Despite defense claims that Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua is senile and remembers nothing about the past two decades, a Philadelphia judge this morning reaffirmed her ruling that the former head of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is competent to testify in the trial of three priests accused of sexually abusing young boys.
"I'll adhere to my original ruling," Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina told defense attorney Thomas A. Bergstrom, attorney for Msgr. William J. Lynn, a former church official accused of enabling a pedophile priest to continue preying upon children by transferring him after he was accused.
Sarmina left open the question of whether the 88-year-old Bevilacqua's testimony would be in person, or a replay of parts of the video transcript of two days of private questioning last November at the Cardinal's residence at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
Sarmina also promised to rule by next Monday on whether city prosecutors would be permitted to introduce evidence at trial about other incidents in the Archdiocese of priests sexually abusing altar boys and other children.
Prosecutors maintain that the evidence is necessary to help the jury understand how pedophile priests were able to prey upon their young parishioners and, after being exposed, get transferred to other parishes to repeat the conduct.
Defense attorneys have argued that such evidence is not relevant to the charges against Lynn and the three priests. The evidence would only inflame and prejudice the jury against the defendants and ensure guilty verdicts, defense lawyers said.