Philadelphia prosecutors are asking a judge to order the former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to testify on videotape about clergy sex-abuse cases.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday ( http://bit.ly/rlHkwa) that the district attorney's office wants videotaped testimony from 88-year-old Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua in its criminal case against Msgr. William Lynn. Lynn's lawyers said Bevilacqua suffers from cancer and dementia and too infirm to be questioned.
Lynn, 60, is charged with conspiracy and child endangerment for allegedly transferring priests he believed to be pedophiles and is the country's only Roman Catholic church official ever charged in the sex-abuse scandal for his administrative actions. Lynn served as secretary of clergy from 1992 to 2004 under Bevilacqua.
Prosecutors' attempt to compel Bevilacqua's testimony follows their decision last month to make public 1,200 pages of testimony the cardinal gave in 2003 and 2004 to the first Philadelphia grand jury investigating sexual abuse in the five-county archdiocese.
Lynn's lawyers, Thomas Bergstrom and Jeffrey Lindy, objected to the release of those documents, saying Bevilacqua would not be available to testify at trial because of his failing health and consequently could not be cross-examined.
The district attorney's office responded Monday by trying to force Bevilacqua to testify anew on videotape "in the interest of justice ... before his health and memory deteriorate further and he becomes unavailable."
In response, Lynn's lawyers told Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarminato that Bevilacqua was "not competent" and his testimony would "only confuse and prejudice the proceedings." The added that such a requirement on the ailing cardinal would be "simply inhumane."
Lynn is to stand trial with four others. The Rev. Charles Engelhardt, the Rev. Edward Avery and former Catholic schoolteacher Bernard Shero are charged with sodomizing or raping an altar boy in in 1998 and 1999, when he was 10 and 11 years old. A former priest, James Brennan, is charged with raping a 14-year-old boy in 1996.
All five men have pleaded not guilty.
Attorneys for both sides declined to comment Wednesday, citing a gag order imposed by the judge.
Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.philly.com