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. El Rojo

    Actually Something Dark is absolutely right. Why are there members of any religion? Christian religions and Islam alike are sources of some of the worst evil in the world. You don't need to belong to some sick club of bigots to talk to God.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:18 am |
    • pothead

      Exactly. Wish these people would quit coming to my door when I want to smoke a big one! I'll look for jesus and his god when they provide a reward much bigger than Osama's.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:47 am |
  2. lance corporal

    this is what happens when you use an intermediary to god, 1) it can't be done anyway and 2) you give this person massive power. I'm not an atheist but I know the greatest harm done to the world has been done by religion and that certainly includes ALL the forms of christianity, john prine said it best; eat alot of peaches and find jesus on your own, peaches are yummy and good for you and jesus/god/allah/etc can only be found in your own heart not in someone else's words

    March 9, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  3. Rabbit One

    Rather than issue administrative leave, why does not the church turn these suspected offenders over to law enforcement? The church better step up its game and take care of children and stop catering to these criminals who have nothing to do with God. These creeps actually offend the goodness of any and all religions. And law enforcement is there to handle these creeps.

    March 9, 2011 at 12:04 am |
  4. trixen



    March 9, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  5. stefanie

    Why aren't the priests being arrested?

    March 8, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
  6. aizen

    enough with this church and its pedophiles, something needs to be done about those men..send them to jail and let all the prisoners who were abused as kids deal with them...people like this deserve only one thing: death! because they pretty much killed all those kids they abuse..im so happy i dont go to this so call church of jesus and his pedophile association from their leader to the janitors...shame on you catholic church...and the sad thing is these guys are on admin leave..are you guys nuts???? no wonder the church is drying up and only old men go there...if god is there you will pay with this fake church...

    March 8, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
    • pothead

      Pain and suffering! During WWII the Germans would hang their captives by their balls. Nuff said!

      March 9, 2011 at 12:42 am |
  7. JLeon

    After all of these priestly pedophile scandals all over the globe, I've never heard anyone ask about reporting these crimes to the police. I suppose the church prefers to handle these cases "internally". If one is aware of a crime (pedophilia) and doesn't report it to the authorities, that is surely illegal because then one is an accessory. Why does this self-righteous church get away with this? They should be charged criminally just as every other American would be. Wearing a long black garment and carrying a bible around shouldn't exempt these twisted people from being subject to the same laws the rest of us are. But, instead, the church simply moves these known pedophiles from one parish to another, where they are turned loose to begin their reign of terror over children all over again.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  8. typical

    hopefully these clowns are in jail. this isnt limited to philly, i wish they would do this across the country and i am sure the results would be the same. maybe that will show that this is not a "limited" case but the norm. these kid touchers all over the place and they all should be locked up

    March 8, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  9. everyone in the world

    Robear,God Loves you for that!Let Righteousness prevail!!! Amen

    March 8, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  10. Joe Sauter

    This happens over and over again and every time I ask myself, "Why are there still Catholics?" I grew up in this sick, abusive religion and I wouldn't let my kid near a priest or a nun.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • SomethingDark

      It happens just as often with Protestant ministers. Why not ask "Why are there still Christians?"

      March 8, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • auguron

      Dark has the right idea. They must ALL be punished for their crimes against humanity.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  11. Reality

    The bigger picture:(this scenario gets closer every week with these "vomit topics")

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" will converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.///////

    March 8, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  12. everyone in the world

    I put that dangerous Church in Gods hands years ago ,and I back him up when he delivers Judgement,on anything Sinful,I put my faith in a true liven,Loving,Holy Perfect God,Children are the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven,and since they are,you best be believing, Gods Got his eye right on the source.That's the nest everyone!!!His got his eye on all the churches!!

    March 8, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • pothead

      You're nuts! Join the RV club and call for an end.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  13. DKelly

    How interesting that CNN doesn't allow posting for other important articles, but doesn't miss an opportunity to bash Catholics and Catholicism in America.
    Obvious this clearly demonstrates "the fairness doctrine" of CNN.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
    • pegger

      Duh...are you a blond?

      March 8, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  14. BADGUY

    It may be time the Catholic church "rethinks" its prohibition against married or female priests. What's to say this won't continue on and on and on?

    March 8, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Thelma

      Well. The Catholic Church sure protects it's fortune– bought from the backs of whom? And I agree. It is time.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
    • Reality

      Why did popes, prelates, preachers and rabbis, so focused on society's se-xual sins, lose sight of clerical se-xual sins?

