Bevilacqua Leaves Complicated Legacy

By Mike Denardo and Ian Bush
CBS Philly
February 1, 2012

Cardinal Bevilacqua in 2002
Photo by Don Murray

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) Cardinal Anthony Belivacqua died Tuesday night at the age of 88 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, leaving a conflicted legacy.

Bevilacqua served as Archbishop of Philadelphia for 15 years, from 1988 to 2003, succeeding Cardinal John Krol. He was elevated by Pope John Paul II to Cardinal in 1991.

Rocco Palmo, editor of Philadelphia-based website, "Whispers in the Loggia," that follows the Catholic Church, knew Bevilacqua personally.

"I'm sure half the Catholics in the Archdiocese probably have pictures in their homes of one of their kids with Cardinal Bevilacqua and the mitre you know, the pointy bishop's hat on the kid's head," Palmo said. "I'm sure that even for the revelations and accusations the last 10 years, I'm sure there are still a lot of people out there who remember him very well and very fondly."

Bevilacqua retired and was replaced by Justin Rigali in 2003. A grand jury, investigating child sexual abuse by priests in 2005, cited Bevilacqua for allowing dozens of predator priests to stay on the job and transferring them from parish to parish to avoid scandal.

"I don't know if we're going to have objective answers to what that his legacy is. That's something for historians. It's not something we can determine in the heat of the moment with trials yet to begin," Palmo said.

Bevilacqua's death comes at a historic time in the Philadelphia Catholic Church according to Palmo.

"Any way you look at it, whether for the Cardinal, for the survivors and their families, really for the whole church of Philadelphia; this heightens the dramatic nature of this last decade, but above all this last year. With the grand jury, the stunning appointment of Chaput, the trials, the most intense cultural shift the Archdiocese has known in almost 200 years all in a year," he said.

A statement from Barbara Blaine, President of Survivors of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) says "With the passing of Cardinal Bevilacqua, we will never learn the full truth about clergy sex crimes and cover ups."

Bevilacqua's funeral plans are pending.


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