By Tony Hanson

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Philadelphia judge today ruled that evidence of alleged “prior bad acts” can be admitted in the upcoming child sex abuse trial of three Catholic clergymen.

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Two priests are charged with abusing boys, and Msgr. William Lynn — a longtime “secretary of clergy” in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — allegedly endangered children by allowing alleged predator priests to remain in their ministry positions where they could continue to abuse children.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge Teresa Sarmina today ruled admissible what one defense attorney has called “an avalanche of evidence” against the three defendants.

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The prosecution will be allowed to present evidence involving nearly two dozen priests, alleging that the archdiocese routinely protected these allegedly abusive priests by shuffling them from parish to parish for decades, and that Msgr. Lynn’s action, or inaction, was part of a pattern of conduct that led to the alleged abuse by the two co-defendants in this case.

The defense argued unsuccessfully that the evidence was unfair and inadmissible. There’s a gag order, so they could not comment after the judge ruled.

The defendants — Lynn; former priest Edward Avery, 69; and the Rev. James Brennan, 48 — have pleaded not guilty. Jury selection in the case is scheduled to start later this month.

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Two other priests have been charged with abuse in this case, but they are scheduled to be tried separately in the fall.