Jon Campisi Jul. 28, 2011, 6:44am


A Philadelphia man has filed an assault and battery lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the city’s former archbishop for sexual abuse he allegedly sustained while a minor.

The plaintiff in the case is named only as “Billy Doe.” Attorneys have shielded his true identity since the alleged abuse occurred when he was underage.

The civil complaint, which was filed July 25 by Philadelphia attorneys Slade H. McLaughlin and Paul A. Lauricella, of the firm McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., names as defendants William Lynn, who was secretary of clergy for the Archdiocese during the time of the alleged abuse, overseeing church personnel; former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua; Catholic priests Charles Engelhardt and Edward Avery; and Bernard Shero, a former teacher at St. Jerome School.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff suffered the alleged abuse at the hands of the named priests while a student at St. Jerome School, a Northeast Philadelphia kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school operated by the Archdiocese.

The plaintiff attended the school from 1993 to 2002.

The lawsuit accuses church hierarchy, such as Lynn and Bevilacqua, of failing to appropriately investigate Engelhardt and Avery prior to assigning them to St. Jerome in 1999.

In particular, the church leaders should have known that Avery “lacked the psychological and emotional fitness for such an assignment.”

“Specifically, Defendants knew, and/or had reason to know, that Avery was a pedophile, child molester, and/or sexual predator who posed a danger to children,” the lawsuit states.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff was a 10-year-old altar boy at St. Jerome back in 1999 when he came into contact with the defendant priests and teacher.

“Engelhardt used his position of authority, control and power so as to command Plaintiff to perform repulsive and abusive acts of sexual abuse,” the lawsuit claims.

The suit claims that Engelhardt performed oral sex on the plaintiff, and directed the boy to fondle the priest’s genitals and forced the plaintiff to perform oral sex on him.

The complaint alleges that the plaintiff suffered various physical and emotional injuries as a result of the abuse.

Abuse similar in nature took place involving Father Avery, the lawsuit claims. Then, when the plaintiff was 11, he was sexually assaulted by Shero, the teacher.

“Outrageously, unconscionably and unlawfully, Defendant Shero orally and anally raped Plaintiff and forced him to perform depraved sexual acts on Shero,” the complaint states.

The acts outlined in the lawsuit constitute negligence and recklessness on the part of the defendants, the suit states.

Similar abuses are outlined in the Philadelphia Grand Jury reports from both 2003 and 2011, in which a culture of widespread abuse by area clergy was brought to the forefront of public attention.

The 2003 grand jury proceedings were convened by then-District Attorney Lynne Abraham, and the 2011 grand jury happened under the tenure of Philadelphia’s current district attorney, Seth Williams.

In this case, Billy Doe is seeking judgment against the defendants in a sum in excess of $50,000, plus punitive damages and related costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The case number is 110702430.

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