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Philadelphia DA Charges Priests, Teacher In Sex Abuse Case

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Three priests and a Philadelphia Catholic school teacher have been charged with raping and assaulting two young boys over the course of several years.  A fifth man, a monsignor, has been charged with child endangerment for allegedly allowing the abuse to continue.

The three priests — 68-year-old Edward Avery, 64-year-old Charles Engelhardt, and 47-year-old James Brennan — and a parochial school teacher, 48-year-old Bernard Shero, were all charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and other criminal charges.

Sixty-year-old Monsignor William Lynn, the secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the assaults.

The charges, which are the result of a grand jury investigation, were announced by the district attorney’s office on Thursday morning.

Avery and Engelhardt are charged with assaulting a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish in Northeast Philadelphia from 1998 to 1999.  Shero is charged with assaulting the same boy there in 2000.

Brennan is accused of assaulting a different boy, a 14-year-old, in 1996.

The grand jury found that Lynn, who was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children, endangered children, including the victims, by knowingly allowing abusive priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children.

Dave Huddleston reports…

“The grand jury believed that many priests –- dozens of them -– have remained in ministry despite solid, credible allegations of abuse.  It is time for the church to remove all credibly accused priests from ministry, and to put protection of children ahead of protection from scandal,” District Attorney Seth Williams said on Thursday.

Defense attorney Michael McGoven, a former supervisor in the DA’s office who now represents Father Engelhardt, says his client categorically denies the charges and maintains he is an innocent man.

“I think the allegations are completely false and preposterous,” McGovern told KYW Newsradio on Thursday afternoon.  “First of all, the complainant is saying that three separate individuals — three pedophiles at the same school at the same time — abused him.  And I think his story is patently absurd, and I think it will be shown to be that in court.”

Avery, Engelhardt, Shero, and Brennan all face a maximum of 67 years in prison if convicted of all charges. Lynn is facing a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Bevilacqua was not charged, although the grand jury in its report talks of its “difficult dilemma” in whether to charge the former Archbishop of Philadelphia, who is now 87 and suffering from cancer and dementia, according to his attorney.

DA Williams, a Roman Catholic, said his task in bringing charges against clergy was not a happy one, but said he has a job to do.

“I love my church, but I detest the criminal behavior of priests who abuse or allow the abuse of children,” Williams said.  “I know ultimately they will be judged by a higher authority. For now, it is my responsibility as the elected district attorney of all the citizens of Philadelphia to hold them accountable.”

Williams added, “This is an indictment of bad men who did terrible things who have to be held accountable by secular society.”

A short time later, Cardinal Justin Rigali released a statement saying that the archdiocese had not yet had an opportunity to study the grand jury report but asked for prayer for all child victims of sex abuse.  The statement also said the archdiocese is cooperating fully with civil authorities in this and all related matters.

Speaking publicly for the archdiocese, Bishop Daniel Thomas, disputed findings in the grand jury report that more than 40 priests accused of inappropriate conduct involving minors in the past five years are still in active ministry.

“There are no archdiocesan priests currently in ministry who have an established or admitted allegation of sexual abuse of a minor,” Thomas said.

But the grand jury says its own review of some priest files found convincing and alarming evidence of abuse that had been dismissed as unsubstantiated by that archdiocese review board.

Eyewitness News cameras were there as Msgr. William Lynn turned himself in to the District Attorney’s office Thursday afternoon. His lawyers say he did nothing wrong and equated his role as Secretary of Clergy to that of a human resources manager.

“There’s a reason why he’s not accused of touching a hair on the head of any child,” said his defense attorney Jeff Lindy. “The DA’s office brought him into this case because they want to attack the policies of the archdiocese.”

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a similar crime, please contact the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office at 215-686-8783 or email

Reported by Tony Hanson; Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio 1060; Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3; Steve Beck, CBS Philly.

Top Content On CBSPhilly

  • tt

    Where are the stories on these offenses?

    ALL Protestant denominations – 838 Ministers
    147 Baptist Ministers
    251 “Bible” Church Ministers (fundamentalist/evangelical)
    140 Anglican/Episcopalian Ministers
    38 Lutheran Ministers
    46 Methodist Ministers
    19 Presbyterian Ministers
    197 various Church Ministers

    This doesn’t include teachers, coaches, etc.
    I don’t agree with the Catholic Church on a lot of things; but it seems like the church is always singled out.

    • mdeery

      get over it every criminal gets caught eventually

  • TT

    The Media gets off on putting out negative news on the “CATHOLIC CHURCH”! You’ll never see a positive story on the Church.

