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. PhillyGirl

    Let's stop the witch hunt. About 1.5 years ago, a civil law suit was filed against my pastor by one individual, who alleged the incident happened over 35 years ago. He filed in Delaware because the statute of limitations expired in PA. Since then no other reports against the priest have been filed. This was a very public accusation and you would think if there were others, they would have joined in on the case. My priest is one of those put on leave yesterday. All you Catholic haters are just looking for more reasons to slander us. Yes, some priests are guilty and should be punished, however some of these priests are innocent.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:53 am |
    • chief

      sorry if he is innocent, but if you catholic lovers went after your own pedaphiles like you do abortion supports, then this would be a problem.....

      March 9, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • CHHoosiers

      PhillyGirl – Can't stop the witch hunt when it is finally working. As a non practicing Catholic, I can say that I miss about everything accept the church itself. Loved the people and the social side, but that's not what it's all about. The guidelines for a priest set the church up for failure. It lures these type of guys (not purposely of course). Even if it was one person 35 years ago, wrong is wrong.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  2. Frank

    It seems to me that the child abuse cases in the U.S. seem systemic. No other country in the world has reported so many cases of child abuse. The U.S. pedo's have infiltrated the Catholic Church a long time ago and the Chruch leaders thought they could cover them up by moving them around and that they would stop the abuse. Pedos like gays cannot be cured of their disorder.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  3. Skepticz

    Read Yesterdays post By Bernard Schweizer on "Hating God".


    March 9, 2011 at 9:49 am |
  4. mohammed ricardo johnson

    Like flies to feces. You Catholic bashers must have little else to do. Sure there are repugnant people within any group. A crime is a crime. But why the intense anti-Catholicism?

    Why not look into the Muslim/Jew pedophiles? Don't exist? Or is it that anti-Catholicism is condoned?

    I love America, but the America I grew up in is gone and not for the better. I'm in crazy China and you mongrels keep fighting amongst yourselves. Let me know how much rope or kool aide you guys need.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • chief

      muslems, jews, and real Christians dont hide, deflect, or continue to support any organization that protects and harbors pedaphiles..... if the people who call themselves catholics would stand up to their own peds in the church like they do abortionists, then this wouldnt be a problem....

      March 9, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  5. JJ

    Those parents should have not sent those kids to church without first spraying them with Priest-Off.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:47 am |
  6. bailoutsos

    Are these people going to go to heaven on May 21st?

    March 9, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  7. bailoutsos

    Tax free dollars at work.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:36 am |
  8. Doc Vestibule

    1. In 1962, The Vatican relased the 'Crimen Sollicitationis', which outlined how the church is to handle accusations of se.xual impropriety against clergy in the confessional (happy CatholicMom? You don’t have to complete my sentence)
    The stickiest point for most people is that not only was the doc.ument itself Top Secret for decades, but anybody who publically spoke about a case of abuse was to be punished with excommunication (a fate worse than death for the devout).
    This preoccupation with secrecy significantly slowed the investigative process – the backlog of referrals to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for action against se.xually abusive priests is so large that it takes 18 months to get a reply.
    According to the John Jay report, 918 of 1872 substantiated allegations of abuse (or 49%) were addressed by sending the priest off for psychaitric counselling and then moving him to another parish, with nary a whisper to law enforcement. This accounting does not include priests who were moved for reasons other than accusations of molestation.
    The Irish Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse from 2009 came to the conclusion that ""the Dublin Archdiocese's pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child se.xual abuse, at least until the mid 1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its as.sets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities."
    In summation: The Roman Catholic Church is guilty of criminal conspiracy. Until the Pope publically and unequivocally states that all allegations of abuse will immediately be referred to local law enforcement, the RCC will be viewed as an evil, predatory inst.itution by a large portion of the world.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • MikeM

      Umm... the Pope said these things should be reported to the police kind of a while ago. And, while I suppose some might claim it was misunderstood or poorly implemented, Crimen Solicitationis only applied to the investigation for the Church trial and did not prohibit Church authorities from going to the police. When they didn't go to the police, it was more likely a result of a mix of reputation protecting and simple impracticality. If a victim was unwilling to share their accusation with the police, it was highly unlikely that anything was going to come of informing them. In fact, in a number of the cases that have had a high media profile, the police were informed and never brought charges against anyone.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:51 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Of course you're right.
      The findings of such biased, evil and obviously anti-catholic groups like The Irish Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse and the John Jay report can't be accurate!
      Catholics are an oppressed minority the world over...

