Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Inquirer's weird obit for Cardinal Bevilacqua

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua died Tuesday night. I arrived in Philadelphia in 2008, after he'd retired, yet his name has been regularly in the news the entire time I've been here. Why? Because he was running the archdiocese when it apparently kept a lid on child molestation accusation. As the Philadelphia Inquirer's obit notes, "In September 2005, after a 40-month grand jury investigation into clergy sex abuse in the archdiocese, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office issued a report excoriating Cardinals Bevilacqua and Krol for systematically allowing hundreds of abuser priests to go unpunished and ignoring the victims."

But aside from an oblique reference to governing the archdiocese during a time of "crisis," the Inquirer's obit doesn't explicitly reference the sex abuse scandal until the 12th paragraph.

It's an odd choice. But to be fair, it appears to be one that the Inquirer makes regularly: It's recent news story announcing Joe Paterno's death made no direct reference to the Jerry Sandusky scandal until the sixth paragraph.

Whenever a public figure endures a major scandal, it's often said of him: "Well he did a lot of good things, but his role in Watergate will always be in the first paragraph of his obituary." It's perhaps unfortunate for Richard Nixon that he didn't die in Philadelphia—his resignation might've been omitted entirely from the Inquirer's obit.

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