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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. celtan

    All those who are guilty should be punished. Emphasis on the word guilty, under our system, they are completely innocent until proven otherwise. I studied all my life in Catholic schools and never saw anything strange happen. All the consulted studies suggest that similar events, occur even more often in other religions, such as Protestants, Islam and Judaism. Why does the Media avoid them..? Reminds me of the British massacring the Americans in their colonies, and loudly protesting everywhere about how the Spanish were slaving and killing them. Now-a-days we see that almost no Americans survived in British Colonies, while they exist by the billions in former Spanish colonies. Same situation _again_..? Lets see what's going on with the other religions, then punish ALL guilty. Otherwise. its simply another smoke-screen..

    February 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  2. jeffro

    Just in time for Rick Santorum to take the lead in the republican primaries touting his moral standing rooted in in the catholic church. Hopefully the "liberal media" will clean his clock with this issue.

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

    Every social organization serves to protect it's own existence! That includes organized religions. Yes, I will admit that the catholic church does a lot of good things, too, but the main concern of the Catholic church....IS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  4. neastsider

    These pedophiles should have been reported, caught and tried years ago. Because of the mentality of the church hierarchy to hide them by shifting them around to other parishes and deny, deny ,deny that anything was wrong, or say that the accusers were liars is all part of the world wide cover-up. As was recently seen with the making of some of these bishops to cardinals, the more you cover-up and deny and hide, the bigger your reward wil be.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  5. dennis brow

    Pigs I say.just filthy stinking pigs. God loves all my ass.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  6. truth

    Every single person that contributes money into a Catholic basket should go to hell.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • JT

      I know, it's disgusting to the rest of us. Only religion can make otherwise decent people support insti-tutionalized child r.pe.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • josh

      Do you think every single Catholic is like that? How many people are helped by Catholic charities? In all reality they will get theres after they're dead. Not all Catholics are like that

      February 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • truth

      Money in the collection basket perpetrates this behavior. The money goes to buying off of family of kids that have been abused by priest, bishops and popes. The Catholic church spends hundreds of millions on pedophilia.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • EPAB

      There is no hell except here on earth – just ask these little boys. That's why these priests AND bishops need very severe punishment here on earth. Very slow torture would work for me.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  7. iankearl

    "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."

    Really? The fact that they let them stay in the ministry is a disgrace to their teachings! Wonder if abollished the abstinance rule, if things would change for the better.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  8. Troy in Austin

    Ricky? Ricky? Rick InSantorum ..... The Priest want's to give you something in his office! Ricky? Where are you hiding?

    February 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • anonymous

      lol

      February 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
  9. choq madiq

    they arent married, they need some kind of action lol

    February 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
    • truth

      That is probably much closer to the truth than anybody want sot admit.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  10. griz5106

    One can only imagine the horror that children had to endure when our species was much younger and the church so powerful and beyond criticism of any kind.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • abby in Texas

      If you study European history, especially church history, it is a litany (pardon the pun) of abuse of power, abuse of people - torture, murder, wars, etc. If the whole truth was known about what has happened and is still happening people would leave the church in droves. As it is many Catholics are cafeteria Catholics and only abide by the "rules" they want to. Some are minimalist Catholics who only do the minimum required. My opinion? The CC has turned Christianity into big business and yet there are many reports of fiscal irresponsibility and malfeasance. Ironically, Jesus went around without fancy clothes or lots of money but the CC can't seem to do anything without asking for $$$$

      February 21, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Steve0499

      Are you still living in the 16th century?

