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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. everyone in the world

    Your right about how it does stamp you,with drugs,illness,evil doings,evil thinking,let's face it ,CC is the source of the Greatest wickedness in the world!Everyone add it up 666

    March 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • GateKeeper

      evolvedDNA

      No..its because it failed to act and tried to cover up its inaction.. which lead to greater abuses. You have the pope to blame but as usual you try to blame either the media, atheists, protestants, catholic haters ,the devil, satan, any one to deflect blame away from your own church. This organization has proven to the world it is a business like any other and when the chips are down shirks its responsibility. The victims are lost in this..luckily for religions there is no god or we would see many lightning strikes...

      GateKeeper....I believe there is a God. That being said, I certainly agree with the rest of your post. That is exactly how I feel as well. Let Gerald google to see what the percentages are for how many in charge, moved these abusive priests to other chruches, only to carry on with thier molestations.
      Its pretty bad when people like Gerald want to support the church who turns a blind eye to this, under the cloak of "it being Gods perfect church.
      God did not include pedo's in his perfect church, to be leaders of flocks. You can whimp out all the "well priests sin too" comments you like, but they are held in a more responsible mandate, when they are "trusted" leaders, following in the footsteps of our Lord.
      Saying the percentage is low amongst other statistics, is like as=signing numbers to sin, as in it don't count, as a result of.

      March 9, 2011 at 7:05 am |
    • gerald

      Another protestant pointing fingers at the CC. Hmmmm. No coverup in protestant Churches? Well there are 3500 insurance claims primarily against protestant churches in any given year for sxl abuse. Now tell me how much of this do you hear about? Waiting, waiting, the silence is DEAFENING.......

      March 11, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
  2. TheDevilinLV

    Same old story, white men raping children. Go figure.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • civicminded

      Racist much? I wasn't aware that this was a race issue, but thank you and your bigotry for pointing that out for us.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      In Africa....black African Catholic Priests have a reputation of molesting massive numbers of children...you dumb bigot. This is about the delusion of religion making one feel superior, and morally and ethically better or some how enhanced. The facts are that religion causes massive delusions and a move away from reality and the consequences of one's actions....which is a recipe for immoral, nasty, behavior. Religion causes crime, it causes mental illness and mass delusions that keep huiman beings from researching or examining their own behavior and the consequences of their actions. Worse...Xianity says you can molest, kill, be a Jeffrey Dahmer and eat your victims...and all you have to do is believe in god and ask forgiveness and Whooopi, you get to go to heaven. . This is pure delusional, insane thinking and its time for human beings to evolve.

      March 20, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  3. civicminded

    Welcome to NAMBLA. It's time for an formal international investigation into this garbage religion full of hypocrites and pedophiles....Catholicism, I mean. And NAMBLA, too, if we have enough time.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  4. Jouelle

    Abuse of children is always wrong and the Catholic church is trying to clean house. Unfortunately this type of abuse is everywhere. Teachers and clergy of other faiths are just as guilty. The reason the Church gets so much press it that it has the deepest pockets.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • jon

      This is all very true except for the part about deep pockets. The Church, and especially the dioceses, are pretty lean operations. I think based on the comments it's pretty obvious that the reason it gets so much press is bigotry based on mischaracterizations of the Church's teachings and good old fashioned anti-Catholicism.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      No..its because it failed to act and tried to cover up its inaction.. which lead to greater abuses. You have the pope to blame but as usual you try to blame either the media, atheists, protestants, catholic haters ,the devil, satan, any one to deflect blame away from your own church. This organization has proven to the world it is a business like any other and when the chips are down shirks its responsibility. The victims are lost in this..luckily for religions there is no god or we would see many lightning strikes...

      March 9, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • Judy Weismonger

      No, the Cat Licks are not trying to clean house....and never have. Its the position of the Catholic Church that children are the faults of priests molesting children. The Catholic Church is still shuffling accused priests all over the world to avoid prosecution.

      March 20, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  5. jon

    Where is the article about all the public school teachers who molest children and get shuffled from school to school? Reading CNN makes it seem like Catholic priests are the only pedophiles, when in fact the rate among priests is less than the general population.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      OK then, the assumption is that being a Cat Lick somehow, magically makes one morally and ethically superior, so just 1 priest who molests a child, then proves that claim wrong. There are not just 5 priests, there are 20,000 priests accused of child molestation...now what do you have to say?

      March 20, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  6. matt cooke

    lol hilarious, what an embarrassment to the catholic church and anyone who believes in god in general

    March 8, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Kevin

      If there were no God, there would be no atheists. –G.K. Chesterton

      March 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
  7. JT

    One should not judge the group as a whole because of the acts of a few sick individuals. These people will be dealt with and punished for their sins. The law will dictate their fate. Don't lose your faith in the Catholic church. Don't use them as an excuse. There are reasons that Catholic priests are not allowed to marry. Not sure I understand them but that is the way it is. Wish it were different. To all my Catholic brothers and sisters: hold your head high, believe in your priest and church and demand the child molesters are held accountable for their actions. Keep the faith!

