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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. Enoch

    Yeah, this building has been "retrofitted" about a thousand times now with the same end result. Time to take it down.

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

    As a recovered Catholic, it is truly a Catholic thing! The church has so covered this up for so long, and it is still trying to hide behind it's apparent authority. Shame on them! The only way to prevent it in the future is to prosecute those who violate the law! Unfortunately, hypocrites are everywhere in positions of authority, especially in churches. They should all be called out for their nonsense as soon as they say it! Rick Santorum is finally getting his words thrown back at him as the hypocrite he is. We in PA threw him out of the senate in 2006...but he seems good enough for plenty of morons elsewhere in America...good grief!

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

      if your a democrat... shut up about santorum and obama will win.... if your a republican, just shut up, obama beat him hands down and its your fault

      February 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • J.W

      The authority is the problem I think. If they admit that this is a problem that would mean admitting the church is fallible.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  3. rockysfan

    Sorry Catholic Church, you can't hide your pedophiles any longer. Oh, and your new tactic of declaring bankruptcy won't help you either. Hope you all burn for what you have done and what you have condoned.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  4. Bootyfunk

    welcome to the catholic church - home of child molesters world-wide.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  5. Joe shabadoo

    about f***in time. the church wants to meddle in the state's affairs? fine, let the state meddle in the church's affairs. enjoy your extended stays in the pen, boys.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • LFRED

      What will they do to pass the time in jail? That can't find God.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
  6. Bill

    This is amazing...to actually put priests on trial for this outrageous stuff that they've been doing behind their clerical garb all this time and getting a wink and a nod. These "priests" could have decided to be plumbers or accountants but chose to be a Catholic minister so how are they any different than anyone else ...except for bogus church political protection or some other mumbo-jumbo. Long overdue to treat these predators just like any others...lengthy jail time and offender registration/monitoring when they finally ever get out!

    February 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
    • chief

      re bill.... they are worse... they perform their insidious acts under the guise of being men of God

      February 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  7. Wipe the lipstick off the pig of religion

    Three of the priests did the same boy? You mean they had their own little pedo club going on?

    And for 12 years, the guy on the bottom left "investigated" the molestation of children by hiding the perpetrators?

    February 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  8. Josie

    I'm glad to see this, I was not raised Catholic, but Mormon (another messed up bunch if you ever see one), if more churches had their leaders held accountable for their actions and not protecting them....well one thing they wouldn't have many leaders left, and two maybe things would be better...but I really doubt it.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  9. jack patience

    I suspected something was wrong as 7 year old boy in 1960, after I stepped into the confessional and the priest asked for my phone number.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  10. Jo Ann

    I don't care what religion it is, the men of God are not above any man of this earth. They should be charged and sentenced just like any layman that commits a crime, specially the raping of a young boy.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Agreed. Assuming the evidence bears out and they are convicted by a jury of their peers, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I think there should be an enhancement to sentences on people who are in a position of trust (clergy, politicians, police officers, etc.)

      February 21, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  11. John

    It's a good thing i'm Christian LOL

    February 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Buried It

      Christian people abuse kids too, sorry you think all this is funny.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  12. dreamer96

    It appears the only form of birth control used by members of the Catholic Church is sodomy...

    February 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  13. Colonel Jack

    And Rick Santorum accused President Obama of having a "Phony Faith"... What kind of glass house of prayer you live in now Rick?

    February 21, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • Patrick

      like

      February 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  14. allen

    Again, as was the case with Sandusky..don't these guys just "look" like pedophiles? I mean seriously. After seeing a few cases pop up over the last year or two, I kinda feel like I could just pick these type of wacks out of a lineup. You hate to stereotype but geeez.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • michaeldw

      Bottom right guy, was definitely on To Catch a Predator.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  15. Phllyphan

    The Pope does not actually believe he is God, only God's emissary on earth. Either way, it is BS. I was also born into the catholic religion and went to catholic schools for 12 years. That experience was enough to put a person in therapy for the rest of their lives. All relisions are destructive, but the muslims & cathlics are the worst.

