3 Priests, 1 Teacher Accused of Sexual Abuse in Philadelphia

Island Crisis
February 10, 2011

A Grand Jury on Thursday recommended criminal charges for rape and indecent sexual assault against three priests and a teacher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The jury released a report and a presentment following an investigation into allegations that two young boys were sexually abused by priests assigned to the St. Jerome Parish in Philadelphia and a teacher of St. Jerome School.

The three priests, Edward Avery, Charles Engelhardt, and James Brennan, and the teacher, Bernard Shero, had not been arrested but turned themselves in on Thursday morning and all four were charged with rape and sexual abuse. They face a maximum of 67 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Priests Avery, 68, and Engelhardt, 64, allegedly assaulted a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome Parish from 1998 to 1999. Parochial schoolteacher Shero, 48, allegedly assaulted the same boy in 2000 while priest Brennan, 47, allegedly assaulted a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

The Grand Jury also recommended charging Monsignor William Lynn, 60, the Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Msgr. Lynn was responsible for investigating reports that the priests sexually abused children from 1992 to 2004. However, Lynn allowed the priests to continue in ministry roles and thus, endangering children.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, said that the Archdiocese has not yet had the opportunity to review the report against the priests and the teacher and declined to comment on the matter.

“It is my intention to consider carefully and take very seriously any observations and recommendations of this Grand Jury,” said the Cardinal in a statement. “Victims of sexual abuse by clergy may find this news deeply painful. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

According to the jury’s report, a boy who was 10 years old at the moment attended the St. Jerome School in 1998 when he was molested and orally sodomized by two priests. The boy testified that he signed up to be an altar boy at St. Jerome Church.

The 10-year-old boy declared that following an early morning weekday mass with Engelhardt he was found by the priest drinking some of the leftover wine. Engelhardt made personal questions to the boy and pulled out pornographic magazines.

Then, the priest told him it was time for him to become a man and told him they will have “sessions” soon. About a week later, the priest instructed the boy to take off his clothes and sit on a chair next to him in the church sacristy after another mass.

Engelhardt sexually abused the 10-year-old boy for the first time. The abuse continued two weeks later the priest attempted to lure the boy into another “session” but he refused.

A couple of months later, another priest, Edward Avery, told him he knew about his “sessions” with Engelhardt. Afterwards, the boy was summoned to the sacristy by Avery who sexually abused him.

The abuses continued for a while until the boy avoided serving mass with Engelhardt or Avery. However, after summer vacations, a school teacher, Shero, offered him a ride home. The teacher stopped at a park near the boy’s house and raped him ion the back seat of the car.

The 10-year-old boy suffered physical and emotional harm as a result of the abuse. He was too frightened to report the abuses and instead began distancing himself from his school mates and family.

The boy began using marijuana when he was 11 by the time he was in high school he was using painkillers. He eventually began abusing heroine until his mother checked him in a drug treatment facility. In the clinic, the boy revealed for the first time the abuses suffered.


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