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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. Steve the Atheist

    God works in mysterious ways, right?

    February 21, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • GoFigure

      How would you know? And why are you even here? Must the pedophile subject you're attracted to.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Patrick

      @ Steve the Atheist
      I think you struck a nerve.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • GoFigure

      No Patrick, no nerve here. I'm not religious. I just can't help but question the phenomena of why Atheist are attracted to stories of God and religion like a moth to a flame. Either they get a kick out of making fun of people because they follow their own beliefs, or they suffer from a psychological malady. Either way, there has to be a malfunction involved.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      @GoFigure: If you're not religious, then why are you here? The same attraction that brings Atheists here maybe? Pot meet kettle!

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

      @ GoFigure
      Are you suggesting because they are atheist they are not allow to make their opinions known while you can? Are you sure you’re not religious, you sound just like one?

      For the record belief doesn’t mean religion. There have been plenty of articles on this blog about Atheism.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Wow, just look at here...an Atheist who really knows that God is working in "mysterious" way.

      GOOD JOB IN PROVING THAT ATHEISTS DO BELIEVE IN GOD AFTER ALL.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Sigh

      "GOOD JOB IN PROVING THAT ATHEISTS DO BELIEVE IN GOD AFTER ALL."

      Apparently, someone is off their medication.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  2. Epidi

    The Catholic Church has a loooong tradition of being in power in Europe – kingmakers, & king killers alike. They were THE word of law above all others for centuries. Kept the peasants illiterate and in fear of being executed for heresy, witchcraft, or whatever trumped up flavor of the day was. I don't want to Catholic bash because there are some very wonderful priests, nuns, & monks out there who do so much good and these bad apples tend to spoil the whole basket. The Church overseeing itself and not purging it's order of criminals is scary to me. The Vatican is like it's own country and makes itself anything but transparent. If they had just done the right thing & not worried so much about the PR I'm sure thier following would have appreciated and have more reason to trust them.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  3. JayV

    The bottom left, William Lynn, married my wife and I three weeks before he was arrested. My father in law had pressured us into a catholic wedding. Talk about a surreal "I told you so."

    February 21, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Epidi

      My husband was Catholic & I'm Pagan. His family & I agreed to Episcopalian for thier son to marry me in a church, lol. After a lenghty interview by the good Reverand Father I was determined to have much knowledge of the Christian religions, was very forthcoming and truthful in my answers, found to be of moral & excellent character but I just didn't believe in JC as my lord & savior. They treated it like a Jewish/Christian merger. What a rigamarole to appease others when we should have just married outside under Great Spirit's heavenly sky like we wanted to in the 1st place.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  4. Kim

    These people who hide behind religion to do their evil works, never ever represent God and never will. They find places(churches, schools) where people guards are down and trusting. They are sick preditors and they know what they are doing, and to all the Athesis "YOU'LL SEE"

    February 21, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Patrick

      @Kim
      You’re an enabler.

      O and btw my five year old nephew makes a better argument than “YOU”LL SEE” .

      February 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • fintastic

      I guess she/he told you!!!!!

      February 21, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  5. blam

    I don't understand why one would still worship and pray in a house that is undeniably rife with lies and evil.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • paul

      That's all religions.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 21, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Steve the Atheist

      Then keep praying. Oh yeah, wait, which of the almost 3,000 gods is the right one?

      February 21, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • fintastic

      No it doesn't.... I prayed and you're still here.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • fintastic

      No it doesn't.... you are still here.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • HeIsGod

      Steve the Atheist – How many of the 3,000 gods have you prayed to? And how many of your "gods" have answered you?

      February 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      I see that fintastic is still studering.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  7. GoFigure

    "Why don't you go on and have a seat." ~Chris Hanson/Dateline

    February 21, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • DamianKnight

      "What were you planning on doing here tonight?" – Chris Hansen.

      Awesome show. It's so fun to watch these guys backpedal and spit out excuses.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Patrick

      I know lol, just like the people that defend religion’s history of tyranny, murder, theft and pedophilia.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  8. Jack

    The church believes in sprits so they can get away with murder or playing with little boys to get a nut off. This really makes me want to believe in your religion, go to church and Force my kids go to church so they can become "Touched" in more ways than one. Pray to the lord, so we can all be molested by these monsters, keep on defending them until it's your kids. “To get to heaven you most fondle a kid” it’s in the bible do it…

    February 21, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  9. Plug1

    DEVIL'S OF PREY!!!!!

    February 21, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  10. Islam: The Religion That Goes BANG ! ! !

