At the beginning of last week, in a story posted on philly.com at 3AM on Tuesday, Jan.31, the Inquirer reported that Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sardina ruled former Philadelphia archbishop Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua competent to testify in an upcoming abuse case brought against three Catholic priests.
Less than 24 hours later, Bevilacqua was dead.
Now if this had been a Mafia don or the head of a drug-dealing street gang, the papers would have been full of the "stange circumstances and convenient timing surrounding the death of a key witness."
But to date, not one word in that regard as it applies to the Cardinal has been written or reported by any media outlet in Philadelphia - or anywhere else, for that matter.
Granted, Bevilacqua was an old, sick man when he died. He reportedly was battling cancer and Alzheimers, and his death was not a shock. But according to a post in the Catholic clergy blog Whispers in the Loggia Bevilacqua's passing was "not expected to any imminent extent."
So we have the unexpected death of a key witness in a high-profile sex-abuse case...and not a single solitary piece of reporting about it. The death reportedly took place at the Cardinal's residence in Lower Merion, so jurisdiction would be in Montgomery County. Yet we have had almost no word about whether Montco DA Lisa Vetri Ferman has opened an investigation or whether county coroner Walter Hofman ordered any medical examination or autopsy of the Cardinal following his demise.
I say "almost no word" because there appears to be one very brief attempt to contact Hofman reported in an article appearing on something called Pahomepage.com. Here's what it says:
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has resisted expanding on claims Bevilacqua suffered from cancer and dementia.
A cause of death is not being released at this time.
A call to Montgomery County Coroner Walter Hofman said on the phone to Eyewitness News, "I'm not talking about His Eminence."
A reporter was asking if Hofman's office had pronounced the Cardinal dead on Monday night. Hofman said information will only be released after his office completes its report. He said that would be four to six weeks.
So apparently anyone who has questions about the suspicious timing of Bevilacqua's death will need to cool their heels until sometime in March or April.
Meanwhile, we are left to ponder the deep mysteries of how the Philadelphia news media, government authorities and Catholic hierarchy can seemingly work hand in hand to ignore this curious turn of events. And it seems we must ponder it to ourselves, because Philly.com has also decided to delete its Comment section beneath all stories dealing with Bevilacqua's death.
To me, the past week has not only seen the passing of a high-profile religious leader.
It's also seen local journalism lapse into a coma.