Thursday, February 02, 2012

Retired Philadelphia Cardinal Conveniently Dies in His Sleep

I wrote just the other day about how a Philadelphia court had ruled that retired Catholic Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was competent to testify in the upcoming sexual abuse trial in which Rev. William Lynn, a Monsignor in charge of priests for the archdiocese, is accused of covering up for sexual predator priests and shuffling them from parish to parish. Indications are that Lynn may be unwilling to fall on his sword to protect higher ups in the archdiocese such as Bevilacqua. Now, the 88 year old Bevilacqua has died in his sleep at a seminary and will never be put on the stand and required to testify about his role in the wide scale cover ups. It's certainly a convenient - and perhaps welcomed - coincidence for the Catholic Church hierarchy. Here are highlights from the New York Times:

Anthony J. Bevilacqua, a former cardinal and archbishop of Philadelphia whose passion for Roman Catholic causes like helping the poor and fighting abortion was eclipsed in retirement by accusations that he had covered up sexual abuse by priests, died on Tuesday at a seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. He was 88. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the death. Cardinal Bevilacqua had dementia and an undisclosed kind of cancer.

Cardinal Bevilacqua was archbishop from 1988 until his retirement in 2003. Pope John Paul II elevated him to cardinal in 1991.

Cardinal Bevilacqua’s last years were caught up in investigations of priests accused of sexually abusing altar boys. In September 2005, a grand jury report on a 40-month investigation of clerical sex abuse accused him and his predecessor of allowing hundreds of abusive priests to go unpunished and ignoring the victims. Cardinal Bevilacqua did not respond publicly to the allegations.

The grand jury said weak laws prevented it from recommending criminal charges. After Pennsylvania’s child endangerment laws were strengthened in 2007, another grand jury revisited the case last year and indicted a former underling, Msgr. William J. Lynn, and three priests. Its report said it had “reluctantly” chosen not to recommend charges against Cardinal Bevilacqua.

His declaration that homosexuals, even ones who accept celibacy, cannot be priests enraged gay-rights advocates. He said a heterosexual gives up “a very good thing,” a wife and children, to be a priest. A homosexual, by contrast, he said, gives up “what the church considers an aberration, a moral evil.”

The accusations about his role in the sex-abuse scandals did not surface until two years after his retirement, after he testified 10 times before the first grand jury. Its report concluded that he had not taken an accusation against a priest seriously unless the priest expressly confessed. “He tried to hide all he knew about sex abuse committed by his priests,” the report said.

If there is a God, one can hope that Bevilacqua will finally be held accountable for his apparent misdeeds.

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