Archbishop Flynn to Meet with Sex-Abuse Victims Group

By Warren Wolfe
Star Tribune [Minnesota]
January 14, 2003

A day after a sex-abuse victims' group distributed leaflets at Catholic churches asking parishioners to support their three-month effort to meet with Archbishop Harry Flynn, the archbishop agreed Monday to a meeting.

The delay in responding to an October letter from the group "was not an intentional snub," insisted Flynn's spokesman, Dennis McGrath. "The archbishop has been very busy. It just fell between the cracks."

Members of the Minnesota chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) handed out leaflets Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Paul and other churches in the Twin Cities and in St. Cloud. The leaflets said members were told repeatedly that Flynn was too busy to meet.

"From the beginning we have not understood why he refused to meet with survivors in his own archdiocese," said Michael Wegs, policy adviser for SNAP. "I mean, here's the guy who helped put together the new national sex-abuse policy for the Catholic Church, a candidate to replace Cardinal Law in Boston."

The group, representing about 45 victims of sexual abuse in the Twin Cities area, sent Flynn a letter dated Oct. 8, notifying him of the new group and seeking a meeting with Flynn and Edward Fox, new chairman of the archdiocese sexual-abuse review board.

"Our membership hopes to work closely with the Archdiocese in this matter of healing and forgiveness," the letter said.

Earlier Monday, McGrath said that the letter somehow had been lost in the archbishop's offices, and that no officials had seen it. But later he said that Flynn remembered the letter.

"Of course Archbishop Flynn is willing to meet with the group, as he already has with individual victims of abuse," McGrath said.

Confusion over Flynn's response to the letter was the result of "a misunderstanding, a miscommunication," he said, noting that Flynn met earlier this year with representatives of SNAP at national meetings of Catholic bishops.

In October, Flynn rejected an offer by a Wisconsin woman to drop a proposed sexual-abuse lawsuit and instead negotiate a new way to prevent sexual abuse in the archdiocese. He would meet with the woman, he said, but not if SNAP or her lawyer were present. She sued.

That exchange and others led SNAP officials to question publicly whether Flynn would be a good replacement for Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, who resigned amid furor over his handling of hundreds of sexual-abuse cases.

Wegs said that when Flynn's office contacts SNAP officials, he probably will be invited to an evening meeting with members to hear their stories of abuse.

"Despite his efforts to change policy regarding clergy sex abuse, we don't think he has a clear understanding of the issue," Wegs said. "He's only met privately with individuals of his choosing."

After that, SNAP members would like to meet with him and with top Catholic officials in the archdiocese and ask them to support efforts to eliminate the state statute of limitations for sexual abuse and other legislation.

-- Warren Wolfe is at


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