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. blondie

    I love the smiling in the mug shots. Amazing. People are so falliable. To smile out of habit while getting booked for raping boys...I am at a loss for words.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • gort01

      they arent smiling from habit, they are smiling because they have gotten away with crimes against children for decades and dont think they will be punished....arrogant, sickeniing and I hope this brings down all of them from the vatican , which cardinal law's mug shot is missiing also....the catholic church is an abomination

      February 21, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Ralph Kramden

      I thought it was the beginning of a Brady Bunch episode.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
  2. dale

    i think they fear birth control because it would lessen it's supply of young altar boys.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  3. Joe T.

    In the church I belonged to (no longer a member), they put a "two-witness" rule into place. If there aren't two witnesses that come forward about the abuse, nothing is done. Going to the police is not allowed and many times met with ex-communication.

    In most cases, there are only going to be two witnesses, the perp and the victim. Policies like this need to change. While claims are made, nothing is done and the perp is still given free reign to hurt more children. Not only that, if one moves to a new city or goes to a new congregation, the new congregation is not warned of a potential problem, even if the abuse claims were discovered to be true!

    February 21, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  4. David Johnson

    Odd how the Catholics get their beads in a knot over contraception, but seem to enable attacks on children.

    Is it just me, or does every Catholic church you pass by, look like a potential McDonalds?

    Just Dreamin'

    February 21, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  5. Letto

    As a Catholic I must say that it is sad that these acts have been and are continuing to be committed. The good thing is that I am happy that persons are not keeping silent any more, the onus is on us, the congregation to demand a greater level of transparency in church matters, change is definitely needed and most times this changes come from bottom up and not necessarily from top to bottom, when we demand change and refuse to compromise then surely the 'powers that be' must heed.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • David Johnson


      My thought, is that if you remain in this den of pedo_philes, giving money and support...

      Just bein' realistic

      February 21, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • An inconvenient truth

      The greatest dens of abuse are not the churches or the schools. The greatest dens of child abuse are the homes among trusted family members and neighbors. One wonders if those that so readily point fingers at the church like Johnson are doing so so that no one looks at them too closely?

      February 21, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  6. yannaes

    They look innocent enough!

    February 21, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  7. Joshua Ludd

    Yes, and remember why a higher up being charged is a new thing. Bernard Law was quickly moved out of the country to a cushy new job at the Vatican so he couldn't be charged and tried for his crimes. Its a first because this one is being hung out to dry by the Vatican and Ill Papa.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  8. MyTake

    All , I present ... men of God.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • blondie

      Let all "followers" of all "faiths" take heed to "men of god".

      February 21, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  9. Reality

    Only for the newbies:

    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 10:26 am |
  10. phan

    Enjoy hell.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • David Johnson


      Hell and Heaven do not exist. There is no evidence for an afterlife. When your little born again brain flatlines, you are no more.

      But, be of good cheer! You don't have to feel guilty about sleeping in on Sunday.

      Note to freethinkers: Dr. Phil says to always follow up criticism with something positive.


      February 21, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  11. 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.
    The stickiest point for most people is that not only was the doc.ument itself Top Secret for decades, it explictly stated that anybody involved in this type of investigation, including the accuser and potential witnesses, are sworn to secrecy regarding any and all details, upon penalty of 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 (49%) substantiated allegations of abuse against Catholic clergy were addressed by sending the priest off for psychiatric counseling and then moving him to another parish, with nary a whisper to law enforcement. This number does not include priests relocated for reasons other than charges of se.xual impropriety.
    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."
    Jose Barba Martin of Mexico tried for years to have his accusations against the founder of the Legionaries of Christ heard by the congregation. In the end, it took eight years for Rome to discipline the Rev Marcial Maciel, and require him to live a life of reserved prayer. Maciel died in 2008 before the Legionaries admitted he had fathered at least one child and molested young seminarians.
    A letter written by a now-dead Canadian bishop shows church officials knew of se.xual abuse allegations involving a priest before his promotion to a top Vatican post and then discussed with Vatican officials how to keep the scandal from becoming public.
    There is also Catholic priest who was defrocked after a nun accused him of rap.ing three children in Bolivia who has been living with his family in Uruguay for more than a year – with the full knowledge of Uruguayan church officials – despite an Interpol warrant for his arrest.
    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.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • ipayattention

      you comment was amazing....usually all i find is silly internet trolls spewing their useless agendas and self loathing all over the place....very informative....and to the point.....i for one, appreciate it =)

      February 21, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  12. glennrobert

    This is a problem in all faiths!