      Obviously ordination in any religion is not assurance of good behavior !!!!!

      Neither is coronation!!! e.g. Henry VIII, King David.

      NEITHER IS MARRIAGE as 50% of those men convicted of ped-ophilia are married.

      Neither is being elected president of the USA!! e.g. Billy "I did not have s-ex with that girl" Clinton, John "Marilyn Monroe" Kennedy"

      Neither is possessing super athletic skill!!! e.g. Tiger "I am so sorry for getting caught" Woods

      Neither is being an atheist or pagan since pedophilia is present in all walks of life

      If someone is guilty of a crime in this litany of "neithers" they should or should have been penalized as the law dictates to include jail terms for pedophiliacs (priests, rabbis, evangelicals, boy scout leaders, married men/women), divorce for adultery (Clinton, Kennedy, Woods), jail terms for obstruction of justice (Clinton, Cardinal Law, Bevilacqua?) and the death penalty or life in prison for murder ("Kings David and Henry VIII).

      March 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • steve

      Wouldn't matter if they let them get married. These nuts are sick. We need to weed them out and trash them and make sure they don't let anymore of them out of god's seminary.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:02 am |
  15. Kevin Eric Smith

    Now you see how much trouble Israel is in. They are not only getting people killed everywhere in the world, but once again the "abuse" charge comes to the fray. Why not charge them with Johnny felt sick and wants money?

    March 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Kevin Eric Smith

      or really Johnny felt bad...

      March 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
  16. everyone in the world

    How come CC,gets more Glory then God?Look up,and around everyone Gods bring her down,and some other buildings claiming to be Godly ,Mrs Queen Bee,and her bumbling other bees,no mater what church you claim to be,ITS COMING DOWN!!!!GOD THE THE KING OF KINGS!!!!I Love His Ways!

    March 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • steve

      I hope you see a shrink soon. Crawl back in your hole and pray for a big lotto win...good luck dummy.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  17. BADGUY

    When does this End???? Is Philly a "black hole" for these guys?

    March 8, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • gerald

      The fact is that these cases are not new. The reforms the Church has taken are cleaning up the mess but it will take 10-20 years to prove this out. Still in 2009 there were only 6 reports of abuse in the US by priests. The cases spoken of here are old cases.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • bobincr

      As long as there are Catholic priests and little boys, this will continue. Until Catholics open their Bibles and read for themselves that salvation is only found by faith in Jesus and NOT the church, this filth will continue. There is no excuse for ignorance these days with the powerful search engines on the internet. Research the history of the Roman church and be prepared for the shocking truth. Again, see for yourself!

      March 8, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  18. concerned Christian

    I'm thankful that there has been some bite to the Catholic bark. Hope this causes other priests and ministers to correct their behavior, or better yet never act on their desires to hurt anyone, especially children and youth.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • gerald


      Next we have to get protestant sects to make reforms. Check out studies by Phil Jenkins to find out what I mean and stop pointing fingers and start policing your own protestant houses. Reformation dot com is an interesting site as well.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • bobincr

      A true follower of Jesus has a changed heart. These priest can't control their sinful desires because they do not have a changed heart. They are NOT true followers of Jesus. Roman Catholicism saves NO ONE. Only faith in Jesus Christ – not the Roman church- will save the soul. Read your Bible and run from priests!

      March 8, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • john

      What do you mean some bite? These perverts in robes deserve the electric chair at medium voltage.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  19. Ironman62292

    As a young Catholic person strong in my faith I am deeply saddened and angry with those priests who have turned away from God and committed these awful and atrocious acts of violence. This is obviously not acceptable for any reason. Even though these few priests have done these things, the majority of the Catholic priesthood are true to their vows and beliefs and values. But I think it is unfair that we judge these priests and even those who have not done anything. The media paints the Catholic priesthood as a bunch of pedophiles. That is just simply untrue. Those renegade priests deserve the consequences for what they did. But not all priests are like that. 99% are not like that. We need to be forgiving, just as Christ says. We need to pray for them. Those who speak ill of the Church and the priests are no better than those rapist and molesters. You commit murder by your words.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • gerald

      Amen. It is disturbing.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
    • Thelma

      The truth is not murder.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • UrCrazy

      So let me get this straight if we talk "ill about the church or a priest, we're no better off than those rapists or molestors" did the bible tell you that? Those maggot priests who abused their powers to lure children in a church no less are who you need to be pointing the finger at. I bet the you think the Hillsboro Church people are just dandy too.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:25 pm |
    • Veronica13

      Have you not heard of guilty until proven innocent or guilty by association? All catholic priests are now guilty.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • bobincr

      Ironman, they never turned away from God because they never turned toward Him in the first place. In other words, they were never saved believers. A true follower of Jesus does NOT molest little boys. Believe of Jesus and Him ALONE and be saved from the Roman Church.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • Robear

      I once was a young Catholic person, strong in my faith, until a priest abused of his power and molested me.