  • jay

    KYW and CBS continue to report with greater frequency and depth negative, stigmatizing news related to the Catholic Church while ignoring or limiting in scope and frequency the reporting of child sex abuse issues as well as news negative and critical about Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant religious organizations.

    What is KYW/CBS policies with selecting what news and topics it chooses to broadcast?

    What is the effect on the community of this persistent bias in your reporting?

    What are you doing to correct this?

    Why does KYW and CBS hate Catholics and the Catholic Church?

    Why are you afraid of Protestants, Jews and Muslims?

    Why do you discredit yourself?

    • Truth prevails

      Truth speaks for itself. Stop whinning and thank God you or your family werent victums-you would not be so bias then..
      Any organized religion has problems-it’s not the news station fairy tale story..
      THIS IS LIFE -FACE IT AND be glad someone will REPORT the truth-
      There is still much more DIRT to come out.

  • unabletotrust

    Now when is the PA Legislature going to open WINDOW LEGISLATION for the VICTIMS OF ABUSE ? I am sure rigaili and his spin doctors are now hard at work both for the media and in Harrisburg preventing this LEGISLATION ! Everyone should read the presentment against those monsters!

  • anonymous

    I had this teacher and I find it believeable. Even though I was 11 at the time, I had a weird feeling about that man. The way he interacted with female students was odd and inappropriately physical. He treated the boys in the class much different than the girls and was much more strict with us. I’m saddened that something like this happened to a classmate of mine.


    so let me see your children come home from school and say mom the priests touched my private. and you don’t do nothing about it.

  • Parent in charge

    There needs to be a change at the school – principal and teachers.
    There needs to be a change at the church – I removed my child from St.Jerome school. They are total autocratic and believe they can do what they want without accountability. The principal has a superior attitude and has no respect for her stundents or the parents.

  • phillyguy81

    As a Philly Catholic, I am once again disgusted by all of this news! I’ve read the comments and while its statistically true you have a much higher chance of being molested by a leader in another religious denomination or in a public school, there is a deeper problem here. This is a real failure of leadership and an outright cover-up. These sickos are unfortunately in ALL sectors of our society, but the problem here was the toleration of such behavior, time and time again. The percentage of priests who do such things is so small, yet that small percentage was able to do such things over and over.

    Let those molester priests rot in prison.

    Msgr. Lynn isn’t the criminal! Please, this guy was a glorified paper-pusher who had no authority absent his bishop, who in this case was Bevilacqua. Push the DA and Diocesan scapegoat aside and go after the real person responsible for these decisions

    • Cookie

      Let those molester priests rot in prison
      et al.

    • sad ex- catholic

      Don’t paperpushers have an understanding of thier actions?
      If my boss told me to cover up a crime I would not and I was taught this in catholic school.
      No one is without sin but stand up for the principles of what Christ taught.

      • phillyguy81

        I agree with you, but too often, Lynn and others relied on medical experts who evaluated and treated these freaks and deemed them suitable for a return to ministry. We now know, such behavior isn’t “cured.” The focus was on rehabilitation Also, you mention the principles of Christ; well, one of them is compassion and forgiveness. Who knows, I guess when we see messed up people, we always have that hope they will change their lives. I have no compassion for these disgusting impostors, but who knows what was going through his head.

        Bottom line, the buck stops with Bevilacqua. We see this all the time in governments and corporations where someone becomes the fall-out-guy and the real ones who let everything happen just slip by. This is a diversion by the diocese AND the DA office. Go after the real person who allowed this.

  • Miss Kitty

    i CAN’T UNDERSTAND cATHOLICS THEY TEACH THEIR KIDS THAT PRIESTS/NUNS ARE ABOVE EVERYONE ELSE—-NO THEY ARE NOT!!!!!!! –They are just men/women who have chosen to serve GOD—-the BIBLE states if you can serve GOD and be married then marry if you can’t serve GOD and be married don’t marry—–the maine idea is to serve GOD—–the catholic church thought up no marriage—–Sex abuse of children has nothing to do with being married or not !!!!!!!!! I blame catholic parents and the heads of the church for the terrible things that went on for years—-it is a church that protected criminals and allowed them to abuse their OWN children—We have a problem in our area with a catholic boy who thinks he is better then certain kids because he goes to catholic school he is also a bully–if catholic ed. is so great why aren’t they taught to respect others? they are not taught from the BIBLE—and do they relize CHRIST is the reason for all christian faiths not just their branch when the BIBLE reads “the church” that refers to ALL the belivers—-so sad people who are to spread “the word” of GOD use it as a cover to do EVIL—We need to pray for all touched by this.

