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Philadelphia privilege

In news of the One Percent from my town today, the aged Cardinal Bevilacqua was allowed to give criminal trial testimony from the comfort of his own home this week. This special arrangement has ticked off an Inquirer columnist:

Behind closed doors at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary on the Main Line, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was deposed and cross-examined on video in the privacy of his own home. Since when are criminal witnesses given such deference?

A handful of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and defendants attended the two-day legal proceeding. At least I think they did. No one associated with the child-rape and cover-up case can discuss it without risking being held in contempt.

The gag order rivals the church’s chilling culture of secrecy. Yesterday, the judge even refused to confirm that the hearing had ended.

Bevilacqua, 88, has not been charged with a crime, but the man who presided over the archdiocese for 15 years remains a key witness in the case against Msgr. William Lynn, his secretary for clergy. Lynn was charged with conspiracy and child endangerment for transferring accused predators to parishes where they could abuse again.

There’s arguably a good reason for this special arrangement. Bevilacqua is 88 years old, and, it is claimed, suffers from dementia, though he was found by the judge to be competent to testify. The trial doesn’t start until March, but given his advanced age and condition, prosecutors didn’t want to risk him not being available to testify then. Still, there is significant skepticism locally about this guy and his legal strategy. A few years ago, when giving grand jury testimony, Fast Tony couldn’t recall much of anything about his years running the archdiocese. And I am told that the cardinal’s condition has not prevented him from making appearances at Catholic events of late. Let us give thanks, I guess, for the miracle of situational lucidity. Ahem.

Meanwhile, in other tales of local privilege, Arlene Ackerman, the not-exactly-competent former Philly schools superintendent — the highest paid public official in the city at the time — has filed for unemployment after being forced out of her job. Well, sure, you say, she’s now jobless. Ah, but the school board got rid of her by buying out her contract a few months ago for nearly $1 million. Yet this woman has the nerve to apply for taxpayer-provided unemployment benefits! Hey, Occupy Philadelphia, why don’t you go occupy Arlene Ackerman?

It’s not like OP has anything else to do, given that police today broke up the small Occupy Philly encampment, two days after the final deadline for its dispersal had passed. I can’t say I feel a bit sorry for them. This thing has cost the city nearly $650,000 since it began, and it was impossible to see what they could accomplish at this point by continuing to squat on public property. Plus:

As the weeks went on, scores of homeless people, drawn in part by the regular hot meals that Occupy provided, moved into the encampment. At its peak, city officials estimated there were 230 tents. Over the last few weeks, [initially supportive Mayor Michael] Nutter began losing patience with the protesters as problems mounted at the site, including public urination, other unsanitary conditions and one reported sexual assault.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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