Philly Priests, Teacher Charged with Sex Assault

crime tape over arrested man wearing handcuffs

Updated at 2:43 p.m. ET

PHILADELPHIA - Three priests and a Philadelphia Catholic school teacher have been charged with raping and assaulting two young boys over the course of several years, CBS News affiliate KYW-TV reports. A fifth man, a monsignor, has been charged with child endangerment for allegedly allowing the abuse to continue.

The 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, were all charged with rape, indecent sexual assault and other criminal charges.

Sixty-year-old Monsignor William Lynn, the secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in connection with the assaults.

The charges, which are the result of a grand jury investigation, were announced by the district attorney's office Thursday morning.

Avery and Engelhardt are charged with assaulting a 10-year-old boy in Northeast Philadelphia from 1998 to 1999. Shero is charged with assaulting the same boy there in 2000.

Brennan is accused of assaulting a different boy, a 14-year-old, in 1996.

The grand jury found that Lynn, who was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children, endangered children, including the victims, by knowingly allowing abusive priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children.

"The grand jury believed that many priests -- dozens of them -- have remained in ministry despite solid, credible allegations of abuse. 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," District Attorney Seth Williams said.

Avery, Engelhardt, Shero and Brennan all face a maximum of 67 years in prison if convicted of all charges. Lynn is facing a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Bevilacqua was not charged although the grand jury in its report talks of its "difficult dilemma" in whether to charge the former archbishop of Philadelphia, who is now 87 and suffering from cancer and dementia, according to his attorney.

Williams, a Roman Catholic, said his task in bringing charges against clergy was not a happy one but said he has a job to do.

"I love my church, but I detest the criminal behavior of priests who abuse or allow the abuse of children," Williams said. "I know ultimately they will be judged by a higher authority. For now, it is my responsibility as the elected district attorney of all the citizens of Philadelphia to hold them accountable."

Williams added, "This is an indictment of bad men who did terrible things who have to be held accountable by secular society."

A short time later, Cardinal Justin Rigali released a statement saying that the archdiocese had not yet had an opportunity to study the grand jury report but asked for prayer for all child victims of sex abuse. The statement also said the archdiocese is cooperating fully with civil authorities in this and all related matters.

Speaking publicly for the archdiocese, Bishop Daniel Thomas disputed findings in the grand jury report that more than 40 priests accused of inappropriate conduct involving minors in the past five years are still in active ministry.

"There are no archdiocesan priests currently in ministry who have an established or admitted allegation of sexual abuse of a minor," Thomas said.

But the grand jury says its own review of some priest files found convincing and alarming evidence of abuse that had been dismissed as unsubstantiated by an archdiocese review board.