Northeast Times

Bevilacqua court appearance up in the air

A car­din­al is due in court. Maybe.

In Au­gust, a judge set Monday, Sept. 12, for a hear­ing to de­term­ine if ail­ing Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua is a com­pet­ent wit­ness in the sex-ab­use tri­al of some cler­gy­men and a par­ish school lay teach­er.

But on Aug. 30, his at­tor­ney ar­gued that Bevilac­qua shouldn’t be re­quired to come to court. So, as the North­east Times went to press this week, the car­din­al’s ap­pear­ance be­fore Com­mon Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina was not a cer­tainty.

Earli­er last month, law­yers for the city’s re­tired Ro­man Cath­ol­ic arch­bish­op and one of the de­fend­ants main­tained Bevilac­qua is ill with can­cer and not lu­cid enough to testi­fy at a tri­al. The as­sist­ant dis­trict at­tor­neys pro­sec­ut­ing the case against three priests, an ex-priest and a former St. Jerome’s lay teach­er main­tain they need the car­din­al’s testi­mony.

A de­cision on the car­din­al’s com­pet­ency as a wit­ness could very well af­fect sev­er­al civil cases in which Bevilac­qua him­self is a de­fend­ant.

Bevilac­qua, 88, headed Phil­adelphia’s arch­diocese from 1988 to 2003 when two minor boys al­legedly were mo­les­ted by some of the de­fend­ants and when one of the de­fend­ants worked dir­ectly un­der the car­din­al’s su­per­vi­sion.

CHARGES ARE A FIRST

In Feb­ru­ary, Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn, who was Bevilac­qua’s sec­ret­ary for clergy, be­came the first Ro­man Cath­ol­ic ad­min­is­trat­or in Amer­ica to be charged with two counts of en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren in con­nec­tion with sex ab­use cases even though it was not al­leged that he had had any con­tact with minors.

Lynn’s law­yers ar­gue that their cli­ent couldn’t en­danger chil­dren be­cause he had no du­ties that put him in con­tact with chil­dren. Pro­sec­utors main­tain Lynn had en­dangered chil­dren by al­low­ing his co-de­fend­ants, James Bren­nan and Ed­ward Avery, to con­tin­ue to live in city par­ishes where they could have ac­cess to chil­dren even though he had in­vest­ig­ated al­leg­a­tions of their sexu­al mis­con­duct with minors.

Lynn, Bren­nan, Avery, the Rev. Charles En­gel­hardt and Bern­ard Shero all were ar­res­ted after a Phil­adelphia grand jury in Feb­ru­ary re­leased its re­port on sexu­al ab­use of minors by the city’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic clergy.

Lynn faces two counts of en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren and con­spir­acy. The oth­ers were charged with rape and re­lated of­fenses and con­spir­acy. All have pleaded not guilty. A judge later threw out con­spir­acy charges against Shero.

Lynn’s at­tor­neys, Jef­frey Lindy and Thomas Bergstrom, don’t want to see Bevilac­qua on the wit­ness stand. Last month, they told Sarmina that pro­sec­utors had said they had not needed to ques­tion Bevilac­qua while a re­cent grand jury was in­vest­ig­at­ing sexu­al ab­use of minors by clergy.

On Aug. 31, The Phil­adelphia In­quirer re­por­ted that at­tor­ney Bri­an J. Mc­Monagle on Aug. 30 told Sarmina that his cli­ent is too ill to ap­pear in court and should be al­lowed to testi­fy from his home.

A spokes­wo­man for a group of cler­ic­al-ab­use sur­viv­ors sneered.

“Bevilac­qua wants the judge, the pro­sec­utor and the pub­lic to do ex­actly what mil­lions have done for years: trust him be­cause he says so,” Bar­bara Dor­ris of the Sur­viv­ors Net­work of those Ab­used by Priests, said in an Aug. 31 e-mail to the North­east Times.

Dur­ing a schedul­ing con­fer­ence be­fore Sarmina on Aug. 5, pro­sec­utors said they needed Bevilac­qua’s testi­mony and wanted it video­taped, or “pre­served,” pre­cisely be­cause the car­din­al is in such poor health. The great­er the time to the tri­al, they ar­gued, the great­er chance Bevilac­qua’s health would fur­ther de­teri­or­ate.

