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. ••