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. PBEL

    This shouldn't even be posted under "Belief", it should be under criminal justice. These men are accused of crimes. It doesn't matter that they happen to be catholic priests or catholic school teachers. If they are in the judicial system then it certainly doesn't pertain to a particular religion, but rather US criminal code. Heinous acts are committed by any number of people of different "religious" beliefs. This is more a betrayal of trust by individuals who were in a position of caring for children. Does it smack of hypocracy? Definitely. But is it a reflection of the actual religious dictates of catholics in general? Certainly not.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Joe T.

      Although I am all for Catholic bashing, I agree.

      This is supposed to be an opinion blog but this is more like a news story that shouldn't be in the belief section.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • GatorALLin

      ....or should be listed under the "EPIC FAIL of all epic fails...." Section.... is there any greater evil than a priest abusing children??

      February 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Catholic

      Gator – how about anyone abusing children? There are plenty of non-priest child abusers out there...fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, teachers, neighbors, etc.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • LouAz

      To you and all the other catholic apologists – SILENCE IS CONSENT !

      February 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • TopView20

      YES. The very fact that this article is listed under the "Beliefs" section attests to the American conscience and its inability to discern anything remotely associated with the word "religion." This is a criminal justice issue.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Catholic

      Lou – Silence is consent? Who is being silent? I think pretty much all Catholic parishioners would and have expressed outrage at the abuse scandals. I know it has been discussed in my church frequently. You don't know what you are talking about, so please stop pretending like you do.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • JT

      No...this story is in the right place. Only blind belief in such a controlling cult allows otherwise decent people to bring their children to the slaughter and still remain in the cult.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • chief

      re catholic.... nice name... people like you are accomplices to so-called men of God abusing kids... little kids... you boys by old peds.... you are almost as guilty due to you redirection of peds in the priesthood.... if you catholic parishoners actually did something... this would nt be a problem..... my favorite thing is to hear catholics talk about priests being peds that they always suspect.... yes your silent

      February 21, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  2. Really Jersey

    It is sad to see the rabid religious bigotry that permeates the comments sections on stories like this. Condemning ALL Catholics for the actions of these evil men. Ignoring the fact that there has been a great effort to prevent & prosecute this kind of crime. It doesn't always work because there are bad people like these in every group, but they ARE trying to prevent this from happening. The percentage of abuse in most other religions IS actually higher & it is the HIGHEST in purely secular groups now, but those intent on hate mongering refuse to acknowledge that. Pitiful.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      To your first point I agree that you cannot hold all accountable for the actions of a few. However, I ask for sources of abuse being higher in all other organizations. Saying something is easy, but backing it up in the same post will help your credibility.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • chief

      yes so called men of God in positions of authoriity and trust in God name abusing kids..... these monsters are in a different car on the hell train in my opinion..... its near the car of the apologists

      February 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  3. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    February 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • StanfordMD

      Yes, because even ants believe in god. Seriously delusional.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • An inconvenient truth

      Actually all of creation testifies to and therefore believes in God. Ants Keep their estate, an ant does not challenge God . The only creature in all creation that challenges God is man. Not the brightest bulbs on the planet.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Amy Rivera

      Prayer will not give those boys back their innocence!

      February 21, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  4. DeeNYC

    Now all they need to do is apply same charges to every church.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  5. gort01

    as a non catholic, i wish all the catholics would shut up

    February 21, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  6. Catholic

    Compared to the number of non-religious pedophiles and assailants, very few priests have committed these heinous acts. Don't criminalize the entire Catholic Church for the acts of a few. Contrary to popular belief, those of us who are parishioners working to build faith in our own communities do not condone the behavior of these "leaders" who may have brushed accusations under the rug. The Catholic Church has over 1 billion members – it does far more good in this world than harm. Given the sheer number of Catholics, it is ridiculous to impute liability to all members of this religion, because of the bad actions of a very few. Stop stereotyping.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • R M Miller

