PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The judge hearing private testimony today from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua about the alleged sexual abuse of children by clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has ruled that the retired cardinal was legally competent to be offering his testimony.

Cardinal Bevilacqua was questioned for several hours in the case, in private but on videotape, at his residence at St. Charles Borromeo seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.   His testimony was scheduled to resume tomorrow.

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Because of a gag order in the case, court officials said today that they could not disclose the substance of the cardinal’s testimony.

The trial judge and attorneys in the case were expected to question Cardinal Bevilacqua, who is not charged,  about his knowledge of aspects of the case that occurred under his watch.

But there were issues of competency — his counsel says the 88-year-old cardinal suffers from cancer and dementia and other infirmities.   But now that his testimony has been ruled relevant and competent by the judge, it could be presented to the jury at trial, scheduled for early 2012.

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The judge previously ruled that Bevilacqua’s testimony now would not necessarily preclude his live testimony at trial.

Four of the defendants, three priests and a lay teacher, allegedly sexually assaulted young boys. The final defendant, Monsignor William Lynn, allegedly endangered children by transferring predator priests to other assignments while not blocking their access to children (see previous story).

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty (see related story).

Reported by Tony Hanson, KYW Newsradio 1060

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