Jury selection to begin in Philadelphia archdiocese scandal case
Left to right, from top: Edward Avery, James Brennan, Charles Engelhardt, William Lynn and Bernard Shero have been charged in Philadelphia in connection with sex abuse against minors.
February 21st, 2012
01:03 AM ET

Jury selection to begin in Philadelphia archdiocese scandal case

By The CNN Wire Staff

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) - Jury selection begins Tuesday in the Philadelphia Catholic Archdiocese trial, a case experts have called one of the most sweeping sex abuse scandals in America.

The Philadelphia scandal could open a historic chapter in the abuse crisis, church watchers say, changing the way the American criminal justice system deals with such alleged cases.

A grand jury last year charged four priests and a parochial school teacher with raping and assaulting boys in their care.

The charges were unusual because they went beyond accusations against priests. A church higher-up was charged with covering up the abuse, which church experts say had never happened in the United States before.

All five pleaded not guilty to sexual abuse and conspiracy charges in April.

Edward Avery and Charles Engelhardt were charged with assaulting a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia from 1998 to 1999.

Bernard Shero, a teacher at the school, is charged with assaulting the same boy there in 2000. Avery was defrocked in 2006.

James Brennan, another priest, is accused of assaulting a different boy, a 14-year-old, in 1996.

Monsignor William Lynn was also charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the alleged assaults.

From 1992 until 2004, Lynn was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children.

The grand jury found that Lynn endangered children by knowingly allowing dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children.

In addition to the charges, the grand jury alleged that as many as 37 priests remained in ministry in Pennsylvania despite solid, credible allegations of abuse.

Testimony is expected to begin in the case in March.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pennsylvania • Sex abuse • United States

soundoff (400 Responses)
  1. Laura

    I would just like to ask people to leave the blame off God. He can't take our choice from us because his Word is true. There are three spirits in this world-God, humanity, & devil. God created evil he said so. Humans fulfill the lusts of the flesh without the Spirit of God. The devil thinks he runs this world but he can only do what God & us allow him to do. God gave us all power over the principalities of the air. We just don't use them. If you have never tried the Holy Ghost & baptism in Jesus name then you have a lack of knowledge in the things of God & should not be sharing thoughts that you have no knowledge of. Too many people claim to be Christians that have no holiness, form of Godliness, & use it as an excuse to be sinners. Get it together-no sin is going to enter in to Heaven. The bible says so-so cheer up these people sinning & hurting children have their place in a lake of fire that is real & will last for eternity. When Jesus died on the cross he said it is finished-his workon Earth was finishd

    February 21, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • fintastic


      Where is your evidence to support this statement? The bible says so?....

      "The bible says so-so cheer up these people sinning & hurting children have their place in a lake of fire that is real & will last for eternity."

      February 21, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Laura

      What nonsense.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Laura

      What trite nonsense.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • *facepalm*

      People definitely shouldn't blame god. In the same way, they also shouldn't blame the Easter Bunny.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Steve the Atheist

      Let me guess, "God works in mysterious ways."

      February 21, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • JT

      You poor deluded woman. People like you frighten me more than anything. You probably bring your children to the slaughter at the feet of priests. You disgust me.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      Hahahahahahahahahaha ........... aaaaaaaaaa.... ha, that is good! Nice, good laugh, thanks!

      February 21, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • God

      @Laura, you are correct. Satan can only do what I allow him to do. Of course, I'm a sadist, so he pretty much has free reign. It's quite funny, actually, from where I sit.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      "The bible says so-so cheer up these people sinning"

      I will the next time a parent hacks his children but doesnt kill them then blows them up like in Utah. I am sure you will be celebrating and praising the lord next time a child is beaten, ra p e d and killed. God created the devil and allows sin...god is sin. Enjoy you clueless moron.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  2. John Stefanyszyn

    Given that all have pleaded not guilty, will the Roman General Church be paying their legal bills in order to defend them?
    Given that all have pleaded not gulty, will they give permission to access their "confessions", which are confidential as per thr Roman General Church?
    Given that it seems that they believe not to have done evil against another human being....I guess that they find no need to repent, ask for forgiveness from the victims, and make appropriate sacrifice as required.

    ....Their self-right interests first ....before the love of the True God, before love of the Son of God, the One True Way of Life.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  3. me

    How ANYONE can "listen" to Catholics cry about birth control coverage when this embarrassing bs is going on is beyond me....

