Priest charged in sex abuse stayed in parish for 2 years

Daily Times, Delaware/February 24, 2011

A 64-year-old Roman Catholic priest who is among four men charged with sexually abusing boys in parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was still on-site at another parish almost two years after archdiocesan officials ordered him to leave that parish.

As a result of a Philadelphia grand jury investigation, the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, a member of the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales, was charged on Feb. 10 with sexually assaulting a fifth-grade altar boy at St. Jerome parish in Philadelphia in 1999.

Archdiocesan officials said they received an allegation of abuse against Engelhardt, Jan. 30, 2009 and immediately turned the allegation over to the Philadelphia District Attorney. That same day they ordered Engelhardt to leave his residence at Resurrection of Our Lord parish in northeast Philadelphia where he was parochial vicar, an assistant to the pastor, said Donna Farrell, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The parish includes a school with pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

"He was still the parochial vicar during that time although he was not to be at the parish nor was he to exercise his public ministry," Farrell said Tuesday night.

She said archdiocesan officials learned at the end of 2010 that Engelhardt was still working at the parish.

"We have no clear evidence that Father Engelhardt performed public ministry from then until now. It came to our attention in late December 2010 that Father Engelhardt had been doing office work at the parish. He should not have been. The archdiocese intervened and it ended," said Farrell.

Archdiocesan officials said at Resurrection of Our Lord Church Masses during the weekend of Feb. 7 and 8, 2009, the Rev. Joseph Howarth, pastor of Resurrection parish, made an announcement about the sexual abuse allegation against Engelhardt and noted Engelhardt's denial of the allegation.

"Upon receipt of the allegation, and after informing the Provincial Superior of the Oblates of the allegation, Cardinal Rigali asked Father Engelhardt to leave his assignment temporarily, pending investigation," Howarth said in his announcement.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, formally removed Engelhardt from his assignment and removed his faculties to publicly exercise his priestly ministry in the archdiocese on Feb. 10, 2011 when he was informed of the indictment against Engelhardt.

Oblates spokesman, the Rev. Kevin Nadolski, said Engelhardt has been living in an Oblates community residence in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County where he has been supervised by a religious superior since Jan. 30, 2009. He said it is not a residence for alleged sex offenders. Nadolski said Engelhardt is not required to reside at the Oblates' retirement facility in Childs, Md., for the order to maintain accreditation from Praesidium, a Texas-based independent abuse risk management agency.

"We are waiting to learn from the DA's office the parameters of his bail to determine the best residence for him," said Nadolski.

A 68-year-old defrocked priest, Edward V. Avery, of Haverford, and a 48-year-old former Catholic school lay teacher, Bernard Shero of Bristol, Bucks County, have also been charged with abusing the same St. Jerome altar boy who accused Engelhardt of assaulting him. The Rev. James J. Brennan, 47, of Linfield, Montgomery County, who served as parochial vicar at St. Jerome parish from 1997 to 1998, has been charged with assaulting a 14-year-old boy in an apartment during a leave of absence from his ministry in 1996. Brennan has been restricted from performing priestly duties and living in a private residence supervised by an archdiocesan official since 2006.

All have been charged with rape, endangering the welfare of children and other offenses and each face a maximum of 67 years in prison if convicted on all charges. All were released on bail Feb. 11 and face a preliminary hearing in Philadelphia on March 3.

The Rev. Msgr. William Lynn, 60, is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of children in connection with the assaults because he was responsible for investigating clerical sexual abuse from 1992 to 2004 when he served as Secretary for Clergy under former Philadelphia Archbishop, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. He has been temporarily relieved of his duties as pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, Chester County. He faces a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted.

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