      I am not angry at Catholics (I was raised Catholic and my cousin is a Nun), I am angry at the Catholic Church for covering up these crimes and moving these priests around to other locations where they can molest more children. The Catholic Church is gulty of much, and this is just the tip of the iceburg. Catholics are not guilty by association.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • TopView20

      I agree strongly with the above comment, and the reply by RM Miller. We need to differentiate between members of the Catholic Church, and the hierarchy of the Church. The vast majority of members are similar to those of other American denominations; they are generally superb people who love their families and communities. The Church (i.e., Vatican) is quite the opposite. This is the evil skeleton that has committed crime after crime for centuries. I respect the former and loath the latter. I hope these trials will change the way the courts handle abuse cases. Let us be very, very stern with the Church so that it's members may be protected.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • GatorALLin

      ...yeah but...when someone in power uses their position to abuse....they must be hunted down with the same passion and effort (or more) than they used their position in the church and community to abuse children. These crimes are not just stealing money or the type of crime that can be easily understood like most others...but the children they abuse are forever infected with what happened to them and are even likely to become the predators themselves ...like spreading a virus of evil. It is the same blind eye that most take with focusing on the good of the full church that becomes the EPIC FAIL the Catholic church became when they tried to hush the problem and just move these Monsters to a new unsuspecting church or community next. Coverup after coverup we have seen from the Catholic church.... Sandusky joke here....x1,000,000

      February 21, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • chief

      Over 3 billion paid out in out of court settlements, over 10,000 have been accused and or convicted, and all in Gods name.... we have another member of the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri with us called catholic

      February 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  7. Furious Styles

    And THIS is where true Catholics should be focusing their anger, instead of debates on birth-control.!! But yet again, it won't happen.

    February 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      Its because Catholics support child ra pe

      February 21, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      When someone says I am a Catholic I just chake my head....they are no different than the guys in the mug shots

      February 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      chake? Shake

      February 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      So in your world view all Catholics are reduced and associated with the priest scandals? Therefore, we should stay out of the contraception debate? What about abortion and the death penalty, are those off limits too? What about all the social and health work that Catholics provide as the second largest providers next to government?

      February 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      SPA Knight

      ..... What about all the social and health work that Catholics provide as the second largest providers next to government?

      Everything has a price....your good acts and charity pay for the continued support and protection of child rapists

      February 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • TopView20

      Let us be clear. The majority of Catholics use oral contraceptives (85-96%). The Catholic Bishops are focusing on the birth control issue, not the members. The pedophiles are among the clergy, not the parishoners. The Church hierachy has been the abusive component for centuries and deserves more scruitiny and prosecution than it will ever receive. Members who have been raised in the Church since birth are basically powerless within the hierachy. The American public and Catholic Church members share the same offender: the clergy and the hierachy. Do not criminalize the innocent. Do not absolve the guilty. I would rather see the entire Vatican disappear than for the abuses to continue. God does not lives within any church nor religion.

      February 21, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  8. Really Jersey

    They defrocked the priest? Good! If the higher up is found guilty, they should defrock him too. Creeps that do not follow the faith & abuse children are the lowest form of slime. Will they charge the higher ups in that public school too? I find it hard to believe they did not have some knowledge when the abuse involved multiple teachers at the same school & spanned over a decade.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  9. Kristina

    The church surely is going to supply their staff with full legal support. We all know that money talks and BS walks!! ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTED.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      Only people not disgusted and supportive are Catholics who keep supporting the "Church"

      February 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  10. Paul

    yeah the catholic church is an abomination in and of itself!

    February 21, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      HUMANITY is self destructive, not just religion.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  11. Isis

    I scoff at Santorum bragging about the "theology" of the Catholic faith. Is he out of his mind??? Their very leaders are child molesters. Where is the morality in their leadership? How can he cling to and espouse such a church?

    February 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      If you are Catholic and still go to a Catholic church you support and help protect child rapists. PERIOD

      February 21, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      If you are Catholic and still go to a Catholic church you support and help protect child rap ! sts. PERIOD

      February 21, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      Sorry about the dupe post

      February 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • TR

      Your comments are insulting. As a person and a catholic I am offended by the coverup of child abuse. However, continuing to practice my faith does not equate to me condoning abuse. Are you serious? Are all students enrolled at Penn State condoning child abuse? If you are American do you fully condone all foreign policies? The list. Goes on.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:10 am |
  12. no yo business cnn

    yea u can look @ these guys & tell there some perves. religion! can b the best thing! & then it can be like the goverment...

    February 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  13. Wow

    We need to hury up and elect Ayatolla Santorum, so he can pardon all the Church's pedophiles...

    February 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Paul

      That's pretty funny!

      February 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  14. cheryl

    And they have a nerve to have a say in aboriton rights when they are predators....the catholic church is a cult of molesters that take care of there own ..and victimize there parishioners...

    February 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • Greg


      100% right on. The real question is how do unelect the filth from office who constantly dictate what our rights will be based on their own religious beliefs? The two party system is really a one party monopoly that rules over the public instead of working as our representatives. We need to toos all of them out of office permanently. Vote third party.


      February 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • MakeThemEatCake


      Apparently you are not versed in how things work in the Catholic church. No matter how heinous the crime, all you have to do is express remorse for your sins to a priest, perform the penance required and the slate is clean. with multiple priests involved here, it IS possible that they just confessed to each other but that would be an underhanded way around the meaning of remorse and forgiveness... But you won't be allowed to prove that since what happens in the confessional is sacred and secret. (please note the sarcasm in the above comment).

      I could get gross and say that these priests may have felt they were doing their duty by filling the boys with the Holy Spirit but that may not be appropriate here.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
  15. tess139

    And it is this group of people that we should be allowing to make moral judgments about ANYTHING in our lives?????
    And Santorum subscribes to the ideology that these people profess to be the morales we should adhere to?

    Please people, see religion for what it is ... attempt at social control ... it is not about the word of God, or any other spirit. It is about dictatorship, social control, and blind obedience .. plus donating a whole lot of money that helps to move these evil doers from one church to another ...

    February 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  16. holdem

    between catholics and muslims, im not sure which is the lesser of two evils.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Well Hung Jesus

      Actually they are equal

      February 21, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      holdem – Please do tell me the last time a Catholic bomb a place and killed THOUSANDS of innocent people, including children? Islam is the worse religion there is. I am not found of any religion, but to compare any other religion with Islam is very ignorant of you or anyone who agrees.

      I am not a Catholic and strongly disagree with the 7% of the priests that are doing this. The remaining 93% of Catholics are not committing the very crimes that these priests have done. The percentage of non-believers are greater than that of priests killing, molesting, kidnaping innocent children.

      February 21, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • MakeThemEatCake

      HelsGod – You may not have been around or just forgot since the violence was not directed against Americans but for the longest time Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland were blowing each other up on a regular basis.

      February 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  17. Dani

    Just thinking of all the parties suffering because of these men is making my blood boil. Give them hell.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  18. scriss

    Not sure this case will go anywhere. The Church has very deep pockets, and has the ability to convince secular authorities that the non-punishments it dealt out (defrockings, etc.) are more than sufficient retribution for the crimes committed.

    Its very sad to realize that the victims will never really heal, and that the perpetraitors will never really be punished.

    February 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  19. L.D. Ablo

    The pumping padres strike again!
    When will the church wake up to the fact that celibacy is as much a perversion as what they have been doing to to children for centuries?

    February 21, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      I guess you have much more of a problem with these priests than the nonbelievers who are committing the same thing and think priests worse than them?

      February 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • chief

      re helsgod..... your damn right.....

      February 22, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  20. OutsideTheBox

    One day society will see the church for what it really is. A mid-evil band of thugs that destroy peoples lives and tries to suppress the development of mankind knowing that the longer it takes society to get smart the longer they have control. Ex. Salem witch hunt. If your not like me I will burn you to death...... BAND OF THUGS!!!

    February 21, 2012 at 2:59 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.