      February 21, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • It's all sad

      Prayer must only change things for the fortunate people then. There are plenty of kids in the US who pray, with no food on the table and no mom and dad to offer them a safe home. Enjoy your golden tower and congratulations, god loves you more than the millions of people suffering all over the globe.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • JT

      Define "change". As these children were r.ped and cried out to the invisible dead Jesus to save them from his priests he either ignored them or simply does not hear their screams since he doesn't exist.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      I agree, it does, it gives you hope.
      But so does HOPE!
      Although hope (prayer) when your hope comes true it MUST be God.
      Where as when hope (nonprayer) comes true for an atheist we just high five and feel fortunate.
      I feel much better when things go wrong than trying to blame some Devil or God, and I don't beg in vain.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
  12. ATLmatt

    Oh if only the parents of these former priests had used contraceptives...

    Help control the zealot population. Please have your devout spade or neutered.

    February 21, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  13. Secular Nation

    And these people wanted to have a "moral voice" in the countries healthcare provision.... please, keep your filthy hands out of the countries business....

    February 21, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  14. Lee

    Santorum!!! Where his great moral voice on this??? He is the great defender of his very peculiar version of American Christianity and Catholicism after all.

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

      Santorum is too busy condemning everybody else.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
    • Troy in Austin

      Ricky? Ricky? Rick InSantorum ..... The Priest want's to give you something in his office! Ricky? Where are you hiding?
      I'll bet you'll like it!

      February 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • abby in Texas

      Santorum the Sanctimonious is more akin to a Grand Inquisitor of the 15th century (remember the Spanish Inquisition?)

      February 21, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  15. Sara

    I was baptized catholic as an infant. I went to 8 years of catholic school, then 2 more years of catechism classes while attending a public high school. But the older I've gotten, the more I've seen the hypocricy. I left the church in my 20's and will never consider going back to it again. There are too many child abusers, alcoholics, etc. and they are all wearing clerical collars! And I don't believe the pope or any other man has the right to tell me to keep having kids when he's not the one that's going to support them and take care of them. They need to concentrate on their own priests and stop interfering with everyone else. At the very least they ought to be paying taxes!!!

    February 21, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • iankearl

      I've always wondered how anyone could get marrital advise or parenting tips from those who have never experienced it.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  16. ART

    Where is Santorum? Why have we not heard from him regarding this? How's this for moral values Mr Santorum?

    February 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
    • CTYank

      Rick's got little connection to reality. And, he can't find a way to use this against anyone.
      Besides, Rick's really an idiot. Notice the deer-in-the-headlights look? He's irrelevant.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  17. Candace

    This they cover up... Yet make such an uproar about women being given contraception.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • BBC

      And their MALE god watches down all this. BS

      February 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • BBC

      I wish there will be no religion in the future

      February 21, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Bendict's butt pirates

      Obviously they are against contraception it limits the supply of fresh meat

      February 21, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  18. a

    The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and its enablers, need to face asset seizure and jail time. Unfortunately, I do not know how to effectively sue the Vatican. However, having huge fines levied against guilty archdioceses and putting priests and others who abused children and enabled the abuse of children in jail is a good start.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  19. Bofusabode

    May they all burn in hell.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Heaven Skate

      Sorry, pal, this is what the population of "heaven" will be made up of. All they have to do is kiss the hem of Jesus' cloak. Still wanna go there?

      February 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • William

      All in good time. First, they should all hang by their neck here on Earth.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • 12121

      @ heaven skate : oh so you now decides who will make up heavens population? I think we're praying to the wrong person now

      February 21, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  20. sadie

    The knee-jerk reaction of the Catholic Church when faced with possible criticism is to close ranks and protect its image. The rights of vulnerable children come much lower down the list of priorities. The Catholic Church guards its power and wealth jealously. Individuals have little value to the hierarchy, what really matters is being able to boss others around and to get-off while doing it. Remember, power corrupts.

    February 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Bofusabode

      Sounds just like the dim/lib party.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • 8181

      @Bofusabode: So you agree with the Catholic church and it's ongoing cover up of pedo scandal? Way to go.

      February 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • CTYank

      Dufus,
      Sure, just like Vitter, Ensign and others. Take off the blinders.

      February 21, 2012 at 2:15 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.