Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Priest Claimed Innocence Up to His Death

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Priest Claimed Innocence Up to His Death

Article excerpt

A Philadelphia priest convicted of child sexual abuse claimed his innocence up to his death, according to reports from his prison cellmate.

Fr. Charles Engelhardt, 67, died at Coal Township prison in central Pennsylvania Nov. 15, two years into a six--to 12-year sentence. In January 2013, a jury convicted the Oblate of St. Francis de Sales priest of endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, and indecent assault of a person under age 13.

The charges related to the case of former altar boy "Billy Doe," which over two years and two trials led to the conviction of three men--Engelhardt, a former priest and a schoolteacher--for abusing Doe in the late 1990s. In addition, Msgr. William Lynn, secretary of clergy for the Philadelphia archdiocese from 1992 to 2004, was found guilty of child endangerment for his handling of the related abuse claims--the first U.S. church official convicted on such grounds.

In a February 2011 grand jury report, which brought charges against Lynn, Engelhardt and three others, Engelhardt was accused of showing Doe pornographic magazines and engaging in mutual masturbation and oral sex; at trial, Doe reiterated those allegations.

Questions, however, would arise about Doe's credibility and the Philadelphia district attorney's handling of the case, as defense lawyers sought to overturn the convictions (NCR, May 10-23, 2013). A day after Christmas 2013, Lynn won his appeal in the state Superior Court and was released from prison after serving 18 months. …

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