Retired Archbishop Flynn doesn’t recall details from his handling of clergy abuse

By Madeleine Baran


Faced with tough questions under oath last month, former Twin Cities archbishop Harry Flynn said at least 134 times that he could not remember how he handled clergy sexual abuse cases during his 13-year tenure, according to documents made public Wednesday.

flynnFlynn, 81, retired six years ago. He said he didn’t have dementia or other diagnosed memory problems. “I think it has more to do with age than anything,” he said, although he noted that he has been diagnosed with cancer, pneumonia and Legionnaires’ disease.

The former archbishop said he did not report any accusations of child sexual abuse to police and doesn’t recall asking anyone else to report abuse claims, either, according to a transcript of the May 14 deposition released by victims’ attorneys. Flynn claimed no memory of a high-profile lawsuit brought in the mid-1990s by a man who said he was abused by the Rev. Robert Kapoun. The case attracted national attention at the time.

• For an abusive priest, retirement income came with a premium (Oct. 9, 2013)

Flynn testified as part of a lawsuit filed by a man who says he was sexually abused by the Rev. Thomas Adamson as a child in the 1970s. The man claims the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona created a public nuisance by keeping information on accused priests secret. The broad claim has allowed the man’s attorneys, Jeff Anderson and Mike Finnegan, to question archdiocese officials about decisions from the 1970s to the present. The archdiocese has also been forced to turn over thousands of internal documents on abusive priests.

Flynn’s deposition was all the more striking because he led the national response to the clergy abuse scandal in 2002 and helped write the U.S. Catholic Church’s policy on abuse. In the Twin Cities, where Flynn served as archbishop from 1995 to 2008, he reassured parishioners many times that he had taken tough steps to protect children from abusers.

Rev. Kevin McDonough testified under oath April 16 Video courtesy of Jeff Anderson and Associates

Under oath, Flynn testified that he spent a lot of time outside of the archdiocese handling the national crisis and delegated authority to archdiocese attorney Andrew Eisenzimmer and then-vicar general Kevin McDonough. “It’s unfortunate that we did not pay more attention to this as a result,” he said of the archdiocese cases.

Anderson questioned Flynn about his interactions with Archbishop John Nienstedt, who replaced him in 2008.

Nienstedt said under oath in April that he couldn’t remember key abuse cases and never provided complete files to police. He also claimed that McDonough told him not to write down some information on abusive priests for fear it could be uncovered in a lawsuit.

• Nienstedt admits archdiocese hid info on abusive priests (April 22, 2014)

Archbishops Flynn and Nienstedt Greta Cunningham/MPR News

Flynn testified that he didn’t recall any similar advice from McDonough and doesn’t remember any situation in which he declined to write down information.

When first asked in the deposition, Flynn said Nienstedt “probably” asked him for the names of offending priests but wasn’t certain. Later Flynn said he didn’t think Nienstedt asked him for the names but recalled that Nienstedt “was in communication about this subject” with McDonough and Eisenzimmer.

Flynn said he didn’t recall whether he received a list of offenders from his predecessor, Archbishop John Roach. He said he didn’t know why he refused to release the names of priests “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse.

Flynn said that although he couldn’t recall most abuse cases, he did recall some details about an incident involving the Rev. Joseph Gallatin, a priest who went on leave in December.

He said Gallatin touched someone on the shoulder “with his finger only” during a camping trip. It was an “inappropriate touch” but not abusive, Flynn said.

Internal records reviewed by MPR News showed that Gallatin admitted that he rubbed the chest of a teenage boy under his shirt while he slept in a bunk bed on the camping trip. Gallatin explained that he wanted the boy to stop snoring but later admitted that the incident provided sexual gratification.

Flynn said he doesn’t recall whether he investigated the Gallatin incident but doesn’t think he restricted Gallatin’s ministry at the time.

The archdiocese announced Gallatin’s leave from the Church of St. Peter in Mendota, Minn., in December because of “a single incident of inappropriate conduct with a minor many years ago involving a boundary violation.”

• Archdiocese: Two priests reported to police (Dec. 30, 2013)

Flynn has declined interview requests in the past and could not be reached for immediate comment. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis declined to comment, according to spokesman Jim Accurso.

Rev. Robert Kapoun is among the admitted child abusers to whom Flynn gave special payments. Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

Payments to abusers

MPR News reported last fall that Flynn gave special payments to admitted child abusers.

Under oath, Flynn explained that he provided payments because “in justice, we needed to give them some provision” for retirement and housing.

“I felt very strongly that they would not be able to get jobs very easily, and so I wanted to give them some help,” he said.

• Secret accounts paid for clergy misconduct but left church open to financial abuse(Jan. 23, 2014)

Flynn said he provided a “financial agreement” for the Rev. Gilbert Gustafson, a priest who pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse in 1983, “but I don’t recall what it was.”

