ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — Retired Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis died Sept. 22 in St. Paul. He was 86.
The archbishop’s body is to be received the evening of Sept. 29 at St. Paul Seminary’s St. Mary Chapel, followed by public visitation and a vigil. After morning prayer Sept. 30 at the chapel, his body will be transferred to the Cathedral of St. Paul. There will be three hours for public visitation before his 11 a.m. funeral Mass.
A prolific storyteller, ardent battler of racism, in his leadership of a seminary and two widely distant and different dioceses, Archbishop Flynn came to embody a genial combination of East Coast graciousness, Southern hospitality and Midwestern progressive populism.
A priest of the Diocese of Albany, New York, he served parishes in his home diocese, was rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, was bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana, and archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In 2002, he served as chair of what was then the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, which developed the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Catholic Church across the country.
Archbishop Flynn received wide praise for his work as head of the ad hoc committee. He took a particularly strong stand in favor of the bishops’ “zero tolerance” policy under which any priest who admitted or was proven to have committed at least one act of child sex abuse would be removed from all ministry.
After his retirement, however, questions were raised by some about whether he did enough in the Diocese of Lafayette and in the Twin Cities to investigate clergy sexual abuse allegations.
He retired May 2, 2008, after serving as archbishop in the Twin Cities and surrounding counties for 13 years. Until his ministry was curtailed by failing eyesight and his battle in recent years with cancer, he continued to assist in the archdiocese with confirmations and liturgies. He also led retreats across the country.
Harry Joseph Flynn was born May 2, 1933, in Schenectady, New York. He was a graduate of Siena College in Loudonville, New York, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in English. After attending Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Albany May 18, 1960.
Upon learning of Archbishop Flynn’s death, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis asked the faithful to join in a prayer: “O God, who chose your servant, Archbishop Harry Flynn, from among your priests, and endowed him with pontifical dignity in the apostolic priesthood, grant, we pray, that he may also be admitted to their company forever.”
In Louisiana, Lafayette Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel said he was saddened to hear of the death of Archbishop Flynn, whom he described as “a tireless and longtime servant of the church.”
“Many in our Diocese of Lafayette were touched by his kindness and charity for those in need,” he said. “May he now be received into the arms of his Heavenly Father who creates us for himself. Eternal rest grant unto him.”