Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams was most recently in the national headlines for the arrest of a Pennsylvania abortionist and his staff because of a little house of horrors they were maintaining in West Philadelphia. Today he announced some other alleged horrors out of Philadelphia in the indictment of 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. They have been charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and other criminal charges.
Shocking enough, but Williams has also arrested 60-year-old Monsignor William Lynn, the Secretary for Clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. Lynn has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the assaults because of his handling of these cases and allegations which stem from assaults on two boys which took place between 1998 and 2000.
Williams said Lynn, who served as 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." I'm trying to think of another instance of this, but this may be the first time a diocesan official has been criminally implicated for negligence or obstruction.
"As a Roman Catholic myself, this is not a happy thing for me to have to do," Williiams said. "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. But I am sworn to uphold the law, and I will do what is necessary to protect children." The DA called for improvements in the law to allow for more aggressive measures against people in authority who may have contributed to a cover-up for abusers. More worrisome is his suggestion that active pedophiles may still be lurking among the Philadelphia clergy.
"Even more troubling, the grand jury believed that many priests—dozens of them—have remained in ministry despite solid, credible allegations of abuse," he said. "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."
The investigation suggest there are as many as 30 active Philadelphia priests with allegations of sexual abuse in the past, a charge denied by Bishop Daniel Thomas. "There are no Archdiocesan priests currently in ministry who have an established or admitted allegation of sexual abuse of a minor," Thomas said.
The Grand Jury report is stomach-churning reading to say the least. You can also view Williams's statement. Along with approving the criminal charges, the Grand Jury also recommended that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia overhaul its procedures for assisting victims and for removing priests accused of molesting minors.