Anderson, the victims’ attorney, asked, “What message do you think that sends to the victims that he’s abused that he’s receiving payments for having victimized them?”

“What message do you think that sends to the victims that he’s abused that he’s receiving payments for having victimized them?”

Attorney Jeff Anderson

“I don’t know, but what message would it send to the world if we threw these people out in the street without any difficulty, without any assistance?” Flynn said.

“If they were thrown into jail and reported to the police, that would send a powerful message, wouldn’t it?” Anderson said.


“And if the files that were maintained on Gustafson or other priests who had offended were made available to law enforcement, that would also send a powerful message, wouldn’t it?” Anderson said.

“Powerful message, yes.”

“Why hasn’t it been done? Why haven’t the files been turned over to the police?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” Flynn said.

“I can’t remember.”

Flynn couldn’t recall after the national abuse scandal in 2002 whether he had determined if any of his priests had been “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse.

The former archbishop said he’d never heard of several priests on the archdiocese’s list of “credibly accused” clerics, even though internal documents obtained by MPR News show that Flynn knew many of the offenders. The list of priests he said he could not remember includes Timothy McCarthyThomas GillespieEugene CoricaPaul PalmitessaJoseph HeitzerAlfred LongleyHarold WhittetRudolph HenrichFrancis ReynoldsAmbrose FilbinJohn McGrath and Harry Walsh.

• Number of alleged sex abusers greater than archdiocese has revealed (Feb. 19, 2014)

Flynn also claimed not to remember specific allegations against the Rev. John Brown, the former director of the archdiocese’s Boy Scouts program, who has been accused of sexually abusing boys in Waverly, Minn.

Flynn said he only remembered a handful of priests accused of child sexual abuse. For example, he said he removed the Rev. Jerome Kern from “active ministry” but couldn’t recall why. He said he assumes it was because Kern had been accused of child sexual abuse “because that would have been the only reason” for his removal.

• Lawsuit alleges church officials knew priest abused children as early as 1969; kept him in ministry (Nov. 7, 2013)

Flynn appeared confused about whether abusive priests had left the priesthood. MPR News has reported that most abusers remained priests, regardless of whether they had been removed from parish ministry. He claimed that admitted abusersGilbert GustafsonRobert KapounRobert Thurner and Michael Stevens had left the priesthood.

All four men remain priests.

When Anderson challenged Flynn’s recollection of the priests, the former archbishop said he didn’t know the process for defrocking priests.

Rev. Clarence Vavra at his home in New Prague Jeffrey Thompson/MPR News

Flynn also testified that didn’t know the Rev. Clarence Vavra, a priest who admitted in the mid-1990s that he tried to rape a boy on an Indian reservation in South Dakota in the 1970s.

• Abusive priest hid in plain sight for years, retired quietly to New Prague (Nov. 11, 2013)

MPR News reported last fall that no one reported Vavra to police or warned the public. Vavra stayed in ministry until 2003.

After Flynn claimed no knowledge of Vavra, Anderson pulled out a memo that Flynn received from his top deputy, McDonough, in 1996. It said psychological testing had found that Vavra was sexually attracted to teenage boys.

Confronted with the memo, Flynn said he thought Vavra’s ministry was restricted amid the national abuse scandal in 2002.

Wehmeyer and Shelley

Anderson asked Flynn about the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, a St. Paul priest who had approached young men for sex in a bookstore and received treatment for sexual problems. Wehmeyer later pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys and possessing child pornography.

• Archdiocese knew of priest’s sexual misbehavior, yet kept him in ministry (Sept. 23, 2013)

Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer Minnesota Department of Corrections

Flynn said Wehmeyer “never came on my radar as a potential risk of harm to children.” He said he only knew that Wehmeyer “had a same-sex attraction.”

Some people told him that Wehmeyer wasn’t friendly, Flynn recalled. “There wasn’t anything that gravely concerned me … They just wanted him to loosen up a bit.”

Anderson also asked Flynn about pornography found on the Rev. Jon Shelley’s computer.

MPR News reported last fall that Flynn had hired a private investigator in 2004 to examine Shelley’s computer.

The review found “borderline illegal” pornographic images, according to internal documents obtained by MPR News, but the archdiocese did not call police. Archdiocese chancellor Jennifer Haselberger discovered the images on several disks at the chancery. She notified law enforcement in 2013 shortly before she resigned in protest of the archdiocese’s handling of abuse cases.

Rev. Jonathan Shelley Photo courtesy of The Citizen/Deb Barnes

• New documents show church leaders debated legality of priest’s porn (Oct. 7, 2013)

Two police investigations last year found no evidence of child pornography on disks retained by the archdiocese, but police cast doubt on the findings.

The archdiocese’s internal report found that Shelley had searched the Internet for the terms such as “blond boys sucking pics.”

