Angered by 'Disrespectful' Agenda, Flynn Cancels Meeting with SNAP

By Warren Wolf
Star Tribune [Minneapolis MN]
April 5, 2003

Angered by the tone of an agenda that he called "disrespectful and manipulative," Archbishop Harry Flynn on Friday canceled a meeting set for Monday with a group representing people sexually abused by priests.

It would have been the first face-to-face meeting between Flynn and members of the Minnesota chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Flynn and the group have had a testy relationship since it was formed in October.

"In suddenly changing the tone of our meeting to one of accusatory demands and unilaterally using this letter as a tool to generate publicity, you have left us no choice but to cancel our scheduled meeting," wrote Flynn, who leads the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

SNAP had sent a 15-point agenda in a letter dated Tuesday to Flynn after the meeting date was confirmed, and it also made the agenda public Thursday.

"We're saddened that the archbishop canceled the meeting," said Belinda Martinez of Woodbury, convenor of SNAP and its victim-liaison person. "We want to work collaboratively with him.

"Maybe we're a little new at this. Our agenda was intended to be our talking points, our issues of concern," she said. "We are a little zealous about this because we are talking about the sexual abuse of children. It's not just a philosophical or theological discussion, but how to prevent crimes, that we want to discuss."

Uneasy relationship

SNAP repeatedly has asked for a meeting with Flynn, at times by distributing leaflets at churches accusing him of refusing to meet with them.

The archbishop gained national prominence last year when he headed the committee that crafted a sex-abuse policy for American bishops that includes permanent removal from ministry of any priest who ever molested a child.

SNAP's agenda suggested that "the archdiocese must" support a bill that would extend the statute of limitations for molestation lawsuits, give civil authorities all allegations of child sexual abuse, open its financial records to outside auditors and add a SNAP member to its Clergy Sexual Abuse Committee.

"In addition to being manipulative and disdainful of our invitation," Flynn said in his response, "this approach demonstrates unwillingness on the part of SNAP Minnesota to participate in the kind of pastoral, healing dialogue and sharing of ideas and concerns that I thought we both desired."

An addendum to Flynn's letter addressed the agenda items SNAP has listed, noting that the archdiocese already makes public its budget, has offered to open its personnel files to authorities and is bound by law to report any suspicion of sexual abuse of minors.

But he said he could not support a bill now before the Legislature that would extend the statute of limitations for filing a sexual-abuse suit from age 24 to age 48. Flynn said the bill "abrogates the rights of schools, churches, hospitals, day cares and other youth-serving entities to a legitimate [legal] defense."

Another meeting?

Flynn's letter was delivered late Thursday afternoon to Martinez's home. She is one of four members of SNAP who were to meet Monday at the chancery with Flynn, his two bishops and a canon lawyer.

Flynn said he'd consider another request from SNAP for a meeting if it is "nonstaged/orchestrated pastoral meeting where we can begin a healing journey together."

Martinez said SNAP leaders will meet over the weekend to consider Flynn's letter, and she expects the group to ask him again for a meeting.

"We really do want to meet with him. We have respect for the archbishop and the office," said another SNAP leader, Michael Wegs of Minneapolis. "We have lived with a lot of pain for a long time, and we think it's important to meet with the spiritual leader of Catholics. We hope it's important to him, too."

To read the letters from SNAP and from Archbishop Flynn, go the online version of this story at is at

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