Matt C. Abbott
The scandal that keeps on 'giving'
By Matt C. Abbott
February 16, 2011

Here it is 2011, and the clergy abuse scandal, which "broke" in 2002, is still making headlines. What a shame. In addition to the victims, with whom I have a great deal of sympathy, I feel badly for the many good priests who are, in a sense, tainted by the actions — or inaction — of their colleagues.

In Philadelphia,

    'The grand jury indicted a former top aide to retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua for allegedly enabling a cover-up of priests accused of abusing boys. Bevilacqua, 87, wasn't charged, but the grand jury concluded he was 'closely involved' in decisions surrounding the problem priests and 'personally authorized many of them.'

    'Msgr. William Lynn, who handled priest personnel issues, including abuse cases, from 1992 to 2004, was accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse. He is believed to be the highest church official criminally charged in the sexual-abuse scandal, which has rocked the church for more than a decade. Two other priests, a former priest, and a lay teacher were also charged with assaulting two young boys.

    'The Rev. Charles F. Engelhardt, 64, allegedly orally sodomized a 10-year-old altar boy in the sacristy of St. Jerome's Church in 1998. Engelhardt told the Rev. Edward Avery about the assault. Avery, 68, who is now defrocked, then allegedly assaulted the boy, as allegedly did the boy's sixth-grade teacher, Bernard G. Shero, 48.' (Source)

And here's an excerpt from the grand jury report, which can be read in its entirety by clicking here (warning: the full report contains graphic descriptions of abuse):

    'Most disheartening to the grand jury was what we learned about the current practice toward accused abusers in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. We would have assumed, by the year 2011, after all the revelations both here and around the world, that the church would not risk its youth by leaving them in the presence of priests subject to substantial evidence of abuse. That is not the case.

    'In fact, we discovered that there have been at least 37 such priests who have been kept in assignments that expose them to children. Ten of these priests have been in place since before 2005 — over six years ago. We understand that accusations are not proof; but we just cannot understand the Archdiocese's apparent absence of any sense of urgency. On the other hand, in cases where the Archdiocese's review board has made a determination, the results have often been even worse than no decision at all. The board takes upon itself the task of deciding whether it finds 'credible' the abuse victims who dare come forward. It is the board, though, that strikes us as incredible.

    'In one case, a 44-year-old man said he had been abused by a priest while in second grade. The board calculated that the man would have been in the second grade in 1969. The priest in question did not arrive in the parish until 1970. Therefore, ruled the board, the man must not be telling the truth. Apparently there was no possibility that, after almost four decades, the victim could have been off by a few months about the date, but still right about the conduct. A year after this 'incredible' report, the same priest was the subject of an independent allegation by another victim. Despite a wealth of corroborating evidence, the board also declared this second man incredible. The man killed himself shortly after the board's decision.

    'In another case, the accused priest submitted to a lie detector test. He was asked whether he had shown pornographic movies to minors, whether he had fondled himself in front of children, and whether he had touched boys' genitals. He flunked every question. The board nonetheless declared the victim's accusations 'unsubstantiated.'

    'The same thing happened to a woman who came forward to report that two priests had fondled her when she was a teenager. One of the priests admitted the report was true. The other denied it, but then flunked his polygraph test. The review board initially found the report about him credible, but then took a re-vote two months later, on the ground that some of the board's members had been absent the first time due to 'inclement weather.'

    'This time, on the same evidence as the original vote, the board gave the second priest a clean bill of health — as if the victim had some reason to tell the truth about the first priest, who admitted it, but was lying about the second priest, who just happened to flunk the lie detector for no reason. That priest remains in good standing, still 'ministering' to men, women, boys, and teenage girls.

    'These are simply not the actions of an institution that is serious about ending sexual abuse of its children. There is no other conclusion.'

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia's statement on the matter can be read by clicking here.

On a related note, former priest Gary Mercure was recently convicted on all four counts of child sexual abuse — and actually smiled as he was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs! (Source)

The Diocese of Albany "admitted [Feb. 14] it received a complaint in 2000 about priest Gary Mercure's abuse of boys but dropped the matter because the accusers did not follow up on their allegation." (Source)

Well, it's no secret that the Diocese of Albany has had its share of, er, problems over the years. See this column.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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