Flynn testified that he couldn’t recall reading the private investigator’s report and denied knowledge of Shelley’s Internet search terms. He said McDonough told him that Shelley’s computer did not contain child pornography.

“I don’t know anything about computers,” he said. “And I’ve heard from people you can push things and things will come up, or push them accidentally.”


Anderson also asked Flynn about an abuse investigation into the Rev. Francisco “Fredy” Montero, a priest from Ecuador who returned to his native country amid a criminal investigation into whether he sexually abused a four-year-old girl.

Rev. Fredy Montero Ambar Espinoza/MPR News

Flynn said he thought that police had “cleared” Montero before he returned to Ecuador.

However, a document turned over by the archdiocese as part of the lawsuit shows that Flynn knew the investigation hadn’t been completed.

Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates and Hispanic ministry coordinator Anne Attea explained the situation in a July 12, 2007 letter to a bishop in Ecuador and copied Flynn.

“While no charges have been filed and the child has not made any incriminating overture to the police, the case is still under investigation,” they wrote.

“Ludicrous” accusation against Bishop Paul Dudley

Anderson also asked Flynn about allegations of child sexual abuse against Bishop Paul Dudley, who died in 2006.

A man came forward in 2002 to accuse Dudley of sexually abusing him when he was an altar boy at Annunciation Church in Minneapolis in the 1950s, according to media reports. Two women also accused Dudley of misconduct. One woman claimed Dudley acted inappropriately toward her in a public place in the 1960s. Another woman said Dudley sexually abusing her when he was the pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Mound, Minn., in the mid-1970s, according to a 2003 Star Tribune report.

Flynn hired a private investigator to review the allegations, according to statements by the archdiocese at the time. In February 2003, Flynn announced that the investigation found no evidence to support the claims of the three accusers. Dudley denied the allegations.

Under oath last month, Flynn said Dudley had been accused of dancing with a teenage girl and had been “exonerated.” He called it “the most ludicrous accusation that could have been made about anyone.”

Flynn did not mention the other allegations against Dudley.

“Suspicious” of alleged victim’s parents

Anderson asked Flynn about how he handled allegations against the Rev. Michael Keating, a professor at the University of St. Thomas who went on leave last fall shortly before he was sued for alleged sexual abuse of a teenage girl in the 1990s. The alleged victim’s parents went to the archdiocese years earlier, and Flynn said he doubted the woman’s allegations.

“I was quite disturbed because the mother and father kept putting words into her mouth,” he said.

Rev. Michael Keating George Martell/The Pilot Media Group

He said he was “suspicious” of the woman’s parents. “I don’t know why, but I was,” he said.

Flynn said McDonough, his top deputy, disclosed information about the Keating case to Don Briel, the director of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas. The Universityannounced Briel’s retirement last week amid an internal investigation into what he and others knew about the claims against Keating.

• Documents show restrictions on University of St. Thomas priest were ignored(Oct. 18, 2013)

The archdiocese’s clergy review board deemed the allegation unsubstantiated but recommended that Keating not mentor young adults. Flynn testified that he cannot remember whether he followed the board’s recommendation to restrict Keating’s ministry.

Flynn resigned as president of the University’s board of trustees last fall as the clergy sexual abuse scandal widened. He testified that he “did not want my association with the board to hut St. Thomas in any way.”

Former top deputies the Rev. Peter LairdMcDonough, and former archdiocese official Robert Carlson, now the Archbishop of St. Louis, also testified under oath in the past two months. Laird testified that he told Nienstedt he should resign.

• McDonough deposition: Former church official disputes archbishop’s clergy abuse testimony (April 24, 2014)

• Laird deposition: Ex-archdiocesan official contradicts Nienstedt’s sworn testimony over abuse claim (May 28, 2014)

In his deposition, Flynn declined to criticize Nienstedt and wouldn’t say whether he thinks the archbishop should release all information on accused priests. “I don’t get my views since I retired,” Flynn said.

Complete Article HERE!

Galway historian reveals truth behind 800 orphans in mass grave

By: Cahir O’Doherty


There is a growing international scandal around the history of The Home, a grim 1840’s workhouse in Tuam in Galway built on seven acres that was taken over in 1925 by the Bon Secours sisters, who turned it into a Mother and Baby home for “fallen women.”

The long abandoned site made headlines around the world this week when it was revealed that a nearby septic tank contained the bodies of up to eight hundred infants and children, secretly buried without coffins or headstones on unconsecrated ground between 1925 and 1961.

Now a local historian has stepped forward to outline the terrible circumstances around so many lost little lives.

Catherine Corless, the local historian and genealogist, remembers the Home Babies well. “They were always segregated to the side of regular classrooms,” Corless tells IrishCentral. “By doing this the nuns telegraphed the message that they were different and that we should keep away from them.

