The Inquirer on Friday posted on its website, Philly.com, the full testimony of Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua before the grand jury investigating sexual abuse in the Catholic church.
To read it, go to: www.philly.com/testimony
There, the cardinal's testimony is contained in 10 separate documents, one for each of his appearances before the panel in 2003 and 2004. The testimony was referred to in the Grand Jury's 2005 report. Bevilacqua has never been charged with a crime.
Last week, prosecutors made Bevilacqua's testimony part of the public court file in the criminal case against Msgr. William Lynn, a top administrator who handled the Archdiocese abuse cases for the cardinal. Lynn is charged with conspiracy and child endangerment for allegedly enabling abusive priests. He has pleaded not guilty.
In their case against Lynn, prosecutors - in a rare move - filed grand jury testimony, including that of Bevilacqua, in Common Pleas Court on Friday, July 22.
The Inquirer made copies of the cardinal's testimony before the courthouse closed that day. The newspaper published a story about the testimony last Sunday, July 24.
On Monday, the judge in the case, Lillian Harris Ransom, ordered the grand jury transcripts sealed.
The Inquirer's copy of the testimony, then, is the only one currently in the public domain. The Inquirer checked the transcripts to remove any names of victims from the transcripts before posting the documents online.
On Friday, Lynn's lawyers sought to prevent The Inquirer from posting the grand jury testimony.
The lawyers, Thomas A. Bergstrom and Jeffrey M. Lindy, said Bevilacqua's testimony would not be admissible at trial because the cardinal, now 88 and suffering from cancer and dementia, could not be cross-examined about it. In a letter to the judge, they argued that making the testimony public was "prejudicial to [Lynn's] right to a fair trial by an impartial jury."
Amy B. Ginensky, a lawyer for The Inquirer, countered that Lynn's request amounted to an "unconstitutional prior restraint." In a letter to the judge, she noted that courts have routinely held that the public has a right of access to court records.
Grand jury transcripts are rarely made public.
Jeff Anderson, of St. Paul, Minn., a lawyer who has handled scores of sex abuse cases brought against the Catholic church, called the prosecutors' release of the cardinal's testimony "extraordinary and unprecedented."
Advocates for victims criticized the judge's decision to bar access to the court records.
Terence McKiernan, president of bishopaccountability.org, which tracks clergy abuse across the globe, called the judge's decision a "a grave error."
He said the documents were "essential evidence" in the criminal case against Lynn, the first member of the Catholic church hierarchy in the nation to be charged with child endangerment.
Moreover, he said, the documents "are of deep and immediate public interest, not only for the United States, but for Ireland, Belgium, Germany, and everywhere that a conspiracy of the Catholic hierarchy is suspected.
"This is a watershed moment in the Catholic sexual abuse crisis," said McKiernan. "The release of the Philadelphia files is potentially even more significant than the massive release of church files in Boston in 2002-2003."
Ransom has declined to explain her decision to seal the record.
In her order, Ransom also barred public access to other grand jury testimony filed by prosecutors, including that of two bishops, Lynn and two co-defendants.
The order is in effect until a hearing can be held on an Inquirer challenge of the decree. No date has been set.