MYSTERIOUS WAYS: Bevilacqua Transferred To The Big Witness Protection Program In The Sky

[Artwork by JAY BEVENOUR]

INQUIRER: Cardinal Anthony Joseph Bevilacqua, 88, whose 15 years as shepherd of the 1.5 million-member Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia was marked by both celebration and crisis, died in his sleep Tuesday night in his apartment at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood. After retiring in 2003, he left the cardinal’s residence on City Avenue for the apartment at the seminary and rarely appeared in public. Cardinal Bevilacqua was emblematic of the church to which he had devoted himself since age 14: progressive on some social-justice issues, staunchly orthodox on matters of doctrine and sexuality, and unfailingly deferential to the will of Rome. […] His most agonizing period was surely the clergy sex-abuse crisis that erupted in 2002 and culminated three years later in a searing indictment of his leadership. In September 2005, after a 40-month grand jury investigation into clergy sex abuse in the archdiocese, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office issued a report excoriating Cardinals Bevilacqua and Krol for systematically allowing hundreds of abuser priests to go unpunished and ignoring the victims. The report named 63 priests working in the archdiocese who had abused children during the previous 50 years, and surmised there might have been 100 more whose crimes were concealed by murky record-keeping. “Sexually abusive priests were left quietly in place or ‘recycled’ to unsuspecting new parishes – vastly expanding the number of children who were abused,” the 418-page report concluded. Cardinal Bevilacqua did not respond publicly to the charges. His successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, called the report “very unfair” for not addressing abuse in other religious denominations and public institutions. Acquaintances described Cardinal Bevilacqua, already suffering some depression after his retirement, as devastated by the report. He rarely appeared in public afterward and granted no interviews. MORE

WASHINGTON POST: An indicted Catholic church official is showing signs he won’t take the fall alone for the priest abuse scandal in Philadelphia, with his lawyer saying Wednesday that a successor threw him “under the bus.” Monsignor William Lynn, 61, is the only official from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia facing trial for allegedly failing to remove accused predators from the priesthood. He served as secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004. Defense lawyers argue that Lynn took orders from then-Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and other superiors in the church hierarchy. Prosecutors hope to include dozens of old abuse to show a pattern of conduct at the trial, which is scheduled to start in late March and last several months. One such case involves a West Chester University chaplain accused in 1994 of taking pictures of students in their underwear. He next became chaplain of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, worked with a parish youth group and later admitted taking boys on overnight trips, one to Jamaica, before retiring to the New Jersey shore, prosecutors said. When a New Jersey diocese asked the Philadelphia archdiocese about the priest, Monsignor Timothy Senior allegedly wrote in a letter that Lynn, his predecessor, did not fully investigate complaints against the priest. “Maybe that’s an answer to why Monsignor Senior is not here (as a defendant). He obviously doesn’t mind throwing Monsignor Lynn under the bus,” defense lawyer Jeffrey Lindy argued. Prosecutors call the archdiocese “an unindicted co-conspirator” in the case. A 2005 grand jury report blasted Bevilacqua and his successor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, for their handling of abuse complaints, but they were never charged. Bevilacqua is now 88 and in failing health. A judge will hear more arguments Monday on whether 27 of the 63 priests described in that grand jury report can be referenced at Lynn’s trial. Prosecutors want to show that Lynn kept them on the job despite knowing of complaints stored in “secret archives” at the archdiocese. They have detailed the cases over a three-day pretrial hearing this week. The cases include a priest who allegedly pinned loincloths on naked boys playing Jesus in a Passion play, and whipped them, in keeping with the drama; a priest who held what prosecutors called “masturbation camps” at the rectory, having boys strip naked and teaching them to masturbate; and a pastor written up for disobedience for complaining to Bevilacqua about an accused priest being transferred to his parish. “I truly would love a jury to see how these were handled,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in court. “The more cases they see … the clearer the picture becomes.” MORE

CBS: Will Cardinal Bevilaqua’s death (see related story) affect the ongoing priest-abuse case?  Not much, says one legal expert who is very familiar with the case. There is now a gag order imposed on all parties in the case (related story), so neither the prosecution nor defense can make statements in reaction to Bevilacqua’s death. Bevilaqua underwent a deposition in November, and a judge this week overruled defense claims that he was not a competent witness (another related story). MORE

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