William R. Consedine, 69, a former top legal officer of the United States Catholic Conference and its predecesor, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, died Monday at Sibley Memorial Hospital. He had cancer.

Mr. Consedine became head of what was then the legal department of the NCWC in 1956. He was appointed general counsel when USCC was established 10 years later. He retired in 1974.

He was particularly active in education matters and was instrumental in getting federal assistance for church-related institutions under several education acts passed by Congress in the late 1950s and the 1960s.

These included the National Defense Education Act, the Higher Education Facilities Act and the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act.

Mr. Consedine also provided legal advice and services to Catholic dioceses throughout the country.

In 1960, Pope John XXIII named him a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great. When Mr. Consedine retired in 1974, Pope Paul VI named him a gentiluomo di Sua Santita (Gentleman of His Holiness), a rare church honor given for professional achievement.

Mr. Consedine also held awards from the National Catholic Educational Association, the National Conference of Catholic Charities and the Diocesan Attorneys Association.

A resident of Bethesda, Mr. Consedine was born in Olean, N.Y. He graduated from St. Bonaventure University in New York and from the Georgetown University School of Law in 1937.

He then joined the staff on the National Labor Relations Board, serving as a trial lawyer, appellate litigation lawyer, associate general counsel, associate solicitor and solicitor until 1956.

During World War II, Mr. Consedine was an officer in the Navy.

He is survived by his wife, the former Lucille Mcdonagh, of Bethesda, and a brother, John N., of Olean.