DN Editorial: Remembering the holy – and wholly human – prelate

Philadelphia Daily News

COMPARED with generations of Catholic prelates – to whom the faithful literally bowed in order to kiss their rings – the personal style of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was a break from the past.

Bevilacqua, who died Tuesday at age 88, was gregarious and photogenic, personally charming, approachable and funny- for a cardinal, that is. In his 15 years leading the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (1988-2003), he spent a day at each of its 302 parishes, posing for photos with congregants, sometimes tossing his skullcap through the air like a Frisbee. A champion of interfaith dialogue, he was a frequent guest speaker at local synagogues.

What wasn’t a break from the past, though, was Bevilacqua’s continuation of a longstanding policy of refusing to answer questions or countenance any criticism on pretty much any subject, from school closings and finances to the sexual abuse of children by diocesan priests.

In particular, the Archdiocese exerted pressure on news organizations to block coverage deemed negative. “Church leaders believe they are always working for good and find it difficult that anyone would believe otherwise,” an Archdiocesan spokeswoman told the American Journalism Review in 1998. “I think they become uncomfortable, perhaps sometimes even defensive, when their decisions are questioned.”

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.