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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. A protective father

    .........and not one report of a victums father taking a baseball bat to one of these dirt bags. What happened to the world?

    March 9, 2011 at 10:20 am |
  2. Dan G

    David you are exactly rigth the Irish ruined the Catholic Church. I have a friend from Africa who will tell you all about the "Irish" and their missions to Africa. In my last year in high school I went to protestant prep school. I sensed a dislike of the catholics now I know why. Those people were very good to me. Once when I told the principal I like the Catholic Church she told me but Dan join us the Catholic Church is for the Irish. Just look at the names of the majority of priests and bishops involved in these law suits. You are not a bigot when your right. In fact the church of Ireland use to send their problem priest over here.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  3. PW

    I completely fail to understand why the church waited until the grand jury was done before putting the priests on admin leave. Why isn't the church focused on PROTECTING the kids, instead of its image? Even if the priests were falsely accused, they should be away from kids until evidence is collected.

    I see this as a demonstration that the church just completely fails to understand good and evil acts and acts of omission in the real world. Which begs the question of how they can possible guide us, or what the hierarchy thinks their purpose on earth IS. The church needs to get its head out of theology and ritual and into good and evil for the real world. Its policies need to also reflect the real world, be openly discussed in homilies / sermons instead of treated like some deep dark secret. (My goodness, open discussion of birth control and why the church is against it might actively annoy people or even reveal how silly the theological reasoning for the church's position actually is. Gasp!)

    March 9, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  4. Mort

    No big deal for the church they will just shove it under the rug

    March 9, 2011 at 10:15 am |
  5. sg

    this is organized crime and the charges should reflect that.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  6. truth

    haha, another pedo-priest story. news, isn't it? i don't know how much faith anyone would have left in their religion after hearing these stories repeatedly. let's stop playing games with your imaginary friends in the sky and do something more productive.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  7. Frank

    I suspect that these priests do not believe in God, if they did they would not have commited these horrible acts on children. So I say is that atheists are the ones to blame after all.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • J

      Satan's Power got to these unfortunate souls, if they in fact do this horrific acts they are being accused of.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:17 am |
  8. Anthony Fantacone

    The church ain't gonna change in a million years. It would rather have its priests screw little boys than take steps to make constructive changes. Shut down all the churches and send everyvody to work so that they can find out what real life is all about.

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

    HOW MUCH LONGER IS THIS GOING TO GO ON ! ! ! WHEN IS THE MISERABLE, SLIMY CATHOLIC CHURCH GOING TO CLEAN UP ITS ACT ? ? ? WHY ARE THESE PIECE OF TRASH PEDOPHILES DISGUISED IN THE CLOTH OF THGE CHURCH NOT BEING SHOT DEAD BY OUTRAGED PARENTS ON A MORE CONSISTENT BASIS ? ? ? ? I DONT GET IT. THE CHURCH OF SATAN NEEDS DISBANDED

    March 9, 2011 at 10:10 am |
  10. Chris L

    This makes me SIck! This is why I can't STAND the Catholic Church. I hope they all go to prison. I don't have the words to even........

    March 9, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  11. Dan G

    Thank God for the Sons of Ireland without them were would little boys be!!! They and their brogue make me sick

    March 9, 2011 at 10:09 am |
  12. Mark

    So...what are they giving up for lent?

    March 9, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  13. sandalista

    Disgusting!!! But heck, under the mantel of religion anything goes. Worshipping an invisible, winged deity that lives in the clouds is needy but not smart. Faith (believe without evidence) is a vice not a virtue. Hopefully one day soon, any religion or cult will be frowned upon. The World will be a better place.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Frank

      Your eyes will soon be opened and you will be ashamed of yourself.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • J

      The world is quickly becoming a vile, perverse and violent wasteland because of the lack of fear of God, and the attempts of you fools to tear down the Church. You're a blind man and your deafness makes you weaker as time goes on.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • BRB San Deigo

      Well put.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @J
      The world has always been a vile, perverse and violent wasteland.
      As Hobbes said, life is "nasty, brutish and short".

