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. Pam

    Where was this back in the 70's? Three of the priests I had in high school have been on the news. The teenagers knew something was up with them – the adults and authorities looked the other way. Finally, one was excommunicated and started his own church with followers(scary huh). He was last found teaching in a publc school doing something/being somewhere in the boys' restroom. He has been running amuck for 37 years. Had they started locking them up long ago, this one might not be in public schools now. Open up a new wing of the prision if you have to...fill it up!

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

      And there are too many hard criminals in prison for pot! Which is most important, putting these idiots in prison, or keeping a pot smoker in prison? "Just say to to your local clergyman". "Say No To Religion".

      March 8, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  2. huxley

    Internet quiz: Can you identify which one is the child molester?
    .sretselom dlihc lla era yehT :rewsnA

    March 8, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  3. hashing

    bailiff take them out and whack their pee pees

    March 8, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
  4. Bozo The Clown

    They don't need administrative leave – they need jail w/o bond until their trial.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • steve

      I thought clowns were supposed to be funny...damn you! You made me cry! LOL

      March 8, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  5. Ang

    The Catholic church needs to stop this nonsense of not allowing priests to marry. "It's better to marry than to burn".

    March 8, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Peggy Munro


      You do have a point and a very good one. There is something not right about this set up.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • steve

      Hey, I thought marry & burn were the same!

      March 8, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  6. Sick Priests

    Catholics: Setting history and technology back 1000 years, now that we've caught up now they molest kids.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
  7. Lindalou

    Before my mother passed away about 15 years ago we had a discussion about this kind of abuse going on and my mother put her hands over her ears and refused to believe it was going on. I've never had such faith in clerics as my mother. These servants of the church should be trusted members of society but they're no better than the rest of us mortals. Its like putting a pedophile within striking distance of innocent victims. Another instance of someone using religion to meet their private agenda.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  8. Big Johhny

    Why is it always little boys that these types of perverts are after? hmmmm?

    March 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • slipheart

      I would love to respond J. But it is too funny and to dirty to mention!

      March 8, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • slipheart

      I would love to respond J. But it is too funny and to dirty to mention! (Don't nag, the facts are not funny at all). But J., I'm laughing.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
  9. pegger

    I guess the jerks wanted to get all they could before the world ends May 21st. Oh, am I supposed to tell people that or let the RV people take credit?

    March 8, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  10. Unikraken

    The Catholic church is a criminal organization. The pope should be indicted under the RICO Act.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • mantaec

      Woops! Hey, all churches are criminal. And they all should pay taxes on their investments like all good organizations.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  11. Bette

    Guess they haven't been truthful in confession but then they would lie for each other or thought they didn't do anything wrong.We as Americans need to take control of the USA now. It just gets worse every day... I believe in capital punishment for anyone who harms a child in any way but the kids of today need discipline and made to take responsibility for their actions. Send all of these bleeding hearts to Mexico and let them bleed down there.
    PS: I don't have to go through a priest to ask God for forgiveness.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
  12. Liberty Queen

    Why haven't they been arrested?

    March 8, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • pegger

      They haven't been arrested because they are waiting for jesus to come and cuff them...but...

      March 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  13. LEL

    And the beat goes on...

    March 8, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  14. Tom

    Who was the leader? It goes to the top. Bottom line all catholics that sit by and take no action are just as responsible. Make a decision.
    I decided years ago that I would rather face God, if it exists, with the words that I could no longer participate in the guilt based, male dominated and money structured, thing, called the catholic church. I think it would respond, you did good my son. Enter.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  15. JohnOBX

    Sad to say, but it's not the Muslims we have to be worried about.

    March 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  16. Double B

    There are absolutely no pedophiles in the Catholic Church....practically none, by that I mean there are hardly any...well,there might be a few...hundreds actually

    March 8, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  17. Mike Hunt

    Get on your knees and just have faith!

    March 8, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
    • steve

      ...and smile and take it like a man(boy).

      March 8, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  18. mercury20903

    all them should be in the prisons, because of these people the name of God is blasphemed, and used the churches as shelters to hide their dirty minds

    March 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  19. Bill Vadasy

    ...Men of the Cloth...Fruit of the Loom...

    March 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  20. Hairball

    Gee, this is a shocker...

    March 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
    • hashing

      yes shocking, notttt

      March 8, 2011 at 10:15 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.