The Montgomery County coroner has examined the body of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua but has not performed an autopsy, and the county district attorney said at a Feb. 10 press conference in Norristown that there is no criminal investigation into his death.
After learning that the Cardinal had died Jan. 31 at the age of 88 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, which is located in Wynnewood, Montgomery County, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman contacted a county detective to and suggested that the detective communicate with the Montgomery County coroner’s office.
She made this suggestion given the timing of Cardinal Bevilacqua’s death. It came only a day after a Philadelphia judge ruled that the retired Archbishop of Philadelphia was competent to be a trial witness in the case against three current and former priests on charges of child endangerment and sexual abuse.
“The situation struck me as really somewhat odd in that close proximity of time where the Philadelphia Court had made a determination about this witness and that he was all of sudden was found deceased,” Ferman said.
“I simply said to my investigator, ‘I think we should communicate with the coroner’s office, and I think we should find out if anybody has seen the body and made a determination of what the cause of death was. If that did not happen, it struck me as a very good idea that someone should do that.”
The Philadelphia Archdiocese confirmed that the coroner’s office was called to the seminary on the night the Cardinal died and his body was released to the Donohue Funeral Home, according to Donna Farrell, archdiocesan communications director.
“It’s our understanding that the next day, at approximately 1 p.m., the coroner’s office instructed the funeral home to bring Cardinal Bevilacqua’s body to the coroner’s office in Montgomery County,” Farrell said.
“There was also a separate request for any (of the Cardinal’s) medical records or medicines from the past three weeks. All of that was provided and we will continue to comply with any requests. Civil agencies have their role and responsibilities and we support that, but hope that this can be concluded quickly.”
The district attorney said at her press conference that she wanted to address this issue to “hopefully put to bed any rumors or speculation. If there was something that was untoward in terms of foul play, it was easy to ascertain the answer. I simply communicated that to my detective and I have been told that information and suggestion was then communicated to the coroner.”
Ferman said she did not expect to hear from Montgomery County coroner Dr. Walter I. Hofman “unless there was some suggestion of foul play.”
Ferman said she has concluded that “initially that there is nothing unusual or out of the ordinary here because if it were, I would have heard about it.”