Judge to decide privately whether Pa. cardinal will testify

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 07, 2011 5:53 PM
Judge to decide privately whether Pa. cardinal will testify

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A judge, reversing course, will decide behind closed doors whether aging Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua is capable of testifying in a church sex scandal, court documents revealed on Wednesday.

Bevilacqua, 88, former archbishop of Philadelphia, was scheduled to appear in open court next week before Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina so she could determine whether he was fit to testify.

He is suffering from cancer and dementia, according to church officials.

Court documents on Wednesday showed the judge has vacated next week's court appearance by Bevilacqua and instead will privately review his medical records to make her ruling. She ordered lawyers to produce his records from the last two years.

Bevilacqua is considered an important witness in the pedophilia case against three priests, a monsignor and a Catholic school teacher who face criminal charges, including rape.

Sarmina has issued a strict gag order in the case, and prosecutors, defense lawyers and court personnel all cited the court order in declining to comment.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is the sixth largest in the United States with 1.5 million Catholics.

(Reporting by Dave Warner; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)