Monsignor, other clerics to stand trial together

Monsignor William Lynn, former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Clergy, and three other current or former priests were ordered Friday to stand trial together for conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian Ransom denied defense motions to throw out the conspiracy charges against Lynn and the other defendants in the high profile case involving sexual assaults on two boys in the 1990s.

Revs. Charles Engelhardt, 64, and Edward Avery, 68, and Bernard Shero, 47, a former 6th grade teacher at St. Jerome’s School in Northeast Philadelphia, were charged earlier this year the rape and sexually assault of a 10-year-old boy in 2000.

Another priest, the Rev James Brennan, 47, is charged with raping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in 1996.

Ransom also ruled that all the defendants would be tried together.

Attorneys for Lynn objected to the judges decision to allow child endangerment charges against the monsignor, saying the law did not apply to his actions. Lynn’s charges stem from assigning the priests to the parishes. His lawyers argued that to endanger a child the accused has to have been supervising the child. Lynn did not supervise any of the children, they said.

Ransom did throw out one conspiracy count against Shero, saying that the lay schoolteacher was not in conspiracy with the priests. Shero is charged with the rape and assault of a boy identified as “Billy,” who said he was sodomized by Shero at St. Jerome’s.

As head of the clergy office, Monsignor Lynn oversaw all priest personnel issues, which included advising Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and his successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, on the assignment of priests; interviewing persons who reported sexual abuse by a priests; and overseeing the treatment of clergy known to have abused children.

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