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  Despite Diary, Former Priest Denies Affair

By Lona O'Connor
Palm Beach Post (Florida)
December 12, 2004

As much as possible, Frank Flynn has put his past behind him.

He now lives in Brevard County, outside the reach of the Palm Beach Diocese, in a modest two-story condominium. He drives an older-model car. His neighbors know him as Frank, just another retired guy in the community, like them.

On a sunny afternoon, he ushers a stranger into his home with a big welcoming smile. But the smile clouds over once introductions are made and the topic is announced.

"How did you find me?" he asks. "I've worked very hard at being anonymous. People here don't know who I am."

For the last few years, he has shuttled between his family home in County Roscommon, Ireland, and Florida, helping his brother and sister nurse his ailing mother. She died last year.

Three years ago, Flynn had quadruple bypass heart surgery. Sitting in an easy chair in his living room, he outlines the long scars on his left arm and his chest. He takes walks around the neighborhood to stay fit.

"But my energy level is not the same as it was," he adds.

With all the traveling, he lost touch with his friends in Palm Beach County. Lately, he's been studying Irish history.

He attends Mass, as a civilian.

Short, jovial and plump, he is the classic model of the Irish priest. He was held in great affection by many of his parishioners even after his troubles became public.

He insists that nothing improper occurred between him and Pat Hittel, though he had very fond feelings for her.

"I was too emotional to preach her funeral," he says.

She and another woman used to drive up from Fort Lauderdale to study religion with him, but he says he was seldom alone with Pat Hittel and never sensed that she harbored any inappropriate feelings for him.

"If I had, I would have broken off the relationship."

He recalled only an occasional friendly hug or kiss between them, nothing more.

"I don't feel a guilt about Pat at all," he says, adding that his memories are "positive rather than negative."

He thinks about her from time to time, as he does other people from his past.

He said Bob Hittel showed him only a few entries from Pat's diary, the ones that seemed to prove the affair, at least to Hittel.

"I said, 'Are you sure it's about me?' The family information about the number of my siblings was wrong. That led me to believe that I wasn't the person."

He goes on to say that he finds it hard to believe she could have an affair with anyone.

"That's not the Pat Hittel that I knew. She was very loyal to Bob."

Flynn said he informed Bishop Keith Symons of Hittel's accusation.

"He asked me the details and left it at that," he says.

Seven years later, with accusations of other incidents accumulating, Symons terminated Flynn as a priest.

"I have a clear conscience on this," Flynn says.

Psychiatrist Michael O'Hara, who treated a woman who became deeply depressed after having an affair with Flynn, has quite a different view.

"He's a liar, a very dishonest man," says O'Hara, whose client attempted suicide several times and finally admitted the affair to O'Hara after months of treatment.

Hers was one of the two cases involving Flynn that were settled by the diocese. The psychiatrist is confident that Flynn admitted the affair with O'Hara's patient to then-Bishop Thomas Daily, leading to the settlement. After the settlement, the woman moved to another state.

"Frank Flynn has destroyed himself. He will never have credibility again in his life," says O'Hara. "Morally and spiritually, God will decide."

 
 

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