Five charged in church sex scandal
The accused include the Rev. Charles F. Engelhardt, 64, an Oblate priest most recently a parochial vicar at the Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord in the city’s Rhawnhurst section. He is charged with orally sodomizing a 10-year-old altar boy in 1998 in St. Jerome’s sacristy.
Despite the boy’s resistance, Engelhardt allegedly told the Rev. Edward Avery, a diocesan priest then assigned to St. Jerome’s, about the assault. Weeks later, Avery, now 68 and defrocked, assaulted the boy in the same way, according to the report.
Bernard G. Shero, the boy’s sixth-grade teacher at St. Jerome’s parish school, allegedly learned from one or both of the priests about the assaults and one day offered the boy a ride home. Instead, the grand jury said, Shero, now 48, orally and anally raped him in his car and then left him to walk home.
One of my struggles has been getting my head around the fact that two priests knowingly conspired in the abuse of members of my family, and confessed and absolved each other. Even if I can admit the fact that two different priests abused us, the thought that they knew each other, supported each other’s behavior, covered for each other … it was just too grotesque, too evil to be true. But in Philadelphia the grand jury uncovered just such a story of collusion, of victim sharing. Priests really can be that evil.
To be fair, the third abuser was not a priest, just someone they included in their little circle of pedophiles. How nice of them not to be selfish but instead to share information about an easy mark, a child who would be desperate to get the support of a safe adult. Child rape … just a game they played with children’s bodies and with children’s lives.
But the rape is never just of the body it is rape of the soul too. The faith in their priests, their Church, their sacraments, their God is ripped apart and bloodied along with their bodies. And too many of these children will die, perhaps not at 11 or 15, perhaps at 35 or 55, because the violence done to them then continues to be compounded by the violence inflicted on them today through the indifference of bishops and advisory boards, through the adversarial tactics of lawyers, and through their ostracisation by parishes and support structures within their Church.