  • Marie

    Wow are you THAT clueless? They’re priests! People kneel and confess to these hypocrites…They are seen as very “high” ranking individuals in society…At least that’s what a friend of mine who was raised in a Catholic home once told me…The Priests are highly looked upon…One of the boys was 10 years old…You don’t know his upbringing…You don’t know if he was threatened or if his family was threatened if he were to ever speak up…

  • Charles Saint

    Wow, what really amazes me it’s the fact that these so called “priests” are supposedly working on God’s side but in reality they are working for the real Satan himself. So sad.

  • Street Kid

    Let’s take a closer look at the common alibi tendered by molestation victims. The “priest” warns the victim, “Look kid, even if you tell anyone, they’ll never believe you.” A joke. My father, mother, older brother, friends would have immediately believed me, knowing that I would have had no reason to fabricate such a serious charge. Then it would be up to the offending “priest” to prove his innocence. Also, I’d have been smart enough to insist on a lie-detector test for me AND the perv. These victims are puzzling, to say the least.



  • promultis

    When I was a kid the priest was the holy person you could trust. I never had one try anything with me, but if I did I would have went to my Mother or Father, it won’t of kept happening. Why didn’t these kids report it to they parents.

  • John A. Klimowicz

    Its so nice to know that the only people who have committed this crime are Catholic priests “SARCASM”. Everyone is safe everywhere else in society “NOT”….. Does anyone actually believe that married men do not commit this crime? Married clerical people too. Marriage for priests is an extremely misguided position by those who are led by the secular media for their opinions and positions. These priests are supposed to devote themselves to the Church in the same way married people are to devote themselves to each other (and we know how that works out, just look at the state of marriage in the world).

  • Christina Bright-Martin

    You cannot rid people of their religion. It will never happen. Not ALL priests are rapists. If you really want to live by this mentality, you must get rid of all white men because the majority of rapists and pedophiles are white men. We must also get rid of black men and women due to the fact that they are the majority of theives.

    Ignorance really must be bliss.

  • lol@Catholics

    Church going people sure do have high morals in their preists.

    • zzbar

      “I” before “E” except after “C”

      • Dave

        If you’re going to SEIZE an opportunity to get pedantic, at least realize that English lexicography isn’t an exact SCIENCE and those so-called rules you learned in school have plenty of exceptions.

  • DB

    I hope they have fun inprison

  • Anonymous

    Most of these co-called priests molested teenage boys, not pre-teen boys.

  • Betty

    I do not believe that allowing the so-called “priest” to marry is the answer to this disgusting problem. Pedophiles are not interested in marriage; they are interested in corrupting the bodies and souls of innocent children and that is all they care about. What better place to “practice” their disease than the Roman Catholic Church!
    EVERYONE who was involved with this crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent and not hidden behind the Papal curtain.

  • BT17

    What an ignorant comment!

    The parents were most likely trusting that school officals were ensuring the dafety of their children, not sexually assaulting them.

    Tell me, do you sit in the classroom with your children every day?

    • BT17

      dafety = safety :)

  • Carolyn

    Ryan, these priests are committing a crime, it’s called rape. What difference is it going to make, if the Catholic Church allows priests to marry, when they are pedophiles to begin with!!!

    • Ryan

      Understood, but I believe the priesthood is not pursued more extensively by “normal” men due to the fact that they must stay celibate. This allows more pedophilles and others with sexuality propblems to enter the church unintentionally. It’s against nature to restrict yourself the ability of having a partner/wife/female sexual mate, hopefully over the course of many years or a lifetime as the church/ society dictates as the proper course.

      Of course they are criminals and they, along with their higher ups, should be held accountable

  • Carolyn

    hang them HIGH

  • Ryan

    Why is it always the Catholics? I never here Protestants doing this type of thing or Jews, maybe allowing marriage for the Priests will bring in better, moral people into the Catholic Church.

    • Dan

      Protestants and Rabbis do rape little chiklren, but the media like KYW and CBS just dont report it. Check out the Israeli papers or search the internet for THE AWAARENESS CENTER – stories about rabbis and cover ups and rapes and corrupt justice systems and cowardly KKKYW just are too afraid to report it with the vim and bigor they hate Catholics.

      See KYW/CBS how effective your smear campaigns are. Good Work.

    • rickster

      ryan, all churches have this problem to some degree. religion and pedophilia go hand in hand and many sects have ways of sweeping it under the rug including protestants and jews.

    • Ryan

      I didn’t realize this was so extensive, thanks for the info

      • zbar

        Dude, this is just a very very little tip of the iceberg.

    • JayJay

      Actually, the public schools aren’t any safer. Do a google search “sex abuse public schools”. You may be surprised at what you learn, from secular news sources.

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