Dem guv candidate Matt Flynn is continuing to defend his work for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, insisting reporters were misreading a deposition from the former archbishop in which he testified the lawyer kept a list of priest accused of sexually abusing minors.
Flynn told reporters yesterday that the list referenced a list of lawsuits against the archdiocese and didn’t show that he was aware of priests who were transferred to other parishes after being accused of abuse.
He also insisted a priest later defrocked for abusing minors had mischaracterized their 1993 meeting after the Rev. Marvin Knighton was accused of abusing a minor. Flynn denied ever giving the then-priest advice to wait it out and see if the boy filed a complaint.
And Flynn, who said he has put more than $140,000 of his own money into his guv campaign, railed against “elites” in the Dem Party and the GOP that he said are pushing the story over his work with the archdiocese. When pressed on his comments about elites, the Yale-educated attorney and former state Dem chair said he won’t apologize for his personal money.
“Most people didn’t work as hard as I did,” Flynn said on a conference call.
Flynn also told reporters he was “tired of people complaining and moaning that they don’t have a lot of money.” Flynn insisted he was talking about elites he said were making the guv race a “victimology seminar.”
Flynn hosted the conference call Monday to tout a statement from Rembert Weakland, who was archbishop of Milwaukee from 1977 to 2002 and has been accused of covering up allegations of sexual abuse by priests. In the email, Weakland laid out the procedure regarding priests accused of pedophilia, including that members of the personnel board made suggestions to the archbishop on where they thought the priests could be assigned. The archbishop made the final decision and the “lawyers were not involved.” Those reassigned were to have no ministry to youth, he wrote.
But just before the call, the state GOP released a 2003 letter from the Rev. Marv Knighton, who wrote that he met with Flynn after he was accused of abusing a minor and saw the child’s father in a grocery store. Knighton said Flynn suggested he “simply wait to see” if a report was filed. After a couple of weeks, Flynn told Knighton “not to worry about it” and it would be “too much of a hassle” when the then-priest wanted Flynn to meet with the accuser.
Flynn fired back the letter was “self-serving” and written 10 years after the meeting. He added he represented the archdiocese, not Knighton and didn’t offer the former priest any legal advice.
“I would never say that. I never said that,” Flynn said of Knighton’s suggestion he believed a meeting with the accuser’s family would be a hassle.
Knighton was dismissed from the priesthood in 2011 following a church trial that found him guilty on two counts of abuse. GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman said the letter showed Flynn “lied about his role protecting these dangerous predators.”
Flynn said he didn’t believe Knighton’s proclamations of innocence 25 years ago and called his account of the meeting untrustworthy.
Flynn defended the credibility of Weakland, who admitted to a relationship with a man who the archdiocese paid $450,000 to settle a claim against the archbishop over the affair.
He also rejected the suggestion a Weakland deposition from 2011 showed he participated in the reassignment of priests who had been accused of abuse.
According to the deposition, Weakland was asked if he remembered the first time he compiled a list of those who had sexually abused minors or asked one to be put together. Weakland said he never kept a list himself, but Flynn “would have a list, and so at least I would have a list from him.”
Flynn insisted that list referenced claims against the archdiocese, not abusive priests, and told reporters they were misreading the deposition because they hadn’t attended law school.
Milwaukee Father Dominic Roscioli, in a statement released by a group representing the survivors of priest abuse, denounced Weakland’s letter. He added no one was claiming Flynn signed the transfer order of a priest, saying he didn’t have that power as a lawyer for the archdiocese. Instead, Roscioli argued Flynn was involved in the transfer practice and advised Weakland about priests before and after they were moved.
“It was wrong for Flynn to cover up sex crimes against children,” Roscioli said. “Church officials who have done so should resign or be removed from office. And for the same reason, Matt Flynn should end his campaign for governor of Wisconsin.”
Read the Knighton letter the GOP released:
Read the Weakland deposition; the section mentioning Flynn is on page 12: