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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. James

    I'm glad i stopped going to catholic church and never had my children baptized into the scam of catholic church. I know they aren't the only ones committing these horrific acts but, they seem to be doing it the most.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • CatholicsAreWondeful

      Say what you want about the Catholic Church, but I attended 16 years of Catholic school and I can say I NEVER heard a Priest or Nun utter even one negative word about any other religion. I wonder how many so called "Born Again Christians" can say that? So many Protestants spend more time bashing Catholicism, than they do teaching their flock to be decent human beings.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Really?

      Unfortunately, they probably didn't speak negativity of other religions because of the SKELETONS hiding within their own closets. Get off your high horse.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • chief

      re catholicsaremorons.... so just because Christians dont agree with harboring child molestors, it makes them wrong?

      February 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  2. Lauren

    My siblings and I were all raised Catholics. And the first thing my sister says when the issue of child abuse by catholic priests comes up is, "Catholics aren't the only ones." To which I respond, "That's no excuse." The fact is abuse has been found in the Catholic Church over and over again. Trying to divert attention by saying someone else might be guilty too is a game that some Catholics seem to want to play. The Catholic Church has child abuse problems plain and simple. Trying to shift blame is certainly not going to help the children who should be the primary focus.

    February 22, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • J.W

      I agree. They commit the appeal to hypocrisy fallacy.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  3. Steve

    The Catholic Church does not harbor the only pedophiles. Truth is, it's been happening forever and it's been happening in all walks of life and religions. I certainly don't think it's right and I am a victim myself of getting molested from the age of around 5 until I was around 10. This is a tad harsh, particularly coming out of Pennsylvania where you have these cases, but also the tons of cases from PSU. How about we focus on protecting our children everywhere rather than burning Catholics at the stake. If Catholicism ended, you would still be dealing with pedophiles.

    February 22, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • DJL

      Have to start somewhere, and in the case of the Catholic Church, the abuse has been rampant and covered up, so it's a natural target. By "ignoring" the problem (shipping abusive priests to other locations), the church has brought this upon themselves.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Paul

      Yeah, I guess you're right. Because other people do it, we should probably give these guys medals for raping young boys. Excellent logic.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • chief

      re steve.... your story is complete BS... written in your last mass to redirect the problem with ped priests

      February 23, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  4. Plug1

    Christianity!!!!!

    February 22, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  5. dave c

    castration would be too kind, these monsters should absolutely be put to sleep

    February 22, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  6. Mike

    My wife went through the RCIA classes and gave her first confession to Lynn when he was at St. Joseph's in Downingtown. It is amazing how many members still line up like sheep and give money to build a new church (which is not needed) while the Archdiocese takes the money and shuffles priests. They won't touch a penny of my money and I can only shake my head how brainwashed people are being Catholic. I've been Catholic for my whole life, but now I only consider myself Christian.

    The answer is to get regular people (husband and wife as well as women) who can become priests. Get the wierdos out of the religion or loose more regular people like myself.

    February 22, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  7. Thurston Howell

    Any irony this is in Pennsylvania, home of Rick Santorum, who famously said, with a complete lack of evidence, that the abuse cases out of the archdiocese in Boston could be attributed to the liberal politics out of Harvard and MIT (MIT???)

    February 22, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • DJL

      Have to attack science; how else will he get the conservative christians to vote for him?!? 😉

      February 22, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Paul

      Santorum is a complete nut case. How anyone could vote for him, is completely beyond my understanding.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  8. mrshl5000

    catholic organization, psu, and others all safe havens for members of NAMBLA apparently. These should be removed from existence permenantly. and NOW. Children deserve a better world to grow up in.

    February 22, 2012 at 6:51 am |
  9. stujordan

    Who even cares about the priests...what of the victims...their lives are ruined. They will NEVER have a normal relationship nor normal day. Hello mind numbing anxiety and social disorders!

    February 22, 2012 at 5:38 am |
    • mrshl5000

      you couldn't be more correct. ALL pedophiles deserve the immediate firing squad, not anything less.

      February 22, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  10. stujordan

    Butt-sticking kids is a perk of being a priest. If the church tried to take that away from them...there would be rioting in the streets!

    February 22, 2012 at 5:30 am |
  11. SSampson

    This garbage can happen in any organization (although....I am personally an atheist....).... What offends me at least as much – and possibly even more – are those that cover it up...

    Even the current Pope was involved with these isues in that he helped cover them up – He should be arrested the SECOND he touches our soil – ideally an INTERPOL warrant should be issues and he should be arrested and jailed

    February 22, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • AF

      I agree completely. Those who have covered this up for decades (and likely longer – we'll never know how far back this really goes, ie when did the Catholic Church become the pedophile's dream job, and how long has the organization knowingly allowed this behavior?) are just as guilty. They have enabled the ongoing abuse of countless children. I don't know if there is a hell, but if there is then all of this lot are destined to burn, and good riddance.

      I also agree that the current Pope – and past models, as well – are complicit in this horrific abuse. Child abusers – and those who knowingly allow such behavior – deserve no sympathy and no mercy.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • griz5106

      Imagine how many children were abused back when the church was beyond criticism of any kind.

      February 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
  12. Salad Spinner

    The Catholic Church and all other religious organizations should just dry up and go away, or taxed to death. It is just a business that a few clever men dreamed up a few thousand years ago.

    February 22, 2012 at 2:23 am |
    • Evangelicide

      They're taxing churches in Italy now... ITALY!

      February 22, 2012 at 3:17 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      Now if the clever fishermen dreamed it up so well that they were the largest Jewish sect in the 1st century. How come you want their disciples out? I WOULD BE RECRUITING THEM!

      February 22, 2012 at 4:50 am |
  13. Tusken Raider

    Im an Athiest, but if I am wrong, then I am positive there is a special level of hell which lies in wait for you pieces of human filth.
    May your "God" truly and entirely "Damn" you

    February 22, 2012 at 2:21 am |
    • Funker

      You say, "if I am wrong." There's hope for you! Not all Christians are like the ones exposed. Believe.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:00 am |
    • Lee

      Don't sweat it. You're not wrong.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:11 am |
  14. Jeff

    Does/should anyone trust Priests anymore?

    February 22, 2012 at 2:06 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      Why is it that people want to trust their fellow humans? I mean the thoughts that go through your mind each day, aren't u frightened by them? Religionists have learnt one big secret; trust God or your god(s) and forgive men. Men r capable of great good like Christ or great evil like ...insert ur fav

      February 22, 2012 at 4:58 am |
  15. Roadsniper

    The catholic church is considered the hore of hores, now we know why, in the last days the catholic church will be the one to fall. For anybody to believe in the teachings of a church that aided and abeded the german nazis after ww2 , and than take the money of the hispanic community and play like they have done nothing wrong?

    February 22, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • GJP

      You condemn the Church that can trace its beginning to Jesus based on the actions of a comparative few mortal and sinful men. What they did was evil and they must pay for their actions and the cover up and actions of Church officials was unconscionable. However if you follow your same logic for condemning a whole organization then you will have to condemn the entire Marine Corps, the US Army for their war atrocities as well as the Protestant religions because the pastors who are accused of abusing young men.

      February 22, 2012 at 2:37 am |
    • Lee

      Actaully GJP there is a difference between those you cited and the catholic church. The church has been committing atrocities for almost 2 thousand years. You can't say that about the Marines or Protestants.

      February 22, 2012 at 3:13 am |
    • Nii Croffie

      I am a Protestant but to make uneducated noise about RCC atrocities is a historical atrocity in itself. Give us those atrocities and the innocent party and its numbers. Note the Crusades were wars so go on.

      February 22, 2012 at 5:04 am |
  16. justin

    Reality-you are probably a pedophile aren't you? Why don't you do the world a favor and go suck on a shotgun barrel:)

    February 22, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  17. justin

    Reality- you're a moron.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  18. Reality

    Maybe the BSA will follow the RCC into bankuptsy!!!

    http://www.ocregister.com/news/ordered-245722-abuse-oregon.html

    "A jury in Oregon ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $18.5 million to a former Scout who suffered se-xual abuse as a child at the hands of his troop leader — the largest such award levied against the organization, reports The Oregonian.

    Attorneys for 38-year-old Kerry Lewis said the verdict exposed the organization’s “dark history with pedophiles and its unwillingness to come to terms with the problem.” They waved “perversion files“ around the courtroom – secret files kept by the Scouts docu-menting claims of s-exual abuse by troop leaders and volunteers over a 70 year-period."

    February 22, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • Reality

      Ooops, make that "bankruptcy".

      February 22, 2012 at 12:28 am |
  19. 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 22, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • Tusken Raider

      So,...what you are saying is,..you are a Pedophile?

      February 22, 2012 at 2:25 am |
  20. justin

    People who defend pedophiles like that are certainly pedophiles themselves. Those types of human beings should be exterminated off the face of this beautiful earth. Whether they are catholic, muslim, atheist, or whatever.

    February 22, 2012 at 12:20 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.