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More Civil Suits Alleging Priest Sex Abuse Filed Against Phila. Archdiocese

By Pat Loeb and Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Nine more people, alleging sexual abuse by priests, have filed suit against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. They join ten other alleged victims in charging that an archdiocesan conspiracy to protect priests allowed the abuse to occur.

Two of the plaintiffs appeared today with their attorneys at a center city news conference.

Andrew Druding (far right in photo) was visibly agitated, and his wife quietly wept, as he read a letter he wrote but never sent to his grade-school music teacher, Fr. Francis Feret.

" 'You took advantage of a nine-year-old boy who loved to sing and was afraid to tell because you were a priest, God's messenger on Earth, the most holy person in my life.  I've never forgotten what you did to me, so graphic, so horrific...' "

Druding and fellow plaintiff Michael McDonnell say they came forward so other victims would know they are not alone.

Six of the plaintiffs prefer to remain anonymous, but together they accuse seven priests of abuse. Their attorneys say the recent conviction of Monsignor William Lynn on endangerment charges (see related story) emboldened them to come forward.

Named in the latest lawsuits are Lynn; Archbishop Charles Chaput; his predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali; and the priests accused by the plaintiffs of sexual abuse.

Officials in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia declined comment.

Lynn, 61, is the first US church official convicted of endangering children by keeping predator priests in ministry.  He served as secretary for clergy at the Philadelphia Archdiocese from 1992 to 2004.

The lawsuits were announced as lawyers for Lynn, who is seeking bail while he appeals his conviction, said in court documents that their client's one-time co-defendant lied when he pleaded guilty to abusing an altar boy.

Lynn's attorneys said in a motion filed yesterday that former priest Edward Avery gave prosecutors a statement and took a polygraph test in which he denied even knowing the boy.  The motion claims that Avery didn't actually abuse the boy but opted to plead guilty in order to receive a lesser jail term.

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