Twice in 1993, Msgr. William J. Lynn received letters from local Catholics worried about a leave of absence taken by their pastor, the Rev. Edward V. Avery.

As secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Lynn had recommended Avery for confidential treatment because Avery had been accused of molesting a teen in the 1970s.

But his letters to two of Avery's parishioners, read aloud today to jurors at Lynn's trial, praised the priest and urged them to disregard any unflattering whispers they might have heard.

"Let me assure you, that is what they are: rumors," Lynn wrote one woman. "Father Avery had requested a health leave from Cardinal Bevilacqua, which was granted."

The letters were among dozens of confidential memos and documents about Avery that prosecutors introduced as they opened the second day of the conspiracy and child-sex abuse trial against Lynn.

Lynn, 61, is accused of conspiracy and endangering children for allegedly covering up clergy sex abuse or failing to remove predatory priests, including Avery. He has pleaded not guilty, contending that he strove to isolate problem priests but that his superiors, including Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, ultimately decided on their fates.

The records, outlined at the trial by Det. Joseph Walsh, showed that Lynn was the one who interviewed Avery's accuser in 1992, then recommended the priest be sent for an evaluation at St. John Vianney Hospital and later admitted there for months of treatment.

But in one of Lynn's letters to Avery's parishioner at St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Mount Airy, Lynn said "there have never been anything but compliments" about Avery.

"Another letter (and) no mention of the sexual abuse of a minor?" the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington asked Walsh.

"That is correct," the detective replied.

Last week, Avery pleaded guilty to conspiracy and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy at another parish in 1999.

Contact John P. Martin at 215-854-4774 or at Follow him @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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