Retired Archbishop Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis dies at 86

Retired Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St . Paul-Minneapolis, right, died Sept. 22 in St. Paul at age 86. He is pictured in a 2005 photo with Fr. Timothy Vakoc, a Minnesota priest who was gravely wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. (CNS photo by Dave Hrbacek, Catholic Spirit)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- Retired Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis died Sept. 22 in St. Paul. He was 86.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Prolific storyteller, ardent battler of racism, in his leadership of a seminary and two widely distant and different dioceses, he 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.

A native of Schenectady, New York, Archbishop Flynn was ordained a priest for Albany in 1960.