19 Feb 2011

Three Philadelphia priests and teacher charged with raping boys, Monsignor charged with failing to protect children

The News Tribune  -  Washington   February 10, 2011

4 priests charged in sex abuse investigation


PHILADELPHIA — Monsignor William Lynn, former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Office for Clergy, has been charged for allegedly failing to protect children from sexual abuse by priests, District Attorney Seth Williams announced Thursday.

Two felony counts of endangering the welfare were lodged against Lynn follow a grand jury investigation, Williams said at a news conference.

Williams also announced the Revs. Charles Engelhardt, 64, and Edward Avery, 68, and Bernard Shero, 47, a former sixth-grade teacher at St. Jerome's School in Northeast Philadelphia, had been charged with raping and sexually assaulting the same boy in the parish between 1998, when he was 10 years old, and 2000.

Another priest, the Rev James Brennan, 47, is charged with raping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

All five men were arrested Thursday, official said.

Williams said Lynn, who was the Archdiocese's Secretary of the Clergy from 1992 to 2004, "supervised two of the abusers ... knew they were dangerous and chose to expose them to new victims."

Since 2004 Lynn has served as pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Downingtown, a parish of nearly 4,000 families.

As head of the clergy office, Lynn oversaw all priest personnel issues, which included advising Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and his successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, on the assignment of priests; interviewing persons who reported sexual abuse by priests; and overseeing the treatment of clergy known to have abused children.

In a message to church deacons, Rigali said he could not comment directly on the grand jury report because he had not yet received it.

But, he added: "I know the release of this report will be painful and my deep concern is for all of those who have been abused. I urge all the faithful of the Archdiocese to pray for, to extend every concern for and remain open to understanding the experience of the victims. It is in that spirit that we reflect upon the grand jury's actions and the recommendations they make."

At Lynn's church in Downingtown, workers in the parish office declined comment, abruptly referring reporters to Donna Farrell, the archdiocesan spokeswoman.

When a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter began to speak with a female parishioner outside the building, one of the workers ran out, grabbed her, and pulled her inside.

Several other parishioners expressed shock at news of the charges but declined to give their names. A man arriving for choir practice said he did not have enough information to comment. A woman who pulled up at the adjacent church school - which her daughter attends - said she did not want her remarks to reflect adversely on the school.

"We love this school," she said. "I'm absolutely stunned; we totally trusted him."

Thursday's charges come nearly 5 1/2 years after a Philadelphia grand jury excoriated the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for an "immoral cover-up" of its sexually abusive clergy, and for creating what it said was a climate that exposed hundreds of children to assault.

Although the 2005 report directed much of its ire at Bevilacqua, the Roman Catholic archbishop from 1988 to 2003, it mentioned Lynn 652 times - more than any other member of the archdiocesan hierarchy, including Bevilacqua.

"Secretary for Clergy Lynn ... treated victims as potential plaintiffs. Not only did they not receive apologies acknowledging their abuse, but many were bullied, intimidated, lied to, even investigated themselves," the report said.

It also accused Lynn of repeatedly failing to investigate abuse charges, reassigning abusive priests, and concealing their crimes from civil authorities and the Catholic laity.

"It became apparent to the Grand Jurors that Msgr. Lynn was handling the cases precisely as his boss (Bevilacqua) wished," it said.

The assistant district attorneys who wrote the scathing, 468-page report in 2005 said their office had sought ways to bring criminal charges against several archdiocesan leaders but were frustrated by Pennsylvania's "inadequate" state laws, such as the statute of limitations.

(Staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea contributed to this story.)

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Catholic San Francisco  -  February 16, 2011

Grand jury indicts five after Philadelphia sex abuse investigation

By Matthew Gambino

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – In a reprise of 2005’s sensational grand jury report of sexual assaults by clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams released a new report Feb. 10 by a grand jury investigating similar abuse.

While the 2005 report detailed dozens of cases of sexual abuse of children by clergy over many decades, the new report brings criminal indictments for the first time.

Charged with rape, assault and other felonies related to minors, as recommended by the grand jury, are former archdiocesan priest Edward V. Avery, 68, of Haverford; Father Charles Engelhardt, 64, of Wyndmoor and an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales; an archdiocesan priest, Father James J. Brennan, 47, of Linfield; and former lay teacher, Bernard Shero, 48, of Bristol. All four were arrested Feb. 10.

Msgr. William J. Lynn, 60, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Downingtown, was charged on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The charges stem, according to the report, from Msgr. Lynn’s conduct as archdiocesan secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. In that role, he was responsible for recommending the assignment of priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

He is believed to be the first high-ranking diocesan official indicted under a criminal statute in the U.S. for charges related to the sexual abuse scandal that came to light in 2002.

Because of the volume of evidence collected by the grand jury, which includes testimony of some 45 witnesses, Williams said a preliminary hearing for the charges will be waived. No trial date has been set.

In a series of statements Feb. 10 and 12, Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia categorically denied that any archdiocesan priests with “an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them” remained in ministry. He also urged all Catholics to “join me in praying every day for victims of sexual abuse ... that they will have real hope in Christ and truly know that they do not stand alone.”

The archdiocese announced Feb. 12 that a new “delegate for investigations” will be hired, who will operate independently from the archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection, and that psychologist Joseph A. Cronin had been hired to the new post of clergy support associate in the Office for Clergy.

At a Feb. 10 news conference, Williams said that as a practicing Catholic, presenting the grand jury’s findings caused him discomfort.

“This isn’t a witch hunt into the Catholic Church,” said Williams, a member of St. Cyprian Parish in West Philadelphia. “The criminal acts that occurred here are not representative of my religion. They are the bad acts of individual men.

“I recognize all the good that the Roman Catholic Church has done and continues to do in the world,” he added. “But I am sworn to uphold the law, and I will do what is necessary to protect children.”

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