Philadelphia priest and former teacher guilty of child sex abuse

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 30, 2013 5:50 PM

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A priest and a former parochial school teacher were found guilty on Wednesday of sexually attacking a former altar boy, the latest chapter in the child sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 66, faces the possibility of 37 years in prison, and Bernard Shero, 50, faces a maximum sentence of 57 years in prison following the guilty verdicts by a jury in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia.

Engelhardt and Shero were accused of molesting an altar boy who was 10 years old at the time at St. Jerome's parish in the Northeast section of Philadelphia.

A grand jury report in 2011, which detailed child sex abuse in the archdiocese, the nation's sixth largest with 1.5 million members, said the altar boy was "in effect passed around" from one molester to another in 1998 and 1999.

Now 24, the victim testified at the trial.

"The victim in this case has shown exceptional courage," District Attorney Seth Williams in a statement following the verdicts.

"Not only did he have the strength to report his abuse but he had the tenacity to look his abusers in the eye and testify in front of complete strangers about the horrific details of his attacks," Williams said.

Engelhardt was convicted of indecent assault, corruption of a minor and other sex-related crimes. The jury deadlocked on a charge of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child.

Shero was convicted of six sex-related crimes, including rape of a child and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

Sentencing will take place this spring, authorities said.

A third man accused in the case, former priest Edward Avery, 71, pleaded guilty to sexual abuse and is serving a prison sentence of 2-1/2 to five years.

The same grand jury report led to the conviction last year of Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary of the clergy for the archdiocese, who was found guilty of endangering the welfare of a child.

Lynn is serving a prison sentence of up to six years. He was the highest-ranking clergyman to be convicted in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church scandal.

The Philadelphia district attorney's office has successfully prosecuted four of the five men charged by the grand jury in 2011. Charges against the fifth, Rev. James Brennan, involving another youth, ended in a hung jury in June, and he awaits retrial.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Leslie Adler)