PHILADELPHIA – A retired Roman Catholic cardinal with dementia no longer recognizes his longtime aide, and his memory is so poor that his testimony should be excluded from the underling's clergy-abuse trial, defense lawyers said Thursday.
A judge had found Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua competent to be deposed at his residence, but the 88-year-old didn't recognize Monsignor William Lynn during a deposition last week and didn't recall details of accusations made against dozens of archdiocesan priests over the years, defense lawyers wrote in a pretrial motion.
"There were times during the deposition he appeared to struggle, to the point of tears, at his inability to recall and effectively answer the questions. For the most part, his memory bank was an empty room," the defense lawyers wrote.
Lynn, 60, served as secretary of clergy for more than a decade, until Bevilacqua's retirement in 2003. He is charged with conspiracy and child endangerment for allegedly transferring pedophile priests to new parishes. He goes on trial in March, along with two priests, an ex-priest and a former Catholic school teacher charged with raping boys.
The defense lawyers have argued that Bevilacqua, not Lynn, made transfer decisions and that Lynn was only carrying out the cardinal's orders in the five-county Philadelphia archdiocese.
"Given the cardinal's impaired memory, there is no opportunity now to cross-examine him about the events, or (his) earlier grand jury testimony," lawyers Thomas Bergstrom and Jeffrey Lindy wrote.
Besides battling dementia, Bevilacqua also has cancer. Prosecutors had sought the pretrial deposition to preserve his testimony in case he can't take the stand at the March trial.
The defense lawyers suggested that Bevilacqua was sometimes able to address the issues broadly.
"He did acknowledge generally that it was the secretary for clergy that had the responsibility to initially investigate allegations of sexual abuse," they wrote. "(But) he also testified that the ultimate assignment of priests was exclusively his responsibility."
Prosecutors did not immediately file a response to the motion. A gag order prevents lawyers involved in the case, including Bevilacqua's lawyer, from commenting.
Bevilacqua previously endured 10 grueling appearances before a grand jury that issued a 2005 report that found 63 archdiocesan priests had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse over several decades. No charges were filed because of legal time limits.
A new grand jury heard more recent accusations, and returned the charges against Lynn and the four others in January.
Bevilacqua's testimony has been a key pretrial issue. Prosecutors want to include Lynn's handling of a broad swath of child abuse complaints against priests as they try to show a pattern of wrongdoing. Lynn's lawyers said they expect prosecutors to try to show jurors some of Bevilacqua's prior grand jury testimony.
Lynn wants to limit the evidence to the three priests and two accusers directly involved in the case.
His co-defendants are the Rev. Charles Engelhardt, 64; the Rev. James Brennan, 48; former priest Edward Avery, 69; and former teacher Bernard Shero, 48. Each has denied the charges.
Engelhardt, Avery and Shero are accused of raping the same child, starting when he was a 10-year-old altar boy in northeast Philadelphia, according to the February grand jury report. Brennan is charged with raping a 14-year-old boy from a suburban parish.