Abuse Cover-up Suit Names Bevilacqua

By Regina Medina
Philadelphia Daily News [Philadelphia PA]
July 1, 2004

Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua was named a co-defendant yesterday in a civil lawsuit alleging "fraudulent concealment" in protecting and reassigning priests that he and the church "knew or should have known were sexually abusing children."

The lawsuit, filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County, also names as defendants Bishop Donald W. Wuerl and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, where Bevilacqua served from 1983-88.

The suit, which seeks money damages, does not name as defendants the priests involved in the alleged sexual misconduct due to the expiration of the crimes' statute of limitations.

Diane Perer, a Pittsburgh attorney with Swenson Perer & Kontos, the firm representing the six abuse victims, said the church and its high-ranking officials had to be held accountable for the sexual abuse.

"Our contention is that the diocese and the bishop that represented this diocese concealed the abuse of these priests," Perer said. "They permitted it to continue and it was done all in secret."

Priests were transferred and moved around, yet remained in good standing with the church, said Perer, whose firm has filed 19 lawsuits against the Pittsburgh diocese.

"The parishioners' kids were being preyed on and we think that goes to the highest level of the diocese," Perer said.

A representative for the Diocese of Pittsburgh could not be reached late yesterday.

Catherine Rossi, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said she couldnt react "because I have not seen the suit," she said.

Bevilacqua, 81, couldn't be reached for comment.

The six plaintiffs ranged in age from 6 to 16 when the alleged abuse began, according to legal documents. Three of the victims have chosen to remain anonymous in the court papers.

Perer said the abuse has been a "trauma that has followed" the victims all their lives. "And then to find that the church... aided and abetted these priests is a whole new abuse. They have suffered doubly."