Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

The Cardinal Was A Credit to Diocese

When news came that Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua died, there was almost a sigh of relief.  The native son of Brooklyn who had accomplished so much for the Church has been ill for years with cancer and dementia. Friends who have tried to visit have been turned away because he was not always up to company. Some who were in constant contact with him eventually stopped calling because he couldn’t take calls any longer.

And yet, the legal system ruled only last week that the cardinal was competent to testify in a court of law about happenings in the Philadelphia Chancery office involving allegations about the transfers of priests who had been accused of sexual abuse of minors.

In fact, during a recent meeting that was a charade for a legal deposition, Cardinal Bevilacqua did not even recognize the priest in question.  But the court, in a rush to judgment and political expediency, maintained he was competent to give further testimony.

Here’s the bottom line. Cardinal Bevilacqua was never accused or indicted of anything although his good name was being linked to this charge against a priest of the archdiocese.

Anyone who knew the cardinal knew he was above reproach. He was a man of the Church. He lived a life of service to the people of the Church, especially immigrant peoples. He was fond of saying that when he was ordained a bishop, his life was no longer his own, but he belonged to the Church.

His deeds and true legacy can be read in our special pullout section this week.

But in Philadelphia, the court continues to fail to distinguish itself.

A press release from The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights captures the tenor of what is going on there.

League President Bill Donohue commented, “I had many opportunities to be in the company of Cardinal Bevilacqua, and each time I found him to be a bright, amiable and committed son of the Catholic Church. His sense of humor was infectious.”

Donohue explains some of the shoddy treatment given to the cardinal.

“In 2005, the local District Attorney, Lynne Abraham, smeared Bevilacqua in public with a grand jury report, but came up empty: she knew from the get-go that nothing could be done because of this ‘civil liberties technicality’ called the statute of limitations,” said Donohue.

“Moreover, in the grand jury report of 2001, it said that the grand jury was charged with investigating ‘the sexual abuse of minors by individuals associated with religious organizations and denominations.’ But Abraham ignored this charge and focused exclusively on the Catholic Church. I wrote to her on March 31, 2011 asking her to explain which ‘religious organizations and denominations’ she investigated besides the Roman Catholic Church. She refused to respond.”

During court proceedings, the cardinal was repeatedly addressed as “Mr.” Bevilacqua.  It was an insult to the man.

Cardinal Bevilacqua was not only a prince of the church, he was a prince of a man. It was delightful to be in his company.  He was a scholar, a teacher, a priest, and a champion of the poor and forgotten.  No blemish on his character should ever be associated with his name.

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