Sunday, February 13, 2011

Teacher accused
Scandal has Bucks connections
Bucks County Courier Times
Bernard Shero of Bristol is accused of raping a boy at St. Jerome's School.

A former Catholic school teacher worked at elementary schools throughout Lower Bucks, including two after allegedly raping an 11-year-old boy in Philadelphia in 1998. And some parents said they had concerns about him when he was at those local schools.

Bernard Shero, 47, of Monroe Street in Bristol, was accused of raping a boy from St. Jerome's School, where Shero taught sixth grade, according to a grand jury report released Thursday by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

Shero also held positions with parish elementary schools at Immaculate Conception in Bristol Township, St. Joseph the Worker in Falls, Queen of the Universe (now Holy Family Regional Catholic School) in Middletown, St. Michael the Archangel in Tullytown and St. Thomas Aquinas in Croydon, officials from the archdiocese said Friday.

The DA's office charged Shero and three Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests Thursday with rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault on a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of a minor. A fourth priest, Monsignor William Lynn, a secretary under then Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, was charged with endangering children for allegedly moving such problem priests to new parishes without warning anyone of past sex abuse complaints against them.

One of those priests named in the report, the Rev. James Brennan, served as a parochial vicar at St. Andrew in Newtown Township and later taught in the elementary school at Assumption BVM in Lower Southampton. Brennan is accused of raping a 14-year-old boy years after he met him while at St. Andrew's.

Shero and the two other priests, the Revs. Charles Engelhardt, 64, and Edward Avery, 68, are accused of raping the same 11-year-old boy.

The archdiocese on Friday released a timeline of Shero's employment in Lower Bucks at the newspaper's request.

Shero held his first teaching position at the Immaculate Conception school in June 1981. He began working at St. Joseph the Worker in 1984 and held simultaneous positions at both schools for more than a decade. Shero also reportedly spent five months in early 1998 working at both Queen of the Universe and Nazareth Academy High School in Philadelphia before taking a position at St. Jerome's.

Church officials said Shero left St. Jerome's for St. Michael the Archangel in September 2000 and stayed at the Tullytown school for seven years. He worked at St. Thomas Aquinas beginning in September 2007.

Church officials said he was removed from his teaching position at St. Thomas Feb. 2, 2009, just days after the archdiocese said it was notified of the allegations.

However, some parents said the church had reason to be suspicious far earlier.

St. Mike's parishioner Jim Briggs of Bristol Township said many parents, including himself, were concerned about Shero's treatment of young kids in the classroom.

Briggs said he had no evidence of inappropriate behavior by Shero, but "it was pretty well known that he was pretty fond of the girls." Briggs said his concerns led him to approach the principal, Susan Gallagher, in 2005, when Briggs' daughter was set to enter fifth grade.


"We went to the principal's office and we told them that if Shero was going to be her teacher that we were going to pull her out of the school," said Briggs. "I told the principal back then that I was concerned this guy was a pedophile.

"I told the principal that I would have killed him if he had tried anything on my daughter. My daughter was not placed in his class," Briggs added.

Another St. Mike's parishioner, who asked not to be identified, said she remembers parents at the church discussing their concerns about Shero prior to his leaving the school.

The newspaper was unable to reach Gallagher for comment Friday. St. Thomas Aquinas principal Colleen Noone declined comment, referring all questions about Shero to the archdiocese.

Briggs said attending services at his parish church this month will be difficult after learning of the allegations against some priests. "Every time you hear something like this, it hurts you," he said.

In Lower Southampton, lifelong Catholic Fran Andre, 67, said she was deeply affected by the criminal charges. A member of St. Christopher's parish in Northeast Philadelphia, Andre said she, too, would have difficulty attending Mass.

"I look at the priest up on the altar and I'm left questioning: Is he a good guy or is he not?" she said. "It frightens you."

The parent of a student at Assumption BVM said Friday she was angry to discover that her child knew about the grand jury arrests - not from media reports, but from letters sent out by the school.

The parent said letters were given to students Thursday to carry home to their parents. But, she said, many of the children had opened the letters before arriving home.

Also on Friday, Cardinal Justin Rigali announced the creation of a new church position of "Delegate for Investigations." The responsibilities of that job will include "immediate reporting to civil authorities upon receipt of an allegation."

Rigali also said he has hired Joseph A. Cronin Jr. as a clergy support associate. Cronin's primary job will be to assist the office of Vicar for Clergy and ensure the compliance of priests with the standards of ministerial behavior and boundaries, the archdiocese said.

James McGinnis can be reached at 215-949-3248 or For instant news updates, "follow" Jim at

Bernard Shero's work history

June 1981-Jan. 1998: Immaculate Conception Elementary School (Bristol Township)

September 1984-July 1997: St. Joseph the Worker Elementary School (Falls)

January 1998-June 1998: Queen of the Universe Elementary School* in Middletown and Nazareth Academy High School in Philadelphia

September 1998-June 2000: St. Jerome Elementary School in Philadelphia

September 2000-June 2007: St. Michael the Archangel Elementary School in Tullytown

September 2007-February 2009: St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School in Bristol Township

*Queen of the Universe is now the Holy Family Regional Catholic School

Source: Archdiocese of Philadelphia

February 13, 2011 02:00 AM

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