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Monday, November 24, 2014

Father Charles Engelhardt: Priest Martyr at the Hands of "Billy Doe"

The accuser, "Billy Doe."

The last couple of weeks have yielded a lot in the way of colorful city news stories. .
   First, there was Vince Fumo’s Op-Ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer recommending that people not give money to the homeless because [as Fumo states] most of the homeless people begging on the street use that money for drugs. Saying “no” to the homeless, Fumo argues, will force them into shelters where they will be forced to see the light and, like Saul of Tarsus, be converted to a wholesome life of non drug use.
  (If you buy that argument, then you must also believe that Thanksgiving turkeys are related to Schuylkill River catfish).
      Then there was news of the tragic death of the Reverend Charles Engelhardt, 67, a Philadelphia priest serving the second of his 6 to 12 year sentence for accusations surrounding his molestation of an altar boy in 2009.

      Father Engelhardt’s attorney, Michael J. McGovern, called the priest “A beautiful and holy man. He was a true martyr.” Members of Fr. Engelhardt’s family (who were emotionally crushed that a drug crazed con artist looking to make a fast buck had destroyed the life of a good man), also knew that an innocent man had been persecuted.  .
    There have been many “true” clergy sex abuse accusations and convictions, but Fr. Enfelhardt’s case is not one of them. The unwavering crazies who believe any accusation of molestation just because the accused wears a collar, always put raw emotion above truth. One has only to check the out of bounds and hate-filled comments (many plainly, anti-Catholic) on whenever this topic becomes a news story. On that site one can read comments ranging from, “Arrest all priests,” “Give every priest the chair,” to “The Catholic Church needs to be destroyed.”  
   At the time of Fr. Engelhardt’s death, the Pennsylvania Superior Court was hearing arguments in favor of a new trial for the priest based on charges that the original trial was riddled with “prosecutorial misconduct.”
   According to Ralph Ciprano in an article entitled “When Prosecutors Cheat,” Fr. Engelhardt’s original trial was filled with so many errors, misrepresentations and lies that the entire dog and pony show had to be redone. When presiding Judge Anne E. Lazarus agreed to hear arguments for a new trial, a flood of new information surfaced, information that previously had been kept secret or off the record.
  Here’s where it gets interesting.
    Originally, fast buck “Billy Doe” claimed that he was molested or raped by his sixth grade homeroom teacher, and because of this he became sick and missed a lot of school. Prosecutors at the trial stated that he missed 3 ½ days of school, but, as Ciprano points out, Doe’s report card shows perfect attendance.
    Furthermore, [again, according to Ciprano] when “Doe” first launched his civil suit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he was on record as telling his drug counselors that he did not have a history of sexual or physical abuse. He then reversed this earlier statement and produced a litany of accusations that could have come from a bad William S. Burroughs novel. That litany of events bordered on the fantastic and paints a picture of a boy who couldn’t even walk down the street without running into men who forced to do something against his will.

   This is what fast buck “Billy Doe” claims happened to him:

(1) He was abused at six years old by a pal
(2) He was abused at seven years old by a teacher
(3) He was abused at eight years old by an unknown man
(4) He was abused at nine years old by another unknown man
(5) He was abused again at nine years old by a 14 year old family friend

   The story doesn’t end there but, like Pinocchio’s nose, keeps growing.

      “Billy Doe” then tells the Philadelphia DA that he was molested or raped at ten years of age by Father Engelhardt and another priest, Father Edward V. Avery in a kind of “pass the human football” conspiracy. He said this despite the fact that the two priests, Fr. Engelhardt and Fr. Avery, weren’t even casual friends.
     The doped out druggie low life then made the claim that Fr. Englehardt told him just before the molestation that he was now ready “to become a man.”

    Ciprano reports that on the witness stand, Billy Doe made another wild-eyed claim when he testified that Father Engelhardt carried a black bag filled with pornographic magazines.

   (This, by the way, is a scene straight out of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch).

   , “Billy Doe” even dropped another name into the hat: His homeroom teacher, one Mr. Shero, who he says began abusing him when he turned 11.
  “Billy Doe,” who refuses to use his real name (what’s there to be embarrassed about if you are telling the truth?) went into abuse-fantasy overdrive when he was interviewed by the Archdiocesan Victim’s unit social worker, Judy Cruz-Ransom.
    Ciprano reports that Cruz-Ransom recalls “Billy Doe” as “faking tears,” and then telling her a long story about how he was raped for hours; how he was punched and knocked unconscious and even tied up Clint Eastwood style but not with rope or piano wire mind you, but with sacred altar sashes, and then—to add a film Noir flavor to this MGM epic-----he was strangled with a seat belt.
   “Billy Doe” didn’t say where the seat belt was from—a Nissan? Volvo?  —but he conveniently forgot to mention getting strangled and all his other violent claims when he gave an official report to the police. One has to wonder: Did poor Billy Doe hallucinate these violent fantasies while coming off crack cocaine?
  Or were they nightmares occasioned by an impassioned heroin withdrawal under I-95 while reading too much William S. Burroughs?

    In describing yet another prosecutorial blunder, Ciprano asks us to take a look at prosecution witness Leo Omar Hernandez, who stated at the trial that he was Billy’s “best guy friend” when they were both sophomores at a Christian high school in the Northeast. The prosecution presented Hernandez as a model witness, a “see no evil, do no evil’ straight arrow kind of guy who would make most mothers proud. Hernandez’s honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force and his life as a hard working family man was also played to the hilt.
   When Hernandez took the stand, he did admit that Billy had told him that at age 16 he was abused by a teacher and two priests.
   Although the jury heard that Hernandez dropped Billy as a friend because he was upset that he was getting too involved in heroin and other illegal drugs, what they didn’t hear was that Hernandez worked part time in all male exotic dance clubs in Philly, and that he had filed a civil case against his physician whom he says abused him sexually and got him hooked on opiates. Also left out was the fact that he had OD’d in Las Vegas and that he was had been in a love relationship with the defendant (in the civil case) who periodically injected him with synthetic heroin and other drugs.
   Because Hernandez’s secret testimony was never released to the jury, this added up to another prosecutorial mistake.
        Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, who was against a new trial for Fr. Engelhardt, was unhappy and angry when the process for a new trial began. Williams needed a sacrificial lamb to assuage public outrage over the number of abuse cases popping up all over the city.
       Fr. Engelhardt’s vindication now rests with the creepy drug boy who started it all. Perhaps at some later date “Billy Doe” will experience a pang of conscience and some remorse. When his winning “lottery” money from the civil case runs out, and when he’s hallucinating on crack again under the El, or close to death as an old man (if he lives that long), perhaps he will look back and consider the life that he destroyed when he was young, careless and half in love with evil.
     He may then begin to feel some anguish and want to rub the slate clean. Impossible? Stranger things have been known to happen.
   But for now, reports have him living the high life in Florida, surfing, swimming, and wearing glitzy gold jewelry while he takes in the high life under the shade (and glow) of palm trees and Pina Coladas.