      March 9, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  9. brad

    When a senator or President engages in some perverted activity, it's "shame on him/her", and rightly so. But the entire government is not judged as evil. On the other hand, people who already hate religion condemn the entire religious establishment as evil when a few clarics are found to be pedophiles. The church has lived through many such atrocities from within. These acts can be blamed on human weakness and folly. No one should be surprised that the church is NOT full of saints. The church exists because people are weak and foolish. Napoleon (who ushered in the concept of total war AFTER the enthronement of Reason) is said to have informed a Cardinal: " I'm going to destroy your church!" The Cardinal responded " No you're not. WE haven't even been able to do that."
    If human weakness did not exist, there would be no need for a church.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:32 am |
    • bones1918

      True. you don't see people no longer watching all movies because of roman polanski. throw polanski AND these priests in prison.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • WA

      Brad, this issue is that it was a systemically protected process by which these offenders were allowed to continue abusing children. The one or 21 bad apple scenario is not applicable.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:48 am |
    • Frank

      Very wise opinion and true. Evil does exist, whether it be in the guise of pedophilia or other criminal activity. Jesus did say that the devil will try to destroy the Church and he also said that hell shall not prevail. I feel very sorry for the people that have been hurt and scarred by these acts. Those that committed these crimes must go to jail.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • chief

      the dumbest comment i have read.... you said ... "If human weakness did not exist, there would be no need for a church."

      How dumb.....

      March 9, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • rhfl55

      When these allegations first came to light several years ago, it was obvious even then that it was a wide spread problem. The reason for condemning the Catholic church as a whole is because the leaders won't acknowledge the seriousness of these crimes. And they have allowed offenders to remain as priests even though the evidence against them is overwhelming.

      March 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
  10. rhfl55

    As long as the church and other organizations position themselves as a "safe haven", pedophiles will gravitate to these places of opportunity. Unless the Catholic church in this country wants to become a complete farce, they need to acknowledge the depth of this problem and deal with it. "Administrative leave" is not a solution.

    Just as important, parents need to recognize that pedophiles are always seeking opportunites in the church, school, sports, scouting, etc. Educate your children about the dangers and don't blindly trust these organizations.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  11. dude

    Only 21? Surely this is just the "tip" of the iceburg!

    March 9, 2011 at 9:26 am |
    • gerald

      No, actually it is the tail of the iceberg. These are not new exposures but old ones rehashed. The Church has made significant changes in policy and education of both the laity, children, and the clergy. In 2009 there were only 6 new reported incidents. New priests have much greater scrutiny particularly about their homsxl attractions as most of this is homsx.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:35 am |
    • C'mon Man

      Gerald – You are unfortunately part of the problem. There is a HUGE unmistakable difference between h o mo s e xUals and pedifiles. Keep making excuses for these sick phuchs. I would not allow my child within 500' of a catholic priest. What a joke.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • David Johnson


      You said: "New priests have much greater scrutiny particularly about their homsxl attractions as most of this is homsx."

      I think we have had this conversation before, but you do persist in your stupidity.

      Gays are no more likely to harm children than straights. The Church should be scrutinizing candidates, for signs of pedophilia.

      Marriage, would not prevent pedophilia.

      Consider, there is something like 406,411 * Catholic Priests throughout the world. Most, are undoubtedly good men, who would never hurt a child.

      The priests who committed these crimes and the people who enabled them, should be punished. But, their sins should not be used to paint the entire church as evil.

      * Based on a 2005 census.


      March 9, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • chief

      @brad... actually its 26, five more of your ped friends are capable, or have retired from a ministry of abusing kids..... pathetic.... i imagine you are a priest or a ped from your posts defending them

      March 9, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  12. andrei

    I don't like any religion.

    but why catholicism doesn't allow priests to marry? imo everything stems from there.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:25 am |
  13. Skepticz

    yet another reason why you should read the earlier blog by Bernard Schweizer "Why Some People Hate God", and his book, "Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism".

    These Priests make me sick. What a complete mockery of the Church. Enough of this hypocritical nonsense.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  14. bones1918

    Why is it that Hollywood defends (even protects) Roman Polanski but goes after these guys in force? Abuse a child, go to jail for 50 years. I dont care if you're a priest or a dad or a famous producer. In my book, its worse than murder.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:14 am |
    • brad

      Good observation. Only in Hollywood's "mind" perversion is "ART". Whereas with the priests it's called perversion. But this confusion comes from a society that some call "enlightened". If I stand outside someone's window at night, I'm arrested as a peeping Tom. But Hollywood treats us to other peoples' bed scenes all the time.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:49 am |
    • chief

      re Brad.... you know, someone trained might read into you response and come to the conclusion that you just might reall be a sick pup behind your rhetoric....

