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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. abd

    in few hours this "article" will be gone, and if those 21 men were from another religion and they did what they did then CNN will talk about them and their religion for three months non-stop

    March 8, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Matthew

      The only problem with your claim is that the media have been covering this story for months without end, which seems to suggest that there is no free pass for Catholics, and certainly no attempt to divert attention to, as you put it, "another religion."

      March 8, 2011 at 10:16 pm |
  2. hjoseph7

    Just more proof that God is on vacation

    March 8, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  3. DCBill21

    Yes, these are potential crimes within the Church, but–first–they are criminal acts which should be handled by the local police, thus allowing the Church to say, "We did the right thing."

    Now, the Church not opnly has to explain the heinous acts but also its response. Won't it ever learn?

    March 8, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  4. Double B

    Looks as if Phila& the whole Catholic church needs a good "exorcism"...how long does this go on before the police investigate every diocese in the U.S?

    March 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  5. abd

    what a shame, SHAME ON YOU ALL, Is this a religion of LOVE and PEACE??? Yeah RIght

    March 8, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
  6. Dlux

    What is going on here-put on leave?? Shouldn't these men be turned over to the police? Shouldn't they be in jail? How can they be put on leave?

    March 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • thorrsman

      The police already know who they are. If there is sufficient evidence to actually charge them with a crime, the police will take care of it. And if there is not, we will never hear a word about it. these accusations are one-way only: Those cleared of such charges are never spoken of in the media.

      March 8, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  7. Stiffy

    AHHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    BURN, DIDDLERS, BURN!

    March 8, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  8. gabbi

    You don't know if one of those priests is hearing your confession or giving you communion. I don't believe with that kind of sin on his soul that he is a true priest any more.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  9. Question Mark?

    @Gerald.....see my response Gerald. Obviously, what Gatekeeper said was right on target! Now, go read what I said, and tell me where I am wrong?

    March 8, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  10. gabbi

    I grew up in a convent school forl school for girls and my husband in an abby for boys so you can imagine we are strong Catholics. I however, cannot go back to the Church with this happening so much.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  11. Patrickstarfish

    37 active Priests are still on roster even though there is credible evidence of molestation? If this happened anywhere else police would have stormed in and arrested every one. So much for Justice.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Matthew

      Did you go to school in Wisconsin? You don't read very well, apparently. The entire point of the article is that investigations were performed, the claims of abuse were determined to be credible for 21 out of 37 priests, and the accused priests with credible accusations were suspended (= removed from active ministry) immediately at the conclusion of the investigations.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Jeltz

      I noticed it said nothing about them being arrested. Just some BS about "administrative leave". PAID LEAVE for child abusers!
      They are so boldfaced about protecting known pedophiles from being arrested that they are nothing but a criminal organization.
      They refuse to release their records to law enforcement. They act like child-abuse mobsters or something. It's pathetic.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:23 am |
  12. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    At this point, it would be easier to legalize molesting children than to stop priests from doing it. Maybe we could tax it.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • Max Power

      Taxing it! That's it....

      March 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
  13. bob

    Dont go to church and you wont get touched by the hand of God or jerked off by the hand of God.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  14. Joe800

    @Truth Seeker...your right...but then again, the entire book is a work of fiction....maybe it's time to give up the beliefs of men who lived over 2000 years ago....

    March 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  15. Martin

    When will American Catholics do what needs to be done:
    1. Cease all ties to the Vatican
    2. Allow male & female priests
    3. Allow marriage by priests
    No more Roman Catholic church ... buy American (so to speak) !

    March 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Adam

      First, they'd have to have the courage to challenge what they have been told / reject the authority of the RCC. As soon as they start doing that, they might start questioning more than that (like invisible people in the sky).

      March 8, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • isaiah oigara

      I think Catholic church should allow priests to marry since..we are tired of this kind of incident over and over.I've never read a scripture in the bible where it says they should never marry..we understand they're human beings like us ,...and they have those kind of feelings which brings them to this situation they are now.God Help this church.

      March 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      isaiah oigara,

      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.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Something

      CatholicMom,

      That is the opinion of Paul of Tarsus.... nothing more.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  16. Gus

    The truly guilty ones all need to die in prison.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • haarkonen

      after they get treated the same way they treated the children, of course.

      March 8, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  17. Truth seeker

    No where in the Bible does it say you cannot be married and serve the Lord. But regardless it does NOT change their crime and since it is a crime they must be charged, tried and jailed and the catholic disbanded

    March 8, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • Adam

      The decision to prevent priests from marrying was made so that the priests of yesteryear could not pass their wealth down to their heirs. It all went to the church.

      March 8, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  18. Mike

    Men of God who cannot keep their hands of the children. A disgrace that is worldwide and yet still. Where is the total and absolute outrage against this church, it's so called "men of God" and their "spiritual leaders" who never, ever stopped covering up these horrible crmes? People. These are children they are abusing. Children! WAKE UP !

    March 8, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  19. Question Mark?

    Gerald, Dont you like Protestants? Every response you post starts with, "Are you a Protestant?" Protestants are just as good as you are, and just as much loved by God.

    Or, are you trying to say that anyone who says a thing against the pedo's in the church, is just because they don't like Catholics?
    I hope not, that would be ridicolous. People do hate sin, regardless of where it comes from. I just think the CC, being the "true" church, and employing a succession of popes, are highly regarded as being in a postion where they are to act like Jesus true followers.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • gerald

      I'm fine with protestants except the finger pointing ones. Yes, Catholics should be held to a higher standard, to that I agree. That is what is said in Luke 12 with the steward who was doing good and then went out and got drunk and beat the servants. He was treated with the unbeliever, while "to the one who did not know, he will receive a light beating". Catholics are more accountable. So I agree with your post.

      March 9, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  20. ISITME?

    Duh.....!?!?!? Someone is being real for a change.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:19 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.