Retired Archbishop Harry Flynn was deposed last month in a lawsuit contending that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona are guilty of creating a "public nuisance" by concealing information about priests accused of sex abuse.
A transcript of Flynn's May 14 deposition is raising eyebrows because the 81-year-old priest said at least 134 times under oath that he "could not remember how he handled clergy sexual abuse cases during his 13-year tenure," according to MPR News.
Flynn served as archbishop for St. Paul and Minneapolis from 1995 to 2008, during which there were allegations of sexual abuse by priests. Flynn said he did not remember anything about the lawsuits brought against Rev. Robert Kapoun, a case which made national headlines in the 1980s and 90s. A report on accused priests by MPR News shows that Flynn, who was the archbishop at the time, removed Kapoun from his parish in 1996 only after a victim pleaded with him.
During the Kapoun trial, former archbishop John Roach claimed he couldn't remember key details of the case. He isn't the only archbishop to cite memory loss as a reason for failing to provide relevant information in court. Archbishop John Nienstedt, who replaced Flynn in 2008, said under oath in April that he couldn't remember key details in the case of Rev. Joseph Gallatin, a priest who was placed on a leave of absence in 2013 for a long-ago case of inappropriate conduct with a minor.
Though Flynn repeatedly asserted that he did not remember how he handled cases of sex abuse in his diocese during his time as archbishop, he served as chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Sexual Abuse of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2002. The committee produced a "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" which proposes specific church policies for dealing with abuse.
Flynn has no reported history of diagnosed memory problems or dementia. Regarding his failure to recall key details of abuse cases, he explained, "I think it has more to do with age than anything."