    That picture looks like the Brady Bunch od child molesters

    February 21, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Florence Henderson

      Here's the story
      Of a Pope named Benny
      Who was hiding out a lot of pervy priests

      February 21, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  11. Plug1

    I look at ALL Catholics with CAUTION!!!!!

    February 21, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • Ken in Texas

      Do you also look at all Boy Scout leaders the same way? Public School teachers? Just about anyone who is in contact with children is also a risk? I'm not making excuses for these monsters, only saying to not make such a sweeping judgement as to indict all catholics or priests on the basis of the crimes of a few.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • chief

      re ken .... they arent so called men of God,,,, and the boy scouts and schools dont protect them by moving them to other towns to continue their sick ways

      February 21, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      I look at all unbelievers and only perverted Catholics with caution. I am keeping an eye on you! ' – )

      February 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  12. maggie

    I guess contraception was in the church's "humanae vitae" but molestation was not.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  13. Tim

    It should not being historic that pedophiles are being charged and punished appropriately, but thanks to the Catholic church it is. It is good that they will help out any of their own, but these are people yout do not exactly wasnt to be associated with. Let's not forget how much the Vatican helped the Nazi's escape persecution after WWII. Even as recently as 1999, the Pope beatified war criminals as martyrs. The Catholic church is the Roman Empire's version of Christianity

    February 21, 2012 at 11:26 am |
  14. Mike Jansen

    Avery converted my mother from Methodist to Catholic back in 86-87 at St. Domenic's in Philadelphia. I was in his company numerous times as I accompanied my mother to the classes. Thank god I was ever left alone with him. A real piece of trash.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  15. Jim

    Why oh why are 'Catholic Charities' allowed anywhere near children much less handling adoptions of innocent children??? Then they DARE to even speak up about morals and marriage equality...at least the gays asking for marriage are with consenting adults unlike the pervert priests in this extremely sick organization (Catholic Church and all organizations connected to it). The 'catholic church' has NO MORAL AUTHORITY!! Just knowing my parents forced me to attend this sick disgusting church while I lived in their house makes my stomach turn. As soon as I went to college I never set foot in another 'catholic church' even for someones marriage ever again!

    February 21, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Mike

      I hope Rick Santorum voters take notice. We need no theocracy style leadership in the USA.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • maggie

      Oh but wait. The great houdini already has an answer for that. the liberal culture of Massachusetts in his view caused this problem and his little flock of neocons is biting.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  16. Alex Klingen

    This is disgusting and has obviously been going on for centuries. How can anyone continue to have faith in the catholic church. Any other organization with this 'history' would have been obliterated by now, why not them?

    February 21, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  17. ForGoodOfAll

    I was born and raised a Catholic, but as an adult denounced my affiliation with the Catholic Church due to the wide-spread pedophilia, coverups as well as the rampant rotations of pedophile priests to other parishes to avoid detection and scrutiny. I really don't understand how people can still remain Catholic and give hard earned $$ to that establishment. Don't you wonder where your hard-earned donation $$ is really going to?? Probably most is going to lawyers at this point...

    February 21, 2012 at 10:58 am |
    • Mike

      They don't even need the donations I'm sure, one of the richest organizations on the planet. It is and always was a money making machine based on the gullibility of its followers.

      February 21, 2012 at 11:13 am |
  18. 2chihuahuas

    To Anne S. While I agree that priests should be allowed to marry this is NOT the cause of the abuse. The church has coddled these pedophiles for generations and protected them at every turn. If you are a pedo the church looks like a safe haven to practice your vile ministry. These are not God fearing men but sick, disgusting wolves in sheeps clothing. The church has much to make up for and the fact that they are not ACTIVELY cleansing their ranks is a testament to their self rightous behaivor and a big reason the average non-church member is so incensed. Can you blame people for being so angry?

    JoeProfet....your excuses are hideous. These were supposed to be men of God and laying the blame at the feet of non-believers is the same poor excuse the Vatican has used for GENERATIONS, it's everybodys fault except the church. You do God a big disservice by your words, accept that the church and priests are to blame and move on.

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

    This is the organization that the government gives 2.4 billion dollars per year. Your tax money at work to defend pedophiles.

    Oh, but they want the government to stay out of the contraception issue, but please feel free to take government money, hypocrites.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  20. Martin

    The Catholic Church, the largest organization of pedophiles in the world. If it was anything but a religion it would have long ago been shut down and everyone involved as a priest on up would be in jail for life.

    February 21, 2012 at 10:53 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.