PHILADELPHIA - A Philadelphia man at the heart of a groundbreaking criminal case against the Philadelphia Archdiocese has filed a related civil suit, charging that the church let two priests and a teacher serially rape him as a young altar boy.
The 23-year-old man accused the Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia of “callous indifference’’ to his suffering as a 10-year-old schoolboy.
The suit seeks at least $450,000 in damages from the archdiocese and other defendants. The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported yesterday on the suit, filed this week by a man identified as “Billy’’ in a February grand jury report.
Prosecutors have accused the archdiocese of letting “a trio of pedophiles’’ pass him around from 1999 to 2000, starting when the Rev. Charles Engelhardt forced him to engage in mutual oral sex in a church sacristy at age 10.
Weeks later, the civil suit charges, the Rev. Edward Avery performed oral sex and digital penetration.
And at age 11, his sixth-grade teacher, Bernard Shero, orally and anally raped him during a car ride, and then put him out of the vehicle to walk home, according to details from the civil and criminal complaints. All three lived or worked at St. Jerome Parish in Northeast Philadelphia, where “Billy’’ went to school through eighth grade.
The victim has since been hospitalized 10 times for drug and mental health treatment, the civil suit said.
Avery had been sent to live at St. Jerome by former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua despite a 1992 stint at a treatment center that stemmed from a sex-abuse complaint, prosecutors said. He was allowed to say Mass and hear children’s confessions.
The grand jury report led to the filing of rape charges against Engelhardt, 64, Avery, 68, and Shero, 48, along with separate rape charges, involving another victim, against the Rev. James Brennan, also 48.
The longtime secretary for clergy, Monsignor William Lynn, 60, is the first US church official charged with crimes - conspiracy and child endangerment - for allegedly transferring problem priests without warning new parishes.
The defendants plan to challenge the charges at a pretrial hearing tomorrow.