      March 9, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  15. anaeliss

    You are so right dgrrr10.hell is the grave, that in the Bible too,

    March 9, 2011 at 9:00 am |
    • dgrrr10

      you have that right aneliss

      March 9, 2011 at 9:08 am |
    • TheWay

      anaeliss and dgrrr10:

      This is not the time, the place, or the way. Be observers, not participators. Don't get mixed up with the rest of them.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  16. chief

    i dont know why you catholic haters keep this up.... it was only 26 of 37 priests that were guilty enough to have been put on leave. Only 2/3's of them.... Come on, the gates of hell will not prevail against the church BUT I HOPE IT DOES AGAINST THOSE PEDS AND THE CATHOLICS THAT DEFEND THEM

    March 9, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  17. dgrrr10

    gerald it isn't going to be hell that destorys all this false misleading religions. These religions do not represent God, they are more concerned with doctrines and Holiday's and war and on and on..............................

    March 9, 2011 at 8:35 am |
  18. dgrrr10

    don't worry all false religion will collapse soon.

    March 9, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • gerald

      The gates of hell will not prevail no matter how hard you try.

      March 9, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • joe

      Today's religions will be looked back upon as primitive and silly, as we now look back at the pagans and the greeks.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  19. mjschriner

    To make this absolutely clear to anyone defending the Church, every priest and clergy member, serving or non-serving, knows or knew that children were molested. By turning "the other way" they joined the crime. These men and women were suppose to protect innocence but instead corrupted it. Inaction of something so basic as protecting the well being of children is not just criminal it is immoral. Their guilt is beyond the worst offenders in our society. Instead on an eye for an eye they should replace it with appropriate body part they so crave!

    March 9, 2011 at 8:13 am |
    • bam

      it is the christian taliban way, the mullahs can do as they want the sheep will follow and pay them to do it.....

      WHEN will these religious organizations STOP taking my tax money out of my hand via tax exemptions. WHY are these brothels and fantasy spreaders tax exempt.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:27 am |
    • Jim

      21 in one city! Unbelieveble.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:29 am |
    • brad

      As a Catholic, I am shocked and ashamed about these affairs. Especially so since I've spent my life dealing with the effects of serious child abuse. But I must also say this: I grew up in a town near a Benedictine monastery. MANY times I was alone with priests in confessionals, cars, sacristies, and rectories. Not a single time was I ever approached in an inappropriate way by a priest.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • MikeM

      While it sure seems like some people were involved in a cover-up here, claiming that "everyone knew" is completely ignorant of the processes at work. If a confidential accusation was made to one man in the diocese (as was the case with these accusations), the information could not be shared beyond the accuser, the accused, the one to whom it was reported, and perhaps the bishop.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Todd

      Well whoop de doo for you Brad. And during that time, how many priests and monks turned in other clergy who were abusing kids?

      March 9, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • chief

      great comment brad... way believable.... written like a priest defending his own....

      March 9, 2011 at 10:11 am |
  20. 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 9, 2011 at 7:42 am |
    • richunix


      While I do not believe in the folly of Religious establishments, I do find that they offers to those who wish to believe, a sense of comfort. So outside of the criminal element that taints it halls, these houses still have value, so bashing them serves no purpose. Try to understand, it’s easier than “hating”

      March 9, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • jim

      @richunix Understanding and hating are not mutually exclusive, quite the contrary. Sometimes (as in this case) true understanding elicits nothing but hatred.

      March 9, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • bam

      WHEN will they be arrested? Why is it that the catholic taliban mullahs can preach peace love and severe hate towards ho mo se xuals, but when they themselves perform these acts on CHILDREN, it is OK. ah yes because the supreme christian taliban religion is ONLY peace and love deny deny deny finger point finger point.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:25 am |
    • M

      The time to end the ongoing abuse of babies of believers has arrived. Turn all houses of worship into art studios, garages, offices or whatever just so these abusers of babies and power are driven from our midst and do it now.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:31 am |
    • bailoutsos

      Church tax free dollars at work.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • the prophet for profit

      That's wrong just because the religious are retarded you should still let them worship. It keeps them busy, you really want someone who will belive anything to have more time on their hands.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • brad

      @Reality: your reference to "bowers", "kneelers", and "pew peasants" begs a question: Before whom or what do you bend the knee, Reality? You're own thinking prowess, maybe? Maybe before science whose principles you may or may not understand? Or maybe scientists themselves who often attemp to destroy each others' reputations? (When I hear the words "scientist now think" I always think of the "enlightened" "intellects" who would follow them into any cul-de-sac.

      March 9, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • Prophet

      It was a wolf in sheeps clothing. Now it's a perv dressed as a priest.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:02 am |
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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.