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Clergy-abuse trial reopens wounds

PHILADELPHIA -- Graphic testimony in a Philadelphia clergy-abuse trial this month has ripped open secret church files and reopened old wounds among Catholics as scarred men and women tell jurors that priests groped, molested or raped them as teens.

The testimony has proven both painful and poignant, especially that of a 48-year-old man who said he had been in love with his parish priest during a five-year sexual relationship that began in ninth grade and became jealous when the priest allegedly bedded down at his farmhouse with other teens.

The stories have been told before, in two Philadelphia grand jury reports and in lawsuits filed around the country.

But Monsignor William Lynn's decision to go to trial on child-endangerment charges stemming from his 12 years as secretary for clergy has brought the grand jury reports to life -- and seemingly put the archdiocese on trial. The judge is allowing testimony about more than 20 accused but uncharged priests, because Lynn knew of complaints lodged against them or took part in internal church investigations.

The accused priests were left in ministry, often transferred to unsuspecting parishes.

Nearly a dozen alleged victims have testified, while internal church memos and Lynn's 2002 grand jury testimony have been read aloud.

"A lot of the information may not be new, but it's got a particularly salient impact because it's personal testimony -- in court, under oath, on the record, with a lot of media coverage," said Timothy Lytton, a University of Albany law professor.

Lynn, the first U.S. church official charged with helping the church cover up complaints of child sex abuse, faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted.

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