    February 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  16. JusDav

    but DamianKnight... this is different than Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc... and it is a "catholic" thing.
    These people are counselors, mentors, and above all of that, hold the reigns of the people by being "priests"
    actually, most priests are (imo) garbage because they claim to be better than all other people. The pope actually claims to be GOD. so... it is quite different than military leaders, persons in power over land, etc... they claim to be spiritual in nature and still act like low life garbage.
    anyone whom claims to be better than others is actually less than any. but then again, what do I know...
    I have only been alive for 5+ decades and have little "life experience" with people like this.
    BTW. I was born into the catholic religion and escaped when I was about 13-14. you know, when I finally was able to "see the light".
    cheers and may the gods be all killed and removed from our lives. I know mine is better because of it.

    go ahead, let the christians start vilifying me.... 🙂 no worries though, I can take it...
    JusDav

    February 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Laura

      JusDave...the "christians" won't vilify you...they will bow their heads and pray for you!

      February 21, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
    • Patrick

      @Laura
      Historically speaking they are more likely to kill you..while they pray for you.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      JusDav,

      I appreciate your viewpoint and I have no intention of villifying you. I'm not Catholic, so I really have no dog in this fight.

      I suppose I just see it as two different methods of the same thing. Some of these people use military might to commit atrocities. Others use guilt and "spiritual power" to commit atrocities. It all comes out the same in the end and there is no excuse for it. A victim who has less power is taken advantage of.

      I can certainly understand the outrage. To be honest, I'm pretty abhorred by it as well, but I feel that way regardless of who the person is. People have been using positions of authority to commit heinous acts for thousands of years. We SHOULD be angry about that, but understand that this is a far bigger issue than these priests.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • sickofit

      Im just glad their are others who see religion in general for what it really is. A scam, created to control and manipulate weak minded people. "God" did not create anything, "God" no matter what your "faith" was created by men. It's probably the only way people could rationalize killing each other thousands of years ago. As long as "God" is on your side, you can do whatever you like, from killing innocent people to molesting children.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  17. Ghost in the machine

    I was also raised catholic. The smoke, long silk robes, ritualistic latin speaking non-sense is all a coverup so "Joe-Public" believes he's closer to a god. As I gained knowledge, I figured out all this was just a game to gain power/money from the poor & illiterate soils of the world. Now I'm seeing the other dirty secrets coming out.
    I have many friends & family that still attend the big brick houses of deceit, turning their hard-earned dollars over for legal defenses to a group of money/power hungrey pedifiles.......makes me wonder what it takes some people to wake up ???

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

      Catholics are against contraception simply because they want MORE CATHOLICS to get money from. The Vatican could buy most of the world's land by now – but they always want MORE. That is bad enough, but then they harbor child molesters as well. Just great. See you in church. NOT!

      February 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • JusDav

      Ghost... that was priceless. "The smoke, long silk robes, ritualistic latin speaking non-sense "

      I remembered all the smoke, robes and latin from the old days.
      Made me think of "smoke and mirrors", which is pretty close to the truth

      thank you for the memories..

      February 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • jack patience

      Did you ever wonder as a little boy inside the confessional if the "saint" in the other cave (behind the screen) was fully clothed.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  18. Rookie

    THANK YOU !!!! Finally these monsters will start being held accountable. I'm talking about the ones who COVER UP the abuse. Too long have religious clergy been immune to the law. Let them fall as it should be.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • JusDav

      unfortunately, this will not punish anyone. $5 bet that the total time in lock up will be less than 2 years. this is a combined total of all five involved. Slap the hand (that moslested the little boy) and send them on their way to continue to be sub-human.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  19. larry5

    The Muslims stone young women to death and the Catholics molest boys. Religions have their specialties.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  20. DamianKnight

    Cruel people will hide behind whatever they can to commit atrocities. The Popes have done it (see: the Borgias), political leaders have done it (see Chairman Mao, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Henry VIII, etc) and even foster parents, school teachers, principals, police officers, lawyers and judges have done it.

    What is the common link between all of these? People. People commit atrocities. No one's sh.it smells like roses. Christians, Buddists, Atheists, Jews, Muslims, English, French, Chinese, Russians, Americans. All have terrible points in their history. Why? Because history is full of people. And people are innately greedy and power-hungry and some will do anything to gain and go even further to maintain that power. I present Bernie Madoff for review.

    This is not a Catholic thing. This is a people thing. Sometimes I feel like if we redirected our outrage from WHO did these acts to preventing these acts from happening again, we'd be in such a better place.

    February 21, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Patrick

      The part you are missing or intentional forgetting is the church covered these abuses up and arrange for them to happen again. You can make all the excuses you want… they won’t change the facts.

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

      what a pathetic catholic apologist comment.... redirect from who did it, to prevention.... this makes me sick.... how about putting these peds in jail.... thats a deterent, also put everyone in jail that is an accomplice.... thats a deterent,.... i think the deterent is justice and prevention....

