Medical investigators are conducting tests to determine whether prescription drugs found in the system of the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua were "in the therapeutic range" or at higher concentrations, a coroner said Wednesday.
The investigation is complicated by the fact that Bevilacqua, spiritual leader of the Philadelphia archdiocese's 1.5 million Roman Catholics from 1988 to 2003, was embalmed within hours of his Jan. 31 death. Embalming fluid can skew the results of toxicology tests, Montgomery County Coroner Walter Hofman said.
"Additional studies are now under way to try and minimize these false positives and false negatives," he said.
District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman has said she wants to lay to rest any speculation about Bevilacqua's end, given the "peculiar" timing of the 88-year-old cardinal's death just a day after a judge ruled him competent to testify at the trial of his longtime aide.
Church officials and his lawyer have said Bevilacqua was suffering from dementia and cancer.
Hofman said Bevilacqua took medications prescribed by numerous doctors, some of whom are based in the Philadelphia area and some from as far away as Indianapolis.
He declined to reveal the names of the medications, or say whether tests revealed the presence of any drugs other than the ones that Bevilacqua had been prescribed.
Hofman said he anticipates releasing the cause and manner of death and issuing a death certificate on March 8.
WTFX-TV first reported that prescription drugs were found in Bevilacqua's system.
Just before Bevilacqua died, a Philadelphia judge ruled him competent to testify at the child endangerment trial of Monsignor William Lynn, who is accused of quietly shuffling priests suspected of molesting children to unwitting parishes while he was a high-ranking archdiocesan official from 1992 to 2004.
In a grand jury report on the case last year, prosecutors accused Bevilacqua himself of presiding over the alleged cover-up of sexual abuse by priests. But he was not charged with a crime.