    February 21, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Neil

      So by your logic, all Cathlics are child molesters?
      Not sure how a few bad men out of millions of otherwise good men give you the assumption to label them all bad.

      By your standard, and I'm sure you have done wrong, your entire family is bad.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Neil

      All Cathlics are child molesters?
      Not sure how a few bad men out of millions of otherwise good men give you the assumption to label them all bad.

      By your standard, and I'm sure you have done wrong, your entire family is bad.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • *facepalm*

      So by your logic, all Cathlics are child molesters?"

      Holy defensiveness batman! That's not what was implied at all. The implication was obvious – allowing these abuses to go on for decades while actively covering and thus becoming complicit in the abuse kinda undermines the RCC's moral authority.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Troy in Austin

      No Niel, not ALL, just some of the ones you trust in the Catholic Church, all of their Churches all over the world. Everyday some poor boy learns about the Catholic God. And bleeds ....

      February 21, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  4. montyross

    Government sanction of child murder in the guise of "freedom of choice" is far more harmful to our society than perverts infiltrating the catholic church.

    February 21, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Mirosal

      ok just so we're clear... you're anti-contraception, and pro child-ra'pe ... got it. Now we know where you stand. You must be the president of your local NAMBLA chapter, right?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Mirosal couldn't be clear if Truth jumped up and bit it on the ass.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:31 am |
  5. Donna McLaughlin

    That Catholic Bishops should hang their heads in shame with what is happening with all the pedophiles, not enough is being done. Too much concern is being put on birth control issues lately. Don't they realize that 98% of Catholic women use it.

    February 21, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • montyross

      the two percent that dont must be the mexican and south American illegals that come the the states....

      February 21, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • Neil

      Not sure where you got that number, but I think it is a lot less. Something like maybe 65%. But that doesn't mean the Church has to condom it. Please forgive the pun, I couldn't resist.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • maggie

      Neil, the 98% is a verified statistic. While the church doesn't have to condone whatever it doesn't want to, neither do its followers have to adhere to a moral authority it no longer has.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  6. Reality

    From a recent Philadelphia Inquirer's report on Cardinal Bevilacqua's testimony to a grand jury investigating the pedophilia coverup in the Philadelphia Archdiocese during the Cardinal's tenure:

    "Bevilacqua insisted he needed "evidence in order to ask someone to step down."

    And not just any evidence. Anonymous reports, Bevilacqua said, had "no value at all to me."

    "Secondhand information," he added, lacked credibility.

    That puzzled the jurors, who then asked Bevilacqua if he believed in the Gospels.

    "Yes," assured the cardinal.

    "But," Spade pressed, "it's the jurors' understanding that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written many years after the actual events," by those not present at the time.

    "Yes," Bevilacqua agreed.

    So, using the cleric's own logic, wouldn't that make the Gospels "secondhand information"?

    February 21, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Neil

      First, I know everyone is going to think I'm defending them, but I'm not. Just going to remark on your post.

      He said Anonymous reports no value. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written by them They are not Anonymous. Next, he said Secondhand information lacked credibility.
      It would appear the secondhand Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had credibility.

      Your compairison is way off the mark. I'm not even a religious person, but your coment smacks of a non believer.......

      February 21, 2012 at 7:54 am |
    • Mirosal

      The gospels were written a full generation AFTER the death of that jesus guy. And there is NO historical records to indicate he ever existed in the first place. It is pretty well known that the gospels were written in Greek, and Greek was NOT a language used in the area where jesus roamed, if he ever did at all. Not a single author of ANY new testament book knew jesus personally. NONE of them. Also, it is generally accepted that at least two of the gospels were written by UNKNOWN authors, and that the names were assigned at a much later date.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • just sayin

      Greek was the written language of that area since the time of Alexander the great. Those who wrote the gospels were those who ministered and lived with Jesus or the apostles. This whole idea that the Bible is not a record is ridiculous. Why would the eye witness testimony of John not be acceptable? The farther we go back in history the fewer records survive. The Bible has survived and just because some self appointed atheist says it isn't relevant, who cares. We have a detailed written record by the people who were there. You don't like it? falls under the TS clause.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Reality

      JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

      Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

      February 21, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Steve the Atheist

      @Neil – gospels are 2nd-hand information? After decades and decades of the biggest game of telephone they were written down. Then they were edited and translated countless times before the versions we have available now. And of course, all in the name of a make believe story.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  7. fintastic

    All we need now is for someone to validate their actions with a bible verse......