    February 21, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Joe T.

      Not just all faiths but anywhere grown men have access to young boys (Penn State scandal is a good example). Churches are a pedophile paradise. This is because we are supposed to trust these people as they are supposedly men of God. It doesn't help when the church works towards covering up these cases.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • *facepalm*

      Please tell us at least one other faith that has had a decades-long, global conspiracy to hide the truth at almost all cost. Which other religious faith has constitently and knowing moved child predators to new locations to prey upon new and unsuspecting children while paying hush money out of parishioners' pockets to keep the truth from finding light?

      There's a very good reason why the RCC gets hammered in the media. It's well deserved.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Dude


      February 21, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Joe T.

      Jehovah's Witnesses are one.

      Not to mention there are instances I've heard of in Protestant churches and let's not even talk about the Mormons.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • J.W

      It may happen in other places, but there is not an effort to cover it up.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • Joe T.

      J.W., just look into the Jehovah's Witnesses abuse history and tell me they don't try to cover it up.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • J.W

      Well the initial post said that this is a problem in all faiths. Maybe it has been like that in Jehovah Witnesses but certainly not all faiths

      February 21, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • Joe T.

      Yes, not all faiths but to say it's only limited mainly to the Catholic Church is being a little naive.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  13. D

    Bottom line, the Catholic church needs to review its rules & regulations governing priests and allow them to have NORMAL relationships like the rest of the Church & world so that this doesn't happen.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • *facepalm*

      How about, at a minimum, demanding that it's clergy take any hint of abuse to the authorities? I mean, really, how hard could that possibly be?

      February 21, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  14. Bhawk

    This is the religion Santorum wants America to have!

    February 21, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • cmc

      The fact that any elected official wants America to have a religion is problem enough.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  15. pbuzbee

    hypocrites the only reason they don't want birth control is because their victims don't get pregnant this is sick

    February 21, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  16. ann west

    🔴 These "people" live in a hypocritical world of pretending to be celibate while raping children. 🙏

    February 21, 2012 at 10:03 am |
  17. lastofall

    Once and again if it turns out to be true, then once and again it is a shame. But as with every one accused of any crime, the accused are not as yet guilty as charged, so those who delight in throwing stones, ought not to behave rashly.

    February 21, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Mikey

      axtually there is some evidence against Mr Avery. The man was defrocked. I agree with you that we must consider them innocent until proven guilty. However, the church itself is guilty in the court of public opinion. The Catholic church has shown, and still does apparently (i.e. Kansas City) that it still shields the priests. And that donations given to the church to do "good deeds" have gone to pay claims, and let us not even go into all the bankruptcies. The church is run by hypocrites of the highest order.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:07 am |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • jj5484

      I'll bet you two things - the alleged victims were praying for help and the those priests were praying that they wouldn't be found out. Tell me exactly how that works - that prayer changes things???

      February 21, 2012 at 9:58 am |
    • Mikey

      is that a joke? Prayer only makes YOU feel better. Atheism is not only healthy for one, but it shows that one can think for themselves.

      February 21, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • glennrobert

      Religion is not healthy for children or anyone else. All religions lead fanatics to war and death!

      February 21, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • glennrobert

      Religion is not healthy for children or anyone else. All religions lead fanatics to war and death! Where did I repeat this?

      February 21, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • glennrobert

      B. S. Religion kills!

      February 21, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • glennrobert

      B. S. Religion kills! No I have not said that.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      February 21, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • jj5484

      "Proven" is not an adequate response. Tell me how exactly prayer would help this situation? It seems to me that prayer could help the perpetrator feel better about themselves after the fact. Perhaps they should have been praying for self control before they committed the crime. That said, what is done is done... so just how will prayer help this situation?

      February 21, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      February 21, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Michelle

      It has actually proven in at least study that praying does not work. Research compared recovery in patients that were pray for and those who were not. More patients actually recovered who were not prayed for.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Fact From Fiction

      Do not reply to this person.
      This post, word for word, is copied and pasted to any story on CNN.
      This person is the worst kind of troll.
      Dont waste your time.

      Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  19. HeIsGod

    @ Marisol – Thank you for proving my point of your ignorance! Aren’t you the one who is telling me to ask God to get over there so He can stop these crimes against children, but yet, you say that how can you hate something that doesn’t exist? You contradict yourself there and seem to be very confused. How many of these “gods” have you prayed to? Show me with evidence the historic existence of these gods because I have never heard of any of them, just Christ.

    Dear, you will have evidence the day you come face to face with Christ and Christ along with His followers will stand together that day against these “gods” that you ignorant Atheists keep insisting that they exist, but yet, there is not god….WOW!



    February 21, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • BRC

      I don't think you fully undertood Marisol's comments. Don't feel bad, it was a common exchange between believers adn non-believers, that many believers don't grasp correctly at first read, let me help.

      Mirasol said the point that if "God" was so good, why didn't he stop the abuse of children. This comment is illustrative, it doesn't mean M believes in "God", it is being use to illustrate a lack of evidence of existence. You then made the point that "God" doesn't come to the prayers of those that don't trully believe. Fair enough, M responded by telling you to pray for it to stop (making the assumption that you do trully believe). Again, this comment was illustrative, it was showing that even though M is clearly an atheist who "God" would have no reason to listen to under your premise, surely someone who was a part of that church, how was a good Christian and a true believer, had prayed for "God" to help the children, probably even the children themselves (and I believe that Jesus says the belief of a child is the purest of faiths, something he thinks all should strive for), but "God" STILL hasn't intervened, so why should anyone believe in its existence (or at least its interest).

      Now, when M said you were BOTH atheists, it dioesn't really mean YOU are one, it is meant to draw attention to a simple question, if you don't believe in any of the thousands of other god people have witten about (many of whom are much much older than the Christian "God"), why do you believe in the ONE that you do? M isn't claiming that any of the others exist, so doesn't need to provide any sort of proof that they do, M is saying that NONE of them exist.

      At some point during the exchange you made a slightly random jump, punctuated by bold letters of "HUMANITY GET OVER HERE AND STOP THIS!" Guess what? That's what people are trying to do, that's why citizens are calling for the Catholic Church to change its policies, and to get out fo the way of criminal investigations, they are tired of waiting for a god that may or may not exist, but that certainly doesn't seem to be doing anything.

      Hope this helped, let me know if you have any other questions.

      February 21, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • HeIsGod

      @ BRC – No, pretty much, Marisol has contradicted herself in all of her comments, therefore, wasn't able to come back to defend her comment.

      Thanks for trying to defend her and I sure hope the policies for the Catholic Church changes. A criminal is a criminal, no matter where he/she is from or what their belief is. All CRIMINALS should be punished to the extent of the law.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • BRC

      I agree with you completely on the law comment, can't say that I saw any contradictions though.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Bizarre


      1. Mirosal is a man.
      2. He usually posts in the early morning hours, so has probably left by now – nothing to do with you.
      3. Your as.sertion that anyone who even says the word "God" and refutes what you claim to be 'facts' about YOUR supernatural being, must be a believer is beyond ridiculous.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      1. Thanks for clearing that Marisol is a man, even though that’s a woman’s name.
      2. I don’t assume that anyone that says the word “God” is a believer. I am saying that since Atheists love to hang out in articles, such as religious ones, they seem to believe deep in their hearts that there is a God because they keep blaming God for the evil deeds that humanity do, even the wars that are being caused though scientific weapons that HUMANITY have created.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Bizarre


      1. His name is MIROSAL, not Marisol. Your Spanish slip is showing.
      2. Non-believers only use those arguments to point out to you the contradictions and fallacies of your beliefs. It seems that you always miss the IF part - IF your imaginary "God" controls EVERYTHING, then you must attribute all bad things to it, as well as all good things.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Bizarre

      No comment, HeIs?... perhaps a case of: "contradicted herself in all of her comments [or was just plain wrong], therefore, wasn't able to come back to defend her comment."

      February 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  20. PAT

    It is a shame that women allow their children to go to Catholic schools, and to the church. It should be that mothers protect their children. But the Catholic church itself, should take the blame, they should clean their church of these people. I would be ashamed to be a Catholic. I would hope that a mother would think ti is ok for a priest to touch their child. But the priest's themselves should punish thier own but i hope they all go to prison, and to the devil.

    February 21, 2012 at 8:28 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.