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  Local: Sex Allegations Factor in Monsignor's Resignation

By Robin Galiano
Longview News-Journal
May 21, 2002

Monsignor John Flynn, who announced his retirement Sunday as pastor of St. Matthew's Catholic Church, did so partly at the request of his bishop over growing concern with sexual scandals in the priesthood.

Bishop Alvaro Corrada of the Tyler Diocese said Monday that he asked Flynn last week to step down as pastor of St. Matthew's, saying allegations of sexual misconduct against Flynn from nearly 30 years ago at another parish could harm his ministry here.

"I asked him to retire, given the sensitivity of the situation. It's better for him to avoid the embarrassment," Corrada said.

Though parish council members at St. Matthew's had been aware of past allegations against Flynn, increased interest in Catholic Church scandals lately have brought to light the decades-old charges from San Antonio, where Flynn last served as a pastor. Queries from people in the community and from other newspapers had been made to the Longview News-Journal.

"We all wanted him to celebrate his 50th," Corrada said of Flynn's golden jubilee anniversary as a priest.

Flynn, 74, was in meetings Monday and was unavailable for comment.

He announced his retirement Sunday, citing his age, during a reception honoring his half-century service in the priesthood and three years as pastor at St. Matthew's. Earlier that afternoon, parishioners had filled the sanctuary where Flynn celebrated Mass, assisted by 12 diocesan priests and deacons. Among those in attendance was a group of about 40 people who came from Flynn's former parish, also called St. Matthew Catholic Church, in San Antonio.

Flynn, who has overseen the growth of the Longview congregation to more than 900 families in just three years, served as pastor of the San Antonio church from 1981 to 1997.

The church was the largest and one of the most active parishes in the 23-county archdiocese with an average attendance of 6,000.

Allegations of sexual misconduct brought by a San Antonio woman in October 1997 forced Flynn to leave that northside parish. According to reports in the San Antonio Express-News, the woman came forward more than 20 years after the incident occurred, and criminal charges were never brought against Flynn. Catholic officials in the Tyler Diocese say the incident did not involve pedophilia.

The San Antonio news stories sometimes described the woman as an adolescent or teen-ager and did not state the nature of the misconduct. Flynn spent several months under evaluation at a treatment center in Maryland after he left the San Antonio church.

No other allegations have been made against Flynn.

The longtime priest came to East Texas in November 1998 at the invitation of then-Bishop Edmond Carmody, who, at the time, said he was aware of the allegations. Carmody was out of the office Monday in Corpus Christi and was unavailable for comment.

Flynn first served the Diocese of Tyler as a specialist in canon law and headed the marriage tribunal that reviews annulment petitions.

Carmody then appointed Flynn in March 1999 as parish administrator of the new mission of St. Matthew's.

The church was established as a Catholic presence in northwest Longview and draws parishioners from Pine Tree, White Oak, Greggton and Spring Hill.

It has since been elevated to parish status.

When Flynn was appointed, diocesan officials told a core group of parish leaders at St. Matthews about the past allegations, said Corrada, who became bishop of the diocese in January 2001.

"The scandals were known in the papers in San Antonio. Nothing was hidden from the parish," Corrada said.

"When Flynn was made a priest in the Diocese of Tyler, it was with the agreement of Archbishop (Patrick) Flores. He clearly stated his fault. It was not a pedophilia case, it had nothing to do with that," he said.

Flynn had a solid track record of developing congregations, and there are no current criminal or immoral allegations against him, Corrada said. He added that church members in Longview have been pleased with Flynn's work.

Sheila McNaney, a member of the finance council at St. Matthew's, said she was aware of the allegations against Flynn at the outset and they're not in the same category as pedophilia and other sexual scandals.

"His indiscretion gets blown out of proportion with what's going on. Monsignor is lumped into it, and that's not fair. People put priests on pedestals, and they forget they're only human. He's a good man," McNaney said.

"I think there are some priests who deserve this treatment, but Monsignor doesn't. He has a way of drawing people back to faith. He talks with people and sees their need for faith. He is a wonderful man. He has dedicated his life to the church. He will be sorely missed."

Though he is stepping down from parish ministry, Flynn will live in Tyler and will continue to serve the diocese as a volunteer in an advisory and nonpastoral role, Corrada said.

The Rev. Xavier Pappu, vicar general of the Tyler Diocese and pastor of St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus Church in Union Grove, has taken over the role as administrator at St. Matthew's.

 
 

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