Archbishop Harry Flynn dies at 86

Harry Flynn Archbishop Harry Flynn. | Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Archbishop Harry Flynn, a former leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has died.

Flynn died Sunday in the St. Paul rectory where he had spent his final days fighting bone cancer. He was 86 years old.

Harry Joseph Flynn was born May 2, 1933, in Schenectady, New York. He was ordained a priest May 18, 1960, and was appointed coadjutor bishop of Lafayette, Louisiana April 19, 1986. He became leader of the Lafayette diocese in May 1989.

Flynn was installed as Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis in September 1995. He led the archdiocese until he resigned his office at 75, in 2008.

Flynn's term as Minnesota's archbishop was not without controversy.

In 2005, the archbishop told members of the "Rainbow Sash Alliance" that they could not receive communion while wearing rainbow sashes, a move Flynn perceived to be an act of protest against the Church's doctrinal position on homosexuality.

Flynn said in a letter to Brian McNeill, Minneapolis organizer of the Rainbow Sash Alliance that, "I am asking you to remove your sashes before you receive Holy Communion" and "I ask you to observe this sign of respect for the Eucharist not only in the Cathedral but in all our parishes. No one wearing the sash will be permitted to receive the Blessed Sacrament."

Flynn also spoke out against racism, injustice against immigrants, and anti-Semitism.

However, after his retirement, Flynn testified in a deposition that he did not report allegations of clerical sexual abuse to police, and that he allowed some priests accused of abusing children to remain in ministry.

During lawsuits related to abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, it also emerged that Flynn withheld information about sexual abuse from diocesan records, and withheld from the public and other Church officials critical information about some allegations of abuse.

Flynn has also faced criticism for praising the late Bishop Lawrence Welsh, who was accused in 1986 of attempting to strangle a male prostitute, and was arrested with male prostitutes subsequently before being transferred to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

In 2002, Flynn chaired the bishops' committee that developed the first national response to the burgeoning clerical sexual abuse crisis in the United States.

The archbishop was at various times regarded as the face of resolving the Church's clerical sexual abuse crisis, and as among those who most egregiously failed to address the problem in his own archdiocesan leadership.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for the archbishop on Sept. 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The archbishop will then be buried at the archdiocese's Resurrection Cemetery.

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