...is that if one "believes in god" and asks for forgiveness...then one can escape the consequences of one's actions. Forgive them not Father, because they absolutely Know what they are doing when they molest children. Personally, I wish there was a hell...but, I've asked a dozen preachers and priests where hell is and none can tell me, they don't know the address....its just an empty threat to force and manipulate human beings into believing in myths and religious magic.

      March 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  13. chieatfetus

    this is WHY i don't go to church: why should i stand in front of a guy that molests little kids when i can just stay at home, pray in my head, and be just as heard? (non-practicing catholic)

    March 11, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  14. gottagetgoin

    Words can't describe the betrayal and devastation this church has given the world. Sick sick sick.

    March 11, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  15. HereIAM

    Perhaps people should stop affiliateing established religious jargon with God, Your biases towards organized religion have blinded you to the Divine affirmation. No man could ever represent the Supreme being or establish any organization that could represent Him among the world. Some may believe that these thing have happened, but the reality is they are just false hopes of foolish people who want to be accepted and who want to fit into something more than the life that they have been living. So stop assigning God all the things that men have attributed to Him. He has kept his way from the start. He didn't cause any disasters, didn't bring the Isrealis out of bondage, didn't impregnate Mary with his seed. God wouldn't be anything even remotely close to the being that people have tried to portray him as. I doubt if our limited imaginations could even begin to make a proper model of one such as that. Let alone all the BS that accrues at his name.

    March 11, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • Steve

      You're the one that's biased. Understanding that religion is a force of evil does not prove disbelieve in a divine being or any form of enlightenment. Should you have a dime left if you ever escape the clutches of the church, please buy a clue.

      March 12, 2011 at 1:11 am |
  16. Dani

    Yep, "God" has these 5 idiots representing him/her/it.

    March 11, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Steve

      Oh, they're not idiots. They're dirty, lying, thieving, arrogant little child rapists who joined the filthy catholic church knowing full well the church is complicit and would protect them. C'mon you ridiculous catholics, dig deep and pay for "Father's" crimes.

      March 12, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  17. victoria

    is praying going to help. what is pray....would todd beamer be alive. mayve if we pray all the troops will come home. a big f*** you to those who knew about the abuse and did not say anything. how ignorant can you be. the catholics did not help the jews during the holocaust!!!

    March 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
  18. victoria

    justice is served!!!! the religion is a joke

    March 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm |
    • Steve

      Hallelujah Sister!

      March 12, 2011 at 1:01 am |
  19. Vasmikey

    Keep in mind that only in this country is it mandatory to remove a person from the priesthood when such accusations are verified. It would seem that this should not be something forced by the Govt. but done proactively by the religious order in question.

    March 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jay

      That's because the aren't removed by the clergy. In fact, the clergy has a hard time even admitting wrong doing most of the time.

      March 11, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      Its the Children's Fault!!!!! The official, but not public, response to 20,000 + priests accused of molesting and raping children...as told to me by a Monsignor...is that its the "children's fault." Children "seduced" the priests. Children are uneducated, little monsters, who are without any moral or Christian education and so launch themselves at naif priests. Un huh. According to this...the Catlick church needs to go back to 12th Century Inquisitions and start going after these evil children who seduce priests. And Christians wonder why many are concluding they are Atheists.

      March 20, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
  20. k

    Perhaps for lent peole should consider giving up the Catholic Chuch

    March 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
    • Dani

      agreed.

      March 11, 2011 at 12:34 pm |
    • sanjosemike

      Why would a catholic donate any money to the church? Reparations and other expenses to victims should come OUT of the Vatican, not YOU.

      March 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
    • gottagetgoin

      would help..

      March 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • gerald

      Catholicism is about Christ. Not weak men. Why give up on Christ because of men?

      March 11, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      Ooppps! There goes the Catholics' and the Christians' belief in their own moral and ethical superiority.

      March 20, 2011 at 8:43 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.