    March 8, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • Kevin

      exactly :), it's ignorant to condemn the church for the actions of certain individuals.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • musings

      I always worry about "just so" stories. You think there are some incomprehensible reasons as to why Catholic priests are not allowed to marry, but you just accept "authority" on that. I don't and I am Catholic. It is not an article of faith that priests should never be married. In the Eastern rite churches they are. If they are married Episcopal clergy, they do not have to give up their marriage to be priests. Historically, early Popes were married. Many also had children who became Pope (and sometimes they were children of mistresses). This is an old old church. What you see in this age is one thing, and I hope the pedophilia is NOT typical but just a degeneracy of our times. That alone gives me some hope, which is another of the virtues. I hope this is just a blip in the church's history that is, and that compassion for the victims will stamp out the horrible plague.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
  8. tuffyturf

    What does a priest and acne have in common?

    They both start coming on your face when you turn 13......

    March 8, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      Now that was funny!!!!! Thanks....Tuffytuff

      March 20, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  9. everyone in the world

    Mystery, Babylon The Great ,The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the earth,21 keep digging there's so much more to uncover with the Beast!I also Remember it was Dealing heroin"Black tar" to be exact!I'm Blessed to see it come down,by people who are not even christian,Wow God works truelly in mysterious ways.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      There is no mysterious god working in mysterious ways. What there are ...are human beings claiming direction from an imaginary god...as an excuse to kill, main, molest, persecute, and steal from other human beings in the name of god. If you really, really think that an imaginary god a) tortures and kills people for mysterious reasons, and b) human beings are not then responsible for their own behavior...then you desperately need to see a mental health counselor. How convenient is it...to remove your omnipotent god from being responsible for what your imaginary god created. You cannot have it both ways...either your god is in control...and tortures and kills people at his/her whim, or there is no god, and people do good and bad based on many factors....most of which are now known and explained by science.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  10. SomethingDark

    How come the media never reports when a Protestant minister molests a kid?

    March 8, 2011 at 10:48 pm |
    • Kevin

      They do but if you haven't noticed yet the media loves loves loves to make the catholic church seem horrible and grotesque. If you ever get the chance to read newsweek the only times they ever comment on the catholic church is to condemn it, or when popes get social recognition for helping masses of people.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • evolvedDNA

      Hey.. what about the victims...I care less about any church whether they are RC, JW .Mormon or Protestant..who cares what brand is doing the damage. The CC are in the news because they spout morality and are the worst offenders, and who knows what has gone on over the millenia. You appear more concerned that the poor church is getting back what its dished out... grow up and face facts.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  11. Belarius Marek

    Catholic Church = child rapists.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  12. gracious

    The catholic church has been on the wrong side of every major issue in human history: slavery, women's rights, condoms (to prevent diseases and overpopulation), respirators (when they first come out the church as adamantly opposed as only god could choose when a person would die – and now you can't take someone off it!!!), vaccines, the list goes on and on. But the latest is protecting child rapists. Religions came about because people needed simple explanations for complicated things: death, sickness, etc. Science has debunked most of it. And it is amazing to me that people cling to such an outdated, constantly mistaken ideology tells you the earth is 6000 years old or people came from adam and eve. Ignorance is bliss.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
    • Kevin

      You really need to stop watching your anti-catholic youtube videos and realize that you have never read what catholicism is really about. And as for "protecting child molesters"!!! That's the most ignorant thing I've ever heard, they never protected them, the catholic church has tried to fix it's problems within its self, along with complying with the law of the country. Read some St. Thomas Aquina, and you'll truly grasp the concept of what catholicism is.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      Science is to Religion what Sunshine is to Vampires....Poof...they all disappear. And its about dang time...this IS the 21st Century, there are no such things as demons, gods, devils, witches, jinns, etc...what there is ...are human beings who more or less either respect ontological reality...or they don't and escape into silly religions that promise utopia if they only believe in______________fill in the blank. The very idea that belief in Islam, Catholicism, Christianity, or whatever brand of religion one can create....then makes one morally and ethically superior...is a monumental joke. I'm tired laughing...its time to get serious and start filing RICO charges against the mega religions...who make all sorts of promises, that if they were selling a product that didn't exist...would be prosecuted by the SEC for fraud. Religion is a Fraud...