Sarmina then set Monday as the date she would hear ar­gu­ments about Bevilac­qua’s com­pet­ency to testi­fy, and she ordered law­yers to turn over the car­din­al’s med­ic­al re­cords by Aug. 22.

All at­tor­neys in the case have been barred from dis­cuss­ing it pub­licly.

IN THE JUDGE’S IN­TEREST

Marci Hamilton, an at­tor­ney in sev­er­al suits against Bevilac­qua, Lynn and oth­er arch­dioces­an fig­ures, said Sarmina will be look­ing for the value of the car­din­al’s testi­mony. The judge will listen to ex­perts and ex­am­ine re­cords to de­term­ine if Bevilac­qua can provide re­li­able evid­ence, Hamilton said. She’ll want to get a look at the car­din­al, too, Hamilton said.

“She has to see how he talks and what he says,” Hamilton said. “The turn­ing point is wheth­er it is un­fair to have him testi­fy.”

The Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice began in­vest­ig­at­ing Avery and En­gel­hardt in 2009 after the arch­diocese no­ti­fied au­thor­it­ies of com­plaints against the two men. Avery since has been de­frocked.

En­gel­hardt, an Ob­late of St. Fran­cis De­Sales, was ac­cused of mo­lest­ing a 10-year-old boy in the sac­risty of St. Jerome’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church in Holme Circle in 1998 and ’99. The grand jury said En­gel­hardt then told Avery about the boy and that Avery began mo­lest­ing the boy.

The vic­tim, now an adult, was mo­les­ted the next year by Shero, a lay teach­er at St. Jerome’s par­ish school, the grand jury said.

The grand jur­ors said Lynn knew of pre­vi­ous al­leg­a­tions in­volving a minor and had ordered Avery to get ther­apy. The grand jury said Lynn ig­nored re­com­mend­a­tions that Avery not be trus­ted around chil­dren and had him as­signed to St. Jerome.

Dur­ing the course of the probe, in­vest­ig­at­ors star­ted look­ing in­to al­leg­a­tions that Bren­nan had mo­les­ted a Chester County boy in 1996. The grand jur­ors said Lynn knew of pre­vi­ous al­leg­a­tions against Bren­nan but had trans­ferred him in­stead of keep­ing him away from chil­dren. Bren­nan was as­signed to St. Jerome in 1997.

On Aug. 5, Sarmina said jury se­lec­tion would be­gin Feb. 21, 2012, and the tri­al is set to be­gin on March 26.

AN­OTH­ER IS­SUE

Pro­sec­utors said Bevilac­qua, who is a law­yer, is rep­res­en­ted by the same law firm that rep­res­ents the arch­diocese and that there was a po­ten­tial for a con­flict of in­terest. Sarmina said she also will hear ar­gu­ments on that point on Monday.

Ques­tions of con­flict of in­terest are not new in this case. Lynn’s at­tor­neys are be­ing paid by the arch­diocese, a point that con­cerned Com­mon Pleas Court Judge Ren­ee Card­well Hughes. Dur­ing a March hear­ing, the judge — who has since left the bench to head the loc­al Red Cross — cau­tioned Lynn that “someone else whose in­terest might not al­ways align with yours is pay­ing your at­tor­neys” and sug­ges­ted to Lynn that there might be sev­er­al con­flicts. Lynn said he trus­ted his at­tor­neys.

Bevilac­qua is a de­fend­ant in five civil cases filed this year that in­volve al­leg­a­tions of sexu­al ab­use by priests.

Two of those cases in­volve former North­east Phil­adelphia res­id­ents who said they were mo­les­ted by a priest at Our Lady of Cal­vary Church in Mill­brook. Lynn is a de­fend­ant in those cases, too.

Phil Gaughan, of Delaware, filed suit as a John Doe in March, but dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, he iden­ti­fied him­self and said that he had been mo­les­ted by the Rev. John E. Gillespie from 1994 to 1997. Gaughan was a teen­ager and sac­ristan of Our Lady of Cal­vary at the time.

Named in Gaughan’s suit were Car­din­al Justin Rigali, who re­cently re­tired as the city’s arch­bish­op; Bevilac­qua, the pre­vi­ous arch­bish­op; Lynn; and two oth­er arch­dioces­an em­ploy­ees.

