No court appearance for Bevilacqua, for now

There was a good chance that Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua wouldn’t be in court last week. 

Turned out it was more than a good chance. He wasn’t.

A Com­mon Pleas Court judge wanted Phil­adelphia’s former Ro­man Cath­ol­ic arch­bish­op in her court on Sept. 12 to de­term­ine if he would be a com­pet­ent wit­ness in a child-en­dan­ger­ment case in­volving his former sec­ret­ary for clergy, Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn.

Bevilac­qua’s at­tor­neys have ar­gued that the car­din­al is ail­ing with can­cer and suf­fers from de­men­tia and would not be a fit wit­ness, but Judge M. Teresa Sarmina wants to see for her­self.  

However, days be­fore last week’s sched­uled hear­ing, the judge al­lowed the car­din­al, who led the city’s arch­diocese from 1988 to 2003, more time to get to court. At­tor­neys will dis­cuss the status of the case on Oct. 7, court re­cords show, and the car­din­al’s testi­mony is now tent­at­ively slated for Oct. 19 through 21.

The case against Lynn is tied to charges of sexu­al mo­lesta­tion against two priests, a former priest and a Cath­ol­ic lay teach­er. The al­leg­a­tions against three of the de­fend­ants in­volve the as­sault of a young pu­pil at St. Jerome’s School in the 1990s. The oth­er de­fend­ant is ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a Chester County boy.

Lynn is not ac­cused of mo­lest­ing chil­dren, but a grand jury that in­vest­ig­ated sexu­al-ab­use al­leg­a­tions against Cath­ol­ic clergy in the Phil­adelphia arch­diocese al­leged that Lynn had known that two of the de­fend­ants were child mo­lesters but con­tin­ued to al­low them to live in par­ishes, thus af­ford­ing them con­tact with chil­dren.

Grand jur­ors did not charge or even call for testi­mony from Bevilac­qua, 88, dur­ing their in­vest­ig­a­tion, which con­cluded earli­er this year. 

Be­sides Lynn, the in­vest­ig­a­tion res­ul­ted in charges of sexu­al as­sault and con­spir­acy against priests James Bren­nan and Charles En­gel­hardt, former priest Ed­ward Avery, and former St. Jerome teach­er Bern­ard Shero. A judge later threw out the con­spir­acy charge against Shero.

Bren­nan, Avery and En­gel­hardt had lived at one time or an­oth­er at St. Jerome’s in Winchester Park. Avery and En­gel­hardt, along with Shero, have been ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a young boy there dur­ing the 1990s. Charges against Bren­nan in­volve a Chester County youth.

The grand jury has al­leged that Lynn shiel­ded Bren­nan and Avery from any re­per­cus­sion. The monsignor has been charged with con­spir­acy and two counts of child en­dan­ger­ment.

As­sist­ant dis­trict at­tor­neys pro­sec­ut­ing the case have sought to re­quire Bevilac­qua’s testi­mony — on video­tape, if need be, be­cause of his age and de­teri­or­at­ing health.

The tri­al of Lynn, Bren­nan, Avery, En­gel­hardt and Shero is set to be­gin in late March. It is ex­pec­ted to last four months. ••

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