      March 20, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
  13. Demea77

    White devils.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  14. DerWeissEngel

    I'd love nothing more than to see the Catholic Church disappear from the face of the earth.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • Judy Weismonger

      I'd like to see ALL religions and mythical belief systems, including the religion of socialism and communism...disappear from the face of the earth. Studies are out....demonstrating that Atheism creates a more just, responsible society where there are no "spiritual" escape hatches from one's behavior...Atheists do not have to be threatened into being "good"...ATheists are "good" because its not only the right thing to do, but because there are NO escape hatches from doing evil on this planet. Atheists know that there is no heaven to escape to, after committing crimes against children...and then expecting to be forgiven. The entire idea of "forgiveness" was created by King Constantine (himself a pagan until he died)...as a way to make money for a "state church"...to finance his wars to defend the empire. Where there is religion, there is always money and commerce...selling what?

      March 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  15. Kristal

    men of the cloth ? i tihink not' what God fearing human would do such a disgusting act no less then to children who respected the person wearing the cloth' the higher uppers that allowed such atrocities should also be held accountable i SHUDDER when i think about how these dirt bags set up their schemes to get the groped and fondled children to hold back their emotions by telling them lets keep it our secret' and their system worked only because they played to the victims wants and needs remember kids really do not know its wrong all they know is this person treats me good ' they are no better then casey anthony and if You read my sayings i think death by a meat grinder feet first low speed fits the perfect ending remember these sub-human -humans can not be rehabilitated so why should they be allowed to live when we all know they will be at it again as soon as the timing is right .

    March 8, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
  16. Moose

    Priests who pork young boys are odd. This is just ONE reason why people think gays are odd. Seriously, what guy "cuddles" with another guy? You have to be REALLY strange and demented to do that.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • Robin

      You fool. Child molesters are rarely gay. And casting aspersions upon a person for being what their Creator made them to be is incredibly stupid.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  17. Pope Vicious II

    The Catholic church is nothing but a corrupt organization that still holds sway of millions and millions despite their most decidely UN-Christian activities.

    If Jesus Christ showed up today, I'm sure he'd have some choice words for the Pope, Christ's supposed "Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God."

    Horrible.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Kevin

      "The Catholic church is nothing but a corrupt organization"
      Take sometime to read some catholic doctrine, it's ignorant to condemn a whole organization for the actions of corrupt individuals. It's like saying that a charity organization is not charitable because a few individuals are corrupt and steal money. The charity organizations intentions were in the right place but the individuals greed was what caused the downfall.
      "If Jesus Christ showed up today, I'm sure he'd have some choice words for the Pope, Christ's supposed "Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God."" you should reflect on how stupid this sounds, EVERY organization has corrupt individuals but to make the pope the scapegoat for your anger is not fair.

      March 8, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Something

      "...to make the pope the scapegoat for your anger is not fair."

      The buck stops there. He is in charge, as were his predecessors. This stuff has been going on all over the world for decades, if not centuries... and not just in some isolated backwater little church somewhere. They knew.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Truthful

      I am a Catholic. I cry with sadness about what is happening in the church. Christ is the author of life therefore He loves every precious life. This does not mean that He likes what some of us sinner do. I wonder how many sinners are out there? Satan will attack and try to destroy anyone or anything that will give God glory. I will never leave the Catholic church for one reason, Eucharist. I have witnessed our Lord's Real Presence in Eucharist and now understand why Satan is working so hard to destroy It. Please ask God to lead you in His truth and then pay attention to Him. You will be amazed and simply love what you find out. Pray for the sinner. The problem with our world is the lack of forgiveness. And please remember God sees everything you do every moment of the day. These priests will outwardly suffer on this earth now but there will be others in this world that will be accountable on the day of the Lord. Be careful not to judge.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • douglas

      Kevin: I don't know...is it really ignorant? No they are all not corrupt. But EVERY one in management IS responsible for ignoring the issue for a long time. The problem goes pretty deep, and just because there are noble parts of the church doesn't mean you can ignore such a hideous issue.

      March 9, 2011 at 1:06 am |
    • Judy Weismonger

      How do you know if Jesus was not also a Butt-Slammer? He never married, he lived at home with his mother, he preferred the company of other guys, he thought he was god...and in one particular part of the bible, he spent the night with a nearly naked handsome young man "explaining the wonders of the universe" to him. Un huh....All male-dominated religions....are misogynist and hate women.... so is it any wonder that the anti woman CatLick church is filled with butt slammers who like little boys? Did anyone really expect any thing less from male-dominated religions?

      March 20, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  18. Moose

    Anyone surprised that a bunch of butt-slamming pirates are porking little boys???? Anyone, anyone.....Buehler?

    March 8, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
  19. Bob

    They all look like child molesters. Guilty.

    March 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  20. Guessmode

    correction: like the" room with covered furniture ..."

    March 8, 2011 at 10:19 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.