Gaughan al­leged that the de­fend­ants ma­li­ciously en­gaged in a crim­in­al con­spir­acy to en­danger chil­dren by tak­ing no ac­tions against priests ac­cused of mo­lest­ing chil­dren and that the arch­dioces­an vic­tim as­sist­ance co­ordin­at­ors took in­form­a­tion from vic­tims and shared them with the arch­diocese and its at­tor­neys after mis­lead­ing the vic­tims to be­lieve that their dis­cus­sions were con­fid­en­tial.

The suit al­leged, as did a re­cent grand jury, that Lynn was fully aware of the sexu­al ab­use by priests.

“There is no doubt Lynn talked to Bevilac­qua about Gillespie,” said Hamilton, one of Gaughan’s at­tor­neys.

Later in March, a man who said he was sexu­ally ab­used by Gillespie be­fore 1994 also sued the arch­diocese.

In his suit, the plaintiff, iden­ti­fied as John Doe 168, said he was mo­les­ted while an al­tar boy from 1988 through ’91 at Our Lady of Cal­vary.

In his suit, John Doe 168 also named Rigali, Bevilac­qua, Kar­en Beck­er, the dir­ect­or of the Arch­dioces­an Of­fice of Child and Youth Pro­tec­tion; and Mag­gie Mar­shall, the arch­diocese’s vic­tims as­sist­ance co­ordin­at­or.

The ques­tion of Bevilac­qua’s com­pet­ency as a wit­ness could have some im­pact on the civil cases, Hamilton said. Wheth­er the car­din­al could be a wit­ness in those cases might de­pend on how the crim­in­al case goes, Hamilton said.

Rul­ings in the crim­in­al case might not ne­ces­sar­ily af­fect a civil tri­al, she said, but if the car­din­al is not re­garded as an ac­cept­able wit­ness in the crim­in­al case, it would be strong evid­ence that he is not com­pet­ent, and that is­sue would be rel­ev­ant in the civil cases, she said. ••

Grand jury: Bevilac­qua was a “dif­fi­cult di­lemma”

A Phil­adelphia grand jury look­ing in­to sexu­al ab­use by clergy re­garded Car­din­al An­thony Bevilac­qua as a “dif­fi­cult di­lemma.”

Grand jur­ors wrote they be­lieved the car­din­al knew about the arch­dioces­an priests who mo­les­ted chil­dren. Re­luct­antly, they de­cided not to charge him with en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren, al­though they did charge his sec­ret­ary for clergy, Monsignor Wil­li­am Lynn.

They main­tained Lynn en­dangered chil­dren by shield­ing two priests they said were mo­lesters, and said “we would like to hold Car­din­al Bevilac­qua ac­count­able as well” as Lynn. But they doubted Bevilac­qua, who headed the city’s Ro­man Cath­ol­ic arch­diocese from 1988 to 2003, could be suc­cess­fully tied to those cases.

They also wrote they were con­cerned about his health but not cer­tain that what they had been told about Bevilac­qua’s con­di­tion was be­liev­able.

“We have no doubt that his know­ing and de­lib­er­ate ac­tions dur­ing his ten­ure as arch­bish­op also en­dangered thou­sands of chil­dren in the Phil­adelphia arch­diocese. Monsignor Lynn was car­ry­ing out the car­din­al’s policies ex­actly as the car­din­al dir­ec­ted,” grand jur­ors wrote.

Fur­ther …

“The car­din­al’s top law­yer ap­peared be­fore the grand jury and test­i­fied that the car­din­al … suf­fers from de­men­tia and can­cer,” they wrote. “We are not en­tirely sure what to be­lieve on that point. We do know, however, that, over the years, Car­din­al Bevilac­qua was kept closely ad­vised of Monsignor Lynn’s activ­it­ies and per­son­ally au­thor­ized many of them.”

Grand jur­ors wrote that Bevilac­qua’s at­tor­ney, Wil­li­am Sas­so, told them the car­din­al’s doc­tors be­lieve it would be “ex­tremely trau­mat­ic” for the car­din­al to testi­fy be­fore the grand jury and that any testi­mony he gave would be un­re­li­able. ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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