      "Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as "bad luck."
      – Robert Heinlein

      March 9, 2011 at 10:25 am |
    • Pilfer

      Ha ha ha. He thinks God has wings. Ha ha ha. What a moron. God doesn't have wings. He is an old white guy with a white beard who sits in a golden thrown on a cloud. The throne magically keeps him up so he does not need wings.

      Also, he is not fat. The fat white guy with the white beard who sits in a chair is Santa Clause, but his chair isn't magical and doesn't float in the air. His reindeer and sled do, and he has a magical bag that carries alot of stuff.

      So;
      white guy white beard magical throne = God
      FAT white guy with white beard, old chair, magical sled = Santa Clause.

      That should help keep it straight.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • Pilfer

      Also Santa Clause likes children; but not THAT way; you are thinking of priests.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:37 am |
  14. David

    The Irish have sure ruined that church. In midevil times they tortured and killed, then shut their doors when hitler killed millions, since then its been pedophiles and alcoholics. Go to a good Protistant church for real Christianity.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • J

      If you can't spell it, I ain't going.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:11 am |
    • BRB San Deigo

      Just make religion go away. Only the ignorant, scared, weak, and morons believe any of that drivel.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • J

      To BRB San Diego.
      Hitler tried that, and it didn't work. Religion is not the problem. It's man's inability to follow it and understand it because they are too busy with self-centered greed, lust and pride. We are undeniably witnessing the results of that as time goes on.
      Why are things getting worse worldwide, instead of better? Huge question. We are all responsible. Can you imagine what this world would be like, if everyone followed the 10 Commandments? The rues were set in stone. We said no. Now we pay.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:30 am |
    • J

      Oops. I spelled rules wrong. We are all human.
      Not sure if you want to google "protestant church abuse" or not, but this issue is not unique to any
      one religion or group of people in general. It's a cancer infecting mankind worldwide. We need to take the blinders off,
      and the press needs to start doing their job and just not report on one group. To ignore the rest is an abomination.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  15. Atheist

    Whoever donates money to the church is a part of this. Because your donations are going to pay for layers the church is going to hire and also the out of court settlement $. By donating money to your church you are helping in creating an environment for such abuses. If someone is dedicated to doing god's work will do it with his own money. If you want to donate money do it to a good hospital not a church.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Frank

      So paying school taxes contributes to the abuses done by teachers?

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

      no, frank, paying a pedo-house to whisper stories of imaginary friends in the sky is pretty crappy behavior to me.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  16. Frogist

    I have to say, I am impressed with the efforts of Cardinal Rigali and DA Williams. Their cooperation and vigilance is so the opposite of what we've seen from the Vatican. They're kickin' ass and takin' names. The Catholic Church needs more of this type of leadership. I applaud them both. Take note, Mr Pope, words of apology mean nothing without the actions to back them up.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  17. MuddyBuddy

    I say the one on the lower right sure "looks" guilty to me, I wouldn't trust him with my dog

    March 9, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  18. nazarchman

    You can thank God for pedophiles.

    March 9, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • J

      Actually, you'd want to talk to Satan about that, I believe. Sloth.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • nazarchman

      Didn't God create Satan too?

      March 9, 2011 at 10:12 am |
    • J

      No. Tell me who God created instead of Satan. I know you know.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:21 am |
  19. Name*Chedar

    Where is God when all these abuse is happening? Knock knock knock time to wake up and snell your coffee .

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

      Why don't you stop being lazy and asking stupid questions and go find the answer yourself? You will find it if you bother to look for it.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  20. CHHoosiers

    The look on the face of the priest in the middle of the top row says it all. The criteria a priest has to meet to be in the clergy is and has been flawed. When the Catholic church allows family men to be priests, the mojority of this issue will end.

    March 9, 2011 at 9:57 am |
    • John Morgan

      Well, he has a happy face.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Arpad Golgoth

      The best thing about pedophiles is that they slow down near schools

      March 9, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • CHHoosiers

      John Morgan – You don't feel like he's looking at you like a piece of candy? Creeps me out.

      March 9, 2011 at 10:23 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.