    February 21, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  8. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    February 21, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      Then why did YOUR 'god' allow 'his' followers to do this to little kids who could not fight back? Yeah, your 'god' really LOVES kids doesn't he? Is your 'god' a child rap'ist as well?

      February 21, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • fintastic

      Don't feed the troll....

      February 21, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • Mirosal

      Thnks for the laugh Fintastic. 🙂 ... You should know that the troll also has other names, like "just sayin" and "prayer changes things" .. it's all the same person.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • innocent bystander

      Did I miss something? Since when has jury selection become a conviction?Is this still America or has it morphed into a qu eer Canada?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      And all those other folks regularly make Mirosal look like the idiot it is.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  9. MRMR

    These guys have been getting away with this for too long.. It needs to stop, they need to be punished just like anyone else who commits these types of crimes. IF this continues then Tax the Churches and Tax the Business's owned by the Churches. Stop their charade. The Pope and his henchmen need to stop up to this abuse that goes on under their nose's. They need to take some responsibility.

    February 21, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  10. JAB62

    Religion is disgusting enough without being a haven for pedophiles. Also, I have yet to see one get cured of their desires. They either re-offend or they have to be removed permanantly from the proximity of children. Might as well execute them now. If there were a god this crap wouldn't happen.

    February 21, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • JoeProfet

      If this country would stop kicking God out of everywhere, He could be where this crap is happening to stop it...but, you don't want Him anywhere so since that's the case, it is your fault this crap happens.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • fintastic

      Oh Joey.... so delusional.. so god allows this to happen because man kicked him out of church?...

      wow......... .

      in my best Yoda voice "so delusional are you"

      February 21, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • JoeProfet

      God doesn't go where he isn't wanted.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • HeIsGod

      JoeProfet – Very well said. This blame is to be put exactly where it belongs, in the people who have rejected God in their homes, church, and lives.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • HeIsGod

      fintastic – God refuses to interfere in the affairs of the very people who are constantly rejecting in this world. Are you willing to bring God back to your life so He can stop this crimes? If not, why are you complaining than?

      JoeProfet made it very clear as to why God will NOT stop this things from happening, are you not listening or are you just turning the blind eye looking to blame God and not the criminal?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • Mirosal

      Tell your 'god' to get its ass over here and stop it from happening, and many MANY more will believe in 'it'. Until then ..... the world will stay as it is.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Mirosal – So, you want me to ask God to get over there for you?? Why don't you ask God yourself, oh wait, you don't want Him around. You are too busy being p!ssed off on a God that doesn't exist.....I know that Atheists believe in God, but they are too busy accusing Him for the crimes that HUMANITY is doing.

      Why doesn't scienctists and technology stop them from committing these crimes? After all, there is no God, just us human beings.


      February 21, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • Mirosal

      You are also an athiest. I just believe in one less god than you do, and for the same reason you don't believe in all of the other thousands of gods that man has claimed existed at one time or another.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Mirosal – Wait a minute, but Atheists keep saying that there is no god, so where is your proof of the rest of the other "gods"?

      I for one, rather be dead than to ever become one of your kind! Also, NOT believing in any god(s) would make me an atheist, which I, for one, believe in only ONE God, the CHRISTIAN

      February 21, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Mirosal – Wait a minute, but Atheists keep saying that there is no god, so where is your proof of the rest of the other "gods"?

      I for one, rather be dead than to ever become one of your kind! Also, NOT believing in any god(s) would make me an atheist, which I, for one, believe in only ONE God, the CHRISTIAN GOD.

      Stop making yourself look like a total bitter fool, dear, it's showing very much.

      Atheims is for angry people. Have a great day and Jesus Christ loves you, even if you hate Him.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Mirosal

      How can I hate something that doesn't exist? Or hate someone who never existed? That's right, I mean your zombie jesus guy. No historical records show he ever existed in the first place. Why do you believe in just the one god? Why not all the others like Zeus or Apollo or Thor, Odin, or Osiris? Why not pray to them as well? They are gods too, right?

