Teacher, 3 priests charged in assaults

Three Roman Catholic priests and a parochial school teacher were charged Thursday with the sexual assaults of two young boys. An archdiocese monsignor also faces charges of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the cases involving a 10-year-old boy at St. Jerome’s Parish in Northeast Philadelphia and a 14-year-old from another parish.

Edward Avery, 68, and Charles Engelhardt, 64, along with 48-year-old teacher Bernard Shero, are accused of assaulting the same 10-year-old at separate times from 1998 to 2000. James Brennan, 48, is accused of sexually assaulting the other boy in 1996 during a “sleepover” at his Chester County apartment.

Englehardt, who allegedly assaulted the boy in the church sacristy after Mass, “bragged about his accomplishment to [Avery], who did the exact same thing,” District Attorney Seth Williams said. They then told Shero, who allegedly drove the child to a park, raped and “forced him out of the car and told him to walk home.”

The lingering effect on the boys “amounts to the devastation of a child,” Assistant District Attorney Evangelia Manos said.

Though Monsignor William Lynn “supervised two of the abusers, but [allegedly] chose to expose them to new victims,” the archdiocese brought claims to investigators. About 30 “predator priests” remain in the ministry, protected by statutes of limitation, the report said.

“It is time for the church to remove all credibly accused priests from ministry and to put protection of children ahead of protection of scandal,” Williams said. “This is an indictment of bad men who did terrible things who have to be held accountable by secular society.”

Cardinal taking it seriously

A statement put on the archdiocese website Thursday noted Cardinal Justin Rigali hasn’t yet reviewed the report but intends to take the grand jury findings and recommendations “very seriously.”

“As people of faith, we must reach out in compassion and support for one another and for all who are affected by this news,” Rigali’s statement read. “Victims of sexual abuse may find this news deeply painful. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”