Bishop named in investigative grand jury reports in Pennsylvania has died; SNAP Reacts

(For Immediate Release May 9, 2023) 

Bishop Emeritus Edward Cullen of Allentown, Pa has died. Many Allentown Pennsylvania priests are accused of molesting kids and many of them worked under and were protected by the now-deceased Bishop Edward Cullen. We hope his passing will bring some comfort to the hundreds of victims who were sexually violated by priests during his tenure, victims whose allegations were buried.

On May 19, 1962, Cullen was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by the now-deceased Cardinal John Krol. He quickly ascended through the ranks and was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1988.  On December 16, 1997, Pope John Paul II appointed Cullen as Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown, succeeding retiring Bishop Thomas Welsh, a trained Philadelphia priest as well. Cullen took office on February 9, 1998. He received his episcopal consecration on April 14, 1994, from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

According to the 2011 Philadelphia grand jury findings, Cullen sent a memo to another Philadelphia Archdiocese administrator, Monsignor William Lynn, in 1993, stating that parishioners of St. Therese of the Child Jesus church in Philadelphia should be informed that Rev. Edward Avery was quitting as pastor due to health reasons. Avery, in fact, had been accused of sexual abuse. Avery was eventually sent to another parish, St. Jerome, where investigators believe he, another priest, and a teacher began sexually assaulting a kid when he was 10 years old in 1998. Prosecutors claim the abuse persisted until the year 2000. That memo Cullen sent became part of a secret list in Philadelphia.


On August 14, 2018, then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, released a grand jury report on the handling of sexual abuse allegations against priests in Pennsylvania. The report showed that Cullen, as bishop of Allentown, instructed his vicar general, then Monsignor Alfred Schlert, to act as an "enabler" when handling abuse allegations. Shapiro said that Schlert and others earned promotions from Cullen for their work in handling the allegations. By the time the grand jury report was released, many records on sex abuse in the diocese were missing. The grand jury report involved six Pennsylvania dioceses, and it stated that "we believe that the real number — of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward — is in the thousands."

Bishops like Cullen wreaked havoc on trusting youngsters and their families. And time and time again, he and his colleagues ignored, concealed, and enabled these horrific crimes. Even worse, after the scathing grand jury report in Pennsylvania, Bishop Cullen and many other high-ranking church officials in Pennsylvania, watched survivors pour their hearts out to a national audience. Again, these prelates, including Cullen, stood by and said nothing.

We hope that his death will inspire present and past diocesan employees to speak out against Allentown and Philadelphia clergy sex crimes and cover-ups. No matter how old, little, or unimportant our information or suspicions may appear, it is crucial that we all disclose it to law enforcement officials if we know of or suspect abuse. 

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is


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