For over two decades, while serving as Bishop of Lafayette (La.) and later Archbishop of St. Paul – Minneapolis, Archbishop Harry J. Flynn undertook the thankless task of reaching out to those who were so egregiously harmed by abusive clergy.
Flynn personally met with victims repeatedly and strove to ensure that the Church did everything in its power to promote healing. It was Archbishop Flynn who understood and said many years ago:
"The horrific experience of being sexually abused is best understood by the survivors of this crime."
As well as:
"Restoring the trust of the people must first begin with the victims and their families."
Indeed, Flynn played a crucial role in both the early 1990s and in 2002 in forging national Church policies to combat clergy sex abuse. Notably, as Archbishop of St. Paul – Minneapolis, Flynn played an active role in permanently removing nearly twenty abusive priests from active ministry before his retirement in 2008.
MPR's revisionist history of Archbishop FlynnHowever, according to Madeleine Baran's revisionist history of Archbishop Flynn's tenure, Flynn's selfless work in combating abuse and assisting victims never really happened.
Instead, Baran portrays Flynn as wholly insensitive to victims and only seeking to protect abusers.
What evidence does Baran offer to counter Flynn's well-documented efforts to combat abuse and assist victims? Let's look at some of what she says.
The right to play pigskin
For one, Baran tells the story of a family of an alleged clergy abuse victim and relays how a father turned to then-Bishop Flynn when his son was not allowed to play on the school's football team. Since decisions about who plays football are hardly the role and responsibility of a bishop, Bishop Flynn simply supported the school's decision.
So because a boy was not allowed to play on the football team, Flynn, in the eyes of Baran, was thus callous to abuse victims. Makes sense.
Flynn's guest list
What else is there? Well, Baran turns to a lawyer, Ray Mouton, who has had a long record of castigating the Catholic Church. When Flynn was installed as Bishop of Lafayette in 1986, Mouton says he wrote a letter to Flynn welcoming him to the area. Flynn allegedly didn't respond to Mouton's letter, and in the eyes of Baran, this, too, was a serious offense to victims. Of course.
Then Flynn apparently committed another unforgivable infraction in the eyes of Baran. After inviting SNAP National Director David Clohessy, one of the country's most outspoken anti-Catholic bigots, to speak in front of the April 2002 USCCB conference, Flynn never contacted Clohessy again.
Yet Baran never notes that only days after Flynn had invited Clohessy to speak at such a prominent event, Clohessy was wildly accusing Flynn in the national media of "revictimizing" abuse victims.
So is it any wonder Flynn wanted to keep his distance from a nut job like Clohessy?
Guilty in absentia
And then there is the sad story of a Louisiana victim who was violated by the notorious then-priest, Gilbert Gauthe, who committed his crimes years before Flynn even set foot in the state.
The abused boy and his family received a $1 million settlement from the Church, but the boy's parents burned through all the cash. Years later, the boy, now an adult, relies on federal disability payments to get by. And Baran apparently believes this is somehow Flynn's fault as well.
Finally, Baran and MPR lambaste Archbishop Flynn for so-called "hardball legal tactics" when the archdiocese merely defended itself in a court of law after being sued. One wonders if MPR if sued hires lawyers to defend itself or merely writes a check in whatever amount demanded of it.
Baran also ignores the fact that Flynn played an active role in doling out some of the whopping $23.5 million to 50 alleged victims just in the Diocese of Lafayette alone.
Baran's nasty caricature of Archbishop Flynn's life and career does violence to the truth and is indeed enough to make a Soviet historian blush.
**Important note** Madeleine Baran from MPR did not respond to repeated requests from TheMediaReport.com to answer questions about her reporting.