Father Thomas P. Doyle, an outspoken advocate for victims of clerical sex abuse, was asked on cross-examination what advice he would have given Bevilacqua.
"He's got a list of 35 men who are sexually abusing children, and he's going to shred it?" Doyle asked incredulously.
"No way," Father Doyle told the jury. "That's like obstruction of justice."
Father Doyle said his advice to Bevilacqua, who died Jan. 31, would have been to take off his gold ring and bishop's robes, and go visit the families of the victims. Instead, by shredding the memo, Doyle said, the cardinal destroyed evidence.
"Those are actual records that must be investigated, those are victims in need of pastoral care," Father Doyle testified.
Father Doyle was called as an expert witness by the prosecution in the ongoing Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse trial, which finished its third week of testimony Thursday. The shredded memo that he was asked about was compiled by Msgr. William J. Lynn, the archdiocese's former secretary for the clergy. Msgr. Lynn is the first Catholic administrator in the country to be charged with conspiring to endanger the welfare of children, in connection with the pedophile priest scandal.
Four copies of the Lynn memo were shredded according to the cardinal's instructions. But a former bishop, Msgr. James Molloy, kept a fifth copy in a file cabinet on the 12th floor, along with a handwritten memo. The memo described how Molloy destroyed the other memos according to the cardinal's instructions, but kept one copy for his own protection. The memo was discovered in a search after Molloy's death in 2006, by archdiocese lawyers. But despite a number of subpoenas, the memo wasn't turned over to the prosecution until earlier this year.
Father Doyle said the problem of clerical sex abuse isn't new. It's gained prominence in recent years because "these children are now being believed by their parents," the priest told the jury.
Doyle was a folksy expert on the witness stand, wearing a "Bucky Badger" tie pin to commemorate the mascot of his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. When asked to explain canon law, the priest said to Catholics a canon was not a weapon, but a rule of law based on the greek word kanon, which meant "a rule or a straight line."
When asked to define limbo, the afterlife destination of unbaptized babies, Doyle said limbo was "minimum security hell."
Doyle told the jury that Catholics believe priests to be Christ's representatives on earth. Priests have the power to dispense sacraments, hear confessions, and forgive sins. "For Catholics, a priest is the gatekeeper to heaven," Father Doyle said.
Doyle testified that the archbishop of Philadelphia is required by canon law to investigate allegations of misconduct, even if anonymous. "This whole thing has to be documented from start to finish," Doyle told the jury. And if there is credible evidence of a single episode of sexual abuse of a minor, a priest according to canon law is supposed to be "removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry," Father Doyle testified.
Father Doyle said it would be "inappropriate" for church officials to base their personnel decisions entirely on the psychological evaluations of priests accused of abuse. Doyle's opinion was in stark contrast to evidence presented so far in the sex abuse trial.
The archdiocese's secret archive files show that priests who were repeat offenders were frequently not diagnosed as pedophiles, even if they had confessed to molesting children. Instead, the abuser priests were often transferred to new assignments, without notice to parents or children.
On cross-examination, Alan J. Tauber, a lawyer for Msgr. Lynn, sought to show that his client was just a cog in the wheel. Tauber compared the late archbishop Bevilacqua to a king or a monarch.
"A bishop makes a lot of decisions for which there is no oversight?" the defense lawyer asked the witness.
"Practically speaking, this is fair to say," Father Doyle responded.
Tauber referred to Father Doyle's grand jury testimony, where the priest described the late Cardinal Bevilacqua as a "micro-manager," and one of the most authoritarian bishops in the country.
Father Doyle did not back away from the quotes.
"He [Bevilcacqua] is the only one who can make appointments?"Tauber asked.
"Yeah," Father Doyle agreed.
But on redirect, Assistant District Attorney Blessington zeroed in on Lynn's role as the late cardinal's secretary for the clergy. If you work for the cardinal, and he tells you to do something illegal, what should you do, the priest was asked.
"You're responsible for what you do," Father Doyle testified. The cardinal, he said, was "not a puppet master."
And who is the archbishop supposed to emulate, Blessington asked. Isn't it Jesus?
"Yes, that's what it's all about," Father Doyle said. "We were Christians before Catholics."
Blessington brought up Father Edward V. Avery, a defendant in the case who, on the eve of trial, pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old, and was sentenced to a prison term of between 2 1/2 to 5 years.
What if you're the secretary for clergy, Blessington said, and you go into the secret archive files regarding Father Avery, and you discover multiple allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Shouldn't you decide, "You don't put that guy near kids?"
"Objection," said a defense attorney.
"Sustained," said the judge.
The trial resumes Monday at 9:15 a.m. in Courtroom 304 at the Criminal Justice Center.