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Monsignor William Lynn testifies for himself

Monsignor who worked as a priest assignment official for Philadelphia Archdiocese details disturbing incident.

Monsignor William Lynn testified yesterday at his criminal trial in a Philadelphia pedophilia case that he reassigned a predator priest to live in parish housing attached to an elementary school, where he ultimately abused another child.

Lynn, 61, the most senior U.S. clergyman to go on trial in the widespread U.S. Roman Catholic Church scandal, took the stand to defend himself against charges he covered up child sex abuse allegations against priests, many of whom were simply transferred to unsuspecting parishes.

He faces the possibility of 28 years in prison if convicted. The trial is in its ninth week.

Lynn, as secretary of the clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, supervised Philadelphia priests for 12 years. With 1.5 million members, the Philadelphia Archdiocese is the sixth largest in the United States.

Dressed in clerical garb and sounding upbeat under defense questioning, Lynn testified about how he handled an abuse complaint lodged in the 1990s against then-Reverend Edward Avery, who has since been defrocked.

Avery, who had been slated to go on trial with Lynn, pleaded guilty just days before the trial began and is serving up to five years in prison for sex crimes.

Lynn testified that in the 1990s, a young man came into his archdiocese office to complain that Avery had abused him 20 years earlier on a bed in a rectory in the 1970s.

"Father Avery touched him, groped him," Lynn testified.

Lynn said he confronted Avery and, when he denied the accusations, Lynn recommended sending him to a Catholic hospital for troubled clerics. After a few years of encouraging progress there, Lynn recommended the priest go back to work, he testified.

Lynn's initial recommendation to send Avery to work at a parish was overruled by his boss, Bevilacqua, who ordered Avery assigned to a chaplaincy instead. Lynn followed orders and, when allowed to choose where Avery would live, selected St. Jerome's Church, which also housed an elementary school.