It is hard not to engage in speculation concerning the child-molestation scandal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Especially when everyone knows there will be a 1000 pound gorilla (or perhaps Godzilla) in the courtroom. Furthermore, the fever seems to be highly contagious, even within the intellectual legal community. Consequently, there was little surprise when prosecutors recently asked a coroner to examine the body of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua to make sure he died of natural causes. Publicly, Risa Vetri Ferman, district attorney, states that she wants to lay to rest speculation about Bevilacqua's death. Privately, one has to wonder what the heck she is thinking.
True, the 88-year-old cardinal died just a day after a judge ruled him competent to testify at the trial of his longtime aide, Monsignor William Lynn. Furthermore, Bevilacqua did in fact die Jan. 31 at a seminary well within the control of the archdiocese. And it is further true that he was in fact buried without the benefit of an autopsy. However, the Cardinal was suffering from dementia and cancer so should it really be any surprise that he died from natural causes? Logic suggest no; however, the question still lingers whether anything sped up his demise.
Toxicology tests on fluid and tissue taken after Bevilacqua's body was embalmed should be able to answer the central question. Bevilacqua was not healthy and his medical records document his cancer and dementia. His death came prior to the upcoming trial of Monsignor William Lynn, who is accused of suppressing information about priests suspected of molesting children by sending them to unwitting parishes from 1992 to 2004. In a grand jury report, prosecutors apparently accused Bevilacqua himself of presiding over the alleged cover-up of sexual abuse by priests. However, Bevilacqua was not charged with any crime.Should anyone be suspicious of the passing of Bevilacqua? The Cardinal was sick, frail, and under extreme stress. At age 88, didn't he have a right to die, even in the eyes of the Catholic Church?