      The Catholic Church like all religions, is made of men. Fallible, corruptible men. Power hungry men.

      I believe in God, but will never ever put my trust in men as regards spiritual matters.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Wannetta

      What I find unforgivable is the higher ups that aided and abetted them at the expense of the children. They did it knowingly, with full awareness of the harm they were doing and didn't care as long as the church was covered. There is no answer for that. The people who did it are still there, still in power, in plain sight, sober faced, staring everybody in the face and going on about how sorry everyone is, they, of course, didn't know or they would have done something. Liars. Bold faced liars. Christians? What. A. Joke.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • leatriana

      Seriously dude! Thank the good lord I'm not Catholic if this is how you are taught to believe! First, 30+ priest in one city...is not a few naughty priest but a seriously sick issue. Second, how is any parent supposed to trust the children with a catholic priest when the church has such a wonderful reputation for moving these sickos from church to church! Placing priest with a past in unsuspecting communities. If you want to compare me to a murder and or a rapist because I speak the truth...go for it! I'm comfortable that when I face my maker; I'll be at peace with the choices I've made! I wonder how God will react to those who allowed these disgusting men to pray on children!!!

      March 8, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • renegadepriest

      i dont think they should be considered the "renegade" priests. it seems to be the majority of them, maybe "typical" would be a better term

      March 8, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • endeavormike

      They did not turn away from God. They were never with him. God did not choose them to become Preist they choose to become Preist. Why? Simple, they knew they would access to children on a regular basis. They were pedophiles before they became Preist.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • aizen

      im better than them, i dont molest kids and hide under the fake church that is catholic...this is only america, have you gone to africa and see what damage this church is doing?? i have a cousin who has a child by a catholic priest and that just the begining...this church is 60% rotten, ran by corrupt men from top to bottom
      ..dont come here and preach us to forgive them and pray for them, i would like to see you being molested and say that BS...round them up and burn them i say...no more evil in the name of god and they all look like pedophile just by looking at them...i could never trust a catholic priest or that church and i wasnt even touched by them lolz....these church need to disappear with their pedophilia...we dont care if you are a young catholic, your church breeds pedophiles from the vatican down.....wait untill poor continant like africa, south america etc join the claims, you will regret being catholic...this church has done horrible things, their priest are crooks and evil men who dont deserve no redemption....

      March 9, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • john

      What do you mean, a few priests? 30 priests remained in the ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse. And this is only Philadelphia. How many dozens of so-called priests throughout the country are pedophiles in robes? I'm glad I wised up and left for honesty and atheism. Religion is also responsible for most troubles in the world throughout history. My pipe dream of glorious eternity is better than yours. The common denominator.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • lance corporal

      sailing that river de nile

      March 9, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • thes33k3r

      It's both humorous and quite sad to watch all of you Christians argue with each other about whether these pedo priests were with god in the first place, turned away from god etc. For many of us, your spectacle is just another example of how confusing and unsupportable your beliefs are. Religion is the most divisive mode of thought available to man....if for no other reason than it causes people to claim to know things they cannot possibly know. Thanks for the laugh/frown though.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • Nancy

      It appears to be greater than 1 percent of priests that are doing these kinds of acts.

      Until the pubic has some complete transparency on the entire story for the last 50 years I seriously doubt you will recover any public sympathy.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  20. kidcanman

    if all muslims are suspected terrorist, then all catholics are suspected child molesters. makes sense to me

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

      seems to be it is true, round them all up and execute them.

      March 8, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • lance corporal

      very very good point

      March 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Manic Messiah HEHE HA HA

      If all apples are oranges then all oranges are apples. Then how many fruits do you have?

      March 9, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Nancy

      They moved all their rotten apples to some other place. They never solved the problem.

      March 9, 2011 at 12:27 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.