Prosecutors have finished questioning Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, capping a private, two-day deposition in which they pressed the longtime Archdiocese of Philadelphia leader to explain what he knew and how he responded to complaints of priests molesting children.
The deposition ended about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to a person briefed on the hearing.
When it did, the 88-year-old prelate had sat for nearly seven hours of questions from a judge and lawyers in a conference room at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
But what they asked and how he answered might remain a secret.
Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina closed the proceeding to the public and has barred lawyers from discussing the case. Her office on Tuesday said the judge would have no comment on the matter.
The cardinal's videotaped testimony and transcripts of it are likely to be unsealed only if they are introduced at the March trial for Msgr. William J. Lynn, a former aide to Bevilacqua accused of protecting and enabling abusive priests.
Also facing trial with Lynn are two priests, a defrocked priest and a former schoolteacher accused of sexually assaulting two boys in the 1990s.
Bevilacqua has not been charged, but prosecutors wanted his testimony to bolster their argument that Lynn's conduct was part of a broader pattern or practice by church leaders.
They say Lynn, as the archdiocesan secretary for clergy, recommended parish assignments for the Rev. James J. Brennan and the Rev. Edward Avery despite knowing both had been previously accused of abusing children.
On Monday, Bevilacqua answered many questions by claiming he didn't know or didn't recall the details of sexual abuse cases, another person familiar with the proceedings has told The Inquirer.
He also pointed out several times that investigating abuse claims was the responsibility of the archdiocese's secretary for clergy.
Bevilacqua's attorneys had long argued that the aging cardinal suffers from dementia and was unfit to testify. After questioning him herself, Sarmina ruled Bevilacqua competent and said the deposition could proceed.