Much like the layers of an onion which make you cry more with each successive layer, the convictions of Father Charles Englehardt, an Oblate of St. Francis DeSales priest, and Bernard Shero, a lay teacher, expose a painful and tangled conspiracy of abuse and silence that was previously covered by a thin veneer. Independent orders of priests like the Oblates of St. Francis DeSales often operate in multiple jurisdictions and multiple dioceses allowing their perpetrators increased access to children and increased mobility to thwart public detection. With multiple assignments working with children in both Wilmington, Delaware and in the Philadelphia area, Father Engelhardt’s assignment history is a prime example of how this pattern can work to the advantage of a predator.
Like Father Engelhardt, at least twelve (12) other accused abusers within the Oblates of St. Francis De Sales have also utilized this corridor between Wilmington, Philadelphia and the surrounding jurisdictions to suit their needs. The accused abusers concealed themselves at schools like Father Judge High School in Philadelphia and Salesianum High School in Wilmington. The convictions of Englehardt and Shero are a shining and empowering example of how law enforcement and prosecutors are able to recognize and successfully neutralize what appears to be a coordinated effort by those who would hurt children. These convictions send a clear message to church hierarchy that no matter where the abusers go, justice and accountability will find them.
Michael Reck is an attorney and advocate working with survivors of clergy sexual abuse at Jeff Anderson & Associates.