      February 21, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • gort01

      This IS A CATHOLIC THING...as you phrased it.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Before the witch hunt begins, I'm not saying these people shouldn't be punished. Let me start out by saying, I'm not Catholic so I'm certainly not trying to shield those who are guilty of any crime from being prosecuted. I want to see those who commit crimes placed before a jury of their peers, and if the evidence shows that they were guilty of a crime, they should be punished according to whatever laws are in place. I'd even be in favor for an enhancement, given that they were in a position of trust that they violated (I feel the same way about political leaders and police officers who are convicted of crimes.) And I certainly think there should be punishments for those who aided and abetted it by covering it up (similar to how if you hide a bank robber from the police, you get punished.)

      My point is, child molestation didn't begin and it certainly won't end with the Catholic church. I think some of the anger at the fact that the church didn't do everything within its power to stop this and even went so far as to conceal it is valid. I think the extreme desires of everything from a lynch mob of the priests (who haven't been convicted yet, mind you, except in the court of public opinion), to burning down the Vatican is not going to work.

      We should be working to prevent this from happening again. Do you want to stick your finger in the cracks of the breaking dam or do you want to retrofit the dam to stop it from leaking again?

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

      re damian.... TOO LATE, you have to stop problems and prevent them .... its unjust to say forget about the past and move forward when these are kids being tricked bo socalled men of God ,, you say We should be working to prevent this from happening again. Do you want to stick your finger in the cracks of the breaking dam or do you want to retrofit the dam to stop it from leaking again?

      February 21, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      Perhaps I'm a bit more of an optimist. I think we can punish those who have committed these acts and we can see what happened and try to prevent it from happening again. Are we going to be 100% successful? Probably not. But can we make this far more difficult and less likely to happen again? Absolutely.

      When an earthquake happens, you don't just rebuild the fallen building and hope another earthquake doesn't take it down. You rebuild and retrofit the building so it won't collapse when the next earthquake inevitably happens.

      February 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
    • chief

      when an earthquake happens .... you immediately seek those in need of aid.... you dont start some retrofit buildings..... my guess is you are a cathoic or a priest out here trolling trying to minimize the damage....

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

      You apparently aren't reading what I'm saying.

      1) I already stated I'm not Catholic and that would indicate that I am also not a priest.

      2) I also already stated that those who have been charged, if they are convicted, should face punishment.

      You seem to be on a witch hunt to get rid of the Catholic church, simply because they were involved with child molestation. Do you feel the same way about Penn State with that child molestation charge? They had a coach who was molesting boys. And they had a person who knew about what was going on and didn't do anything about it.

      Should we get rid of Penn State? Should we get rid of all universities? Or maybe we should get rid of college football? Maybe football altogether?

      Do you see how ridiculous your logic is? Let's punish those involved. Go all the way up the ladder. But to get rid of a massive world religion, with millions of people involved, because there were some corrupt people is using a nuclear weapon to take out a beehive. Exterminate the beehive and make it more difficult for the bees to make a new nest.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • chief

      my logic toward you is pointed at redirection away from the issue by you.... all who read this see it, your retrofit logic... thats good if your protecting priests, your comment about prevention ... another classic comment out of a mass.... you moronic logic... penn state, you would say, let sanducky free and lets prevent peds..... there are many who think the church is compliant in the abuse by its neglect... i am one of them .... all these kids have names.... and souls .. unlike the ped priest and those that support them by redirection

      February 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • DamianKnight

      I have never redirected away from the issue. I tried to add some perspective, which you have apparently failed to recognize. Pedophilia did not begin with the RCC and it certainly won't end with the church, yet you seem so hellbent on punishing priests rather than addressing the ENTIRE issue. These acts are a SYMPTOM of the problem, not the problem itself. But you have to look past what the media is telling you and actually think about it before you can come to that realization.

      You keep trying to make this point that I'm saying to let them go without any punishment. I've said it, at least twice before, I'm not in favor of that.

      "there are many who think the church is compliant in the abuse by its neglect." I'm going to assume that the word you meant was "complicit." And I agree, the church was complicit in the acts and those whom we can find and punish, we should. (There it is, second time in this post. Maybe it will sink in this time.)

      I'm asking you. Do you think your same standard should apply to Penn State? Should Penn State close because of the same type of abuses (admittedly on a smaller scale) happened there? Or should we go after the coach and everyone who knew about it and let it happen and punish them?

      February 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
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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.