Cardinal whose career was tainted by priest sex abuse cover-up





ANTHONY Bevilacqua, a former cardinal and archbishop of Philadelphia whose passion for Roman Catholic causes such as helping the poor and fighting abortion was eclipsed in retirement by accusations that he had covered up sexual abuse by priests, has died aged 88.

Bevilacqua was archbishop from 1988 until his retirement in 2003. Pope John Paul II elevated him to cardinal in 1991.

In Philadelphia, as in previous leadership positions in Pittsburgh and Brooklyn, he pushed the church to help immigrants, presided over cutbacks in Catholic parishes and schools, spoke out against homosexuality and abortion, and built up a lay ministry to compensate for the declining corps of priests.

But Bevilacqua's last years were caught up in investigations of priests accused of sexually abusing altar boys.

In September 2005, a grand jury report on a 40-month investigation of clerical sex abuse accused him and his predecessor of allowing hundreds of abusive priests to go unpunished and ignoring the victims.

The grand jury said weak laws prevented it from recommending criminal charges. Its report said: "He tried to hide all he knew about sex abuse committed by his priests."

A second grand jury is investigating charges against an underling, but Bevilacqua died before he could be compelled to testify.

He was born in Brooklyn on June 17, 1923, the ninth of 11 children of Italian immigrants.

His declaration that homosexuals, even ones who accept celibacy, cannot be priests enraged gay-rights advocates. He said a heterosexual gives up "a very good thing", a wife and children, to be a priest.

A homosexual, by contrast, he said, gives up "what the church considers an aberration, a moral evil".

The accusations about his role in the sex-abuse scandals did not surface until two years after his retirement.

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