      February 21, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • fintastic


      Do all the children who are lying in hospital beds dying of cancer reject god?.... he doesn't go where he's not wanted? Is he not wanted there? why does god ignore these children who are suffering?....

      News flash.... no such thing as "god"... god was invented by man..... try thinking for yourself for a change instead of behaving like another sheep.

      "God refuses to interfere in the affairs of the very people who are constantly rejecting in this world."

      February 21, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • fintastic

      Christians.... masters in the art of confusion....

      god obviously doesn't go where he's wanted either......

      February 21, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Troy in Austin

      You are correct sir !!! The hypocrisy in religion is amazing to me!

      February 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  11. oohotdog

    why is santorum silent on this issue when he is so vocal on other church issues. perhaps he is trying to divert the press to protect someone. where any of these priests members of opus dei; that could be the connection to santorum please check it out

    February 21, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  12. Terry

    The Catholic Bishops were all concerned about healthcare dollars going to pay for contraception, and they failed to mention that the legal fees and settlements for worldwide child abuse cases is bringing the Catholic Church to its knees. Still, Catholics pour millions of dollars into the collection baskets throughout the world, which suggests "cult status" belongs to the Catholic Church and not the Mormon Church.

    February 21, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  13. clearfog

    What do you need contraceptives for? Little boys can't get pregnant.

    February 21, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  14. Mball572

    Oh, but not providing contraception is so much more important!

    February 21, 2012 at 5:56 am |
  15. AtheistSteve

    No that I wish to assign degrees of severity to one pedophile over another but an important point is being missed here. A pastor or priest is a person who simply by the position they hold are accorded with trust and respect automatically without the need to be vetted first. In many respects equal to that given to a school teacher. How incensed would the public be if they discovered that their children's teacher was a pedophile? It is the same for clergy. That would place them as predators of the highest order.

    February 21, 2012 at 5:00 am |
    • Mirosal

      if they are convicted, jut string them up by their 'privates' with piano wire, and tattoo on their backs "I like little boys" ... I'll bet they'd be married off in NO time once they get into prison.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:02 am |
  16. cutedog2

    Very sad and disappointing that the people that the10 year old boy believed he should trust took advantage of him in the most perverse way. This is depravity of man to the fullest extent, to hide behind a frock and use the church as an access to children for personal pleasure. May they be judged and prosecuted with swiftness. This many boy, now a young men. I hope they find peace.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:54 am |
  17. Mlarewaju

    It is a shame that this kind of thing happen to our children and in the church of God they should be jail if found guity

    February 21, 2012 at 4:10 am |
    • AnotherView

      See what happens when your man made god doesn't show up for work? It's the same all over the world.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:03 am |
    • JoeProfet

      @AnotherView, it is people like you that won't allow God to come to work, or school, or I'm sure if you have your way He won't be allowed in Churches either... You'll only have you to blame then for when these things happen, since God isn't allowed to help out.

      February 21, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  18. Jkl

    Prevs to the max

    February 21, 2012 at 4:03 am |
    • Mirosal

      like fer shure totally grody to the max .. gag me with a spo'on

      February 21, 2012 at 4:26 am |
  19. Yamo

    If santorum had a say in it: these criminals WILL go free

    February 21, 2012 at 3:58 am |
    • cutedog2

      What makes you think that?

      February 21, 2012 at 4:47 am |
  20. Raven

    Anyone that is involved in abuse of children should be arrested and charged, not permitted to continue working in the community. Whether they are priests or not! Allowing these men to continue living normally should not be permitted just because they are Catholic priests. Charge them like you would nay other man caught doing the same thing! Religion be damned!

    February 21, 2012 at 3:50 am |
    • Neil

      What are you talking about. Once the grand jury indicted them, they were arrested and charged.

      February 21, 2012 at 6:10 am |
    • Anne S.

      First of all I'm not sticking up for these priests, but how come it's always in the news about the priests? It's been said that is is 7% of priests in the Catholic Church that do this. We never hear about the abuse that happen in the other faiths. From what I have read there is more abuse in the other faiths then the Catholic Church put together, and there is never anything in the news about them. In my estimation it's time for the Vatican to allow priests to be married. Yes the priest take a vow abstinenance, but then they are not all perfect. The only one who was perfect died on the cross for us.

      February 21, 2012 at 8:04 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
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.