ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Archbishop Harry Flynn, who led the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1995 to 2008, has died. He was 86.
The archdiocese announced Flynn’s death on its website Monday, saying he died Sunday night. The statement did not give a cause or place of death. A spokesman for the archdiocese said he was gathering the details.
Flynn championed social justice, taking stands against racism and the persecution of immigrants. He chaired a commission of U.S. bishops on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church from 2002 to 2005. But some advocates for survivors of clergy abuse later criticized him for not doing enough to root out abusive priests.
Flynn was born in Schenectady, New York, and served as a priest in the Albany, New York, diocese before he became bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana. The Vatican moved him to St. Paul to succeed the retiring Archbishop John Roach. Flynn was succeeded, in turn, by Archbishop John Nienstedt in 2008, who resigned under fire in 2015 after prosecutors charged the archdiocese with having failed to protect children from a predator priest.
During a deposition in 2014, Flynn said under oath more than 100 times that he could not remember how he handled most key clergy sexual abuse cases during his 13-year tenure. Then 81, he denied having dementia or other diagnosed memory problems, though he did blame his old age. Under questioning by survivors’ attorney Jeff Anderson, Flynn said he did not report any abuse allegations to police and didn’t recall asking anyone else to report abuse claims, either. But he acknowledged providing payments to some admitted abusers to help them with retirement and housing.
Current Archbishop Bernard Hebda offered a prayer for Flynn in the archdiocese’s official announcement.
“O God, who chose your servant, Archbishop Harry Flynn, from among your Priests, and endowed him with pontifical dignity in the apostolic priesthood, grant, we pray, that he may also be admitted to their company forever,” Hebda said.
A public visitation and vigil will be Sunday evening at Saint Mary’s Chapel at Saint Paul Seminary. A public visitation is also set for next Monday, Sept. 30, at the Cathedral of Saint Paul starting at 8 a.m. followed by a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. He will be buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights.
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