“They didn’t suggest we be nice to them. In fact if you acted up in class some nuns would threaten to seat you next to the Home Babies. That was the message we got in our young years,” Corless recalls.

Now a dedicated historian of the site, as a schoolgirl Corless recalls watching an older friend wrap a tiny stone inside a bright candy wrapper and present it as a gift to one of them.

“When the child opened it she saw she’d been fooled,” Corless says. “Of course I copied her later and I tried to play the joke on another little Home girl. I thought it was funny at the time.”

But later – years later – Corless realized that the children she taunted had nobody. “Years after I asked myself what did I do to that poor little girl that never saw a sweet? That has stuck with me all my life. A part of me wants to make up to them.”

Surrounded by an eight-foot high wall, Tuam, County Galway locals say that they saw little to nothing of the daily life of The Home or of the pregnant young mothers who arrived and left it without a word over the decades.

In the few surviving black and white photographs taken at the site no child is smiling. Instead they simply frown at the camera, their blank stares suggesting the terrible conditions.

A local health board inspection report from April 1944 recorded 271 children and 61 single mothers in residence, a total of 333 in a building that had a capacity for 243.

The report described the children as “emaciated,” “pot-bellied,” “fragile” with “flesh hanging loosely on limbs.” The report noted that 31 children in the “sun room and balcony” were “poor, emaciated and not thriving.” The effects of long term neglect and malnutrition were observed repeatedly.

Children died at The Home at the rate of one a fortnight for almost 40 years, one report claims. Another appears to claim that 300 children died between 1943 and 1946, which would mean two deaths a week in the isolated institution.

In The Home’s 36 years of operation between 1926 and 1961 some locals told the press this week of unforgettable interactions with its emaciated children, who because of their “sinful” origins were considered socially radioactive and treated as such.

One local said: “I remember some of them in class in the Mercy Convent in Tuam – they were treated marginally better than the traveler children. They were known locally as the “Home Babies.” For the most part the children were usually gone by school age – either adopted or dead.”

Because of Corless’ efforts we now know the names and fates of up to 796 forgotten infants and children who died there, thanks to her discovery of their death records when researching The Home’s history.

“First I contacted the Bon Secours sisters at their headquarters in Cork and they replied they no longer had files or information about The Home because they had left Tuam in 1961 and had handed all their records over to the Western Health Board.”

Undaunted, Corless turned to The Western Health Board, who told her there was no general information on the daily running of the place.

“Eventually I had the idea to contact the registry office in Galway. I remembered a law was enacted in 1932 to register every death in the country. My contact said give me a few weeks and I’ll let you know.”

“A week later she got back to me and said do you really want all of these deaths? I said I do. She told me I would be charged for each record. Then she asked me did I realize the enormity of the numbers of deaths there?”

The registrar came back with a list of 796 children. “I could not believe it. I was dumbfounded and deeply upset,” says Corless. “There and then I said this isn’t right. There’s nothing on the ground there to mark the grave, there’s nothing to say it’s a massive children’s graveyard. It’s laid abandoned like that since it was closed in 1961.”

The certificates Corless received record each child’s age, name, date – and in some cases – cause of death. “I have the full list and it’s going up on a plaque for the site, which we’re fundraising for at the moment. We want it to be bronze so that it weathers better. We want to do it in honor of the children who were left there forgotten for all those years. It’s a scandal.”

Corless believes that nothing was said or done to expose the truth because people believed illegitimate children didn’t matter. “That’s what really hurts and moved me to do something,” she explains.

During its years of operation the children of The Home were referred to as “inmates” in the press. It was believed by the clergy that the harsh conditions there were in themselves a form of corrective penance. The state, the church and their families all failed these women, Corless contends.

But even now the unexpected difficulty that the local committee Corless has joined to fundraise for a plaque to remember the dead children suggests that not everyone wants to confront the truth about the building’s tragic past.

“I do blame the Catholic Church,” says Corless. “I blame the families as well but people were afraid of the parish priest. I think they were brainwashed. I suppose the lesson is not to be hiding things. To face up to reality.

“My fear is that if things aren’t faced now it’s very easy to slide back into this kind of cover-up again. I want the truth out there. If you give people too much power it’s dangerous.”

Living and dying in a culture of shame and silence for decades, the Home Babies’ very existence was considered an affront to Ireland and God.

It was a different time, some defenders argued this week, omitting to mention that the stigmatizing silence that surrounded The Home was fostered by clerics. Indeed the religious orders were so successful at silencing their critics that for decades even to speak of The Home was to risk contagion.

And now that terrifying era of shame and silence is finally lifting, we are left to ask what all their lonesome suffering was in aid of, and what did it actually achieve?

To donate to the memorial for the mothers and babies of The Home, contact Catherine Corless at

Complete Article HERE!