Milwaukee Archdiocese priests split over Matt Flynn role

MADISON (WKOW) --- Democratic candidate for governor Matt Flynn is defending himself again against accusations that he moved abusive priests to new parishes. Now, priests with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are split over what role the lawyer, now candidate, played years ago.

A letter is resurfacing dated August 25, 2003 written by Rev. Marvin Knighton. It states his encounters with Flynn, who at the time represented the Archdiocese as a lawyer for Quarles & Brady. Flynn said they met twice in 1993 after Knighton sought advice from him after being accused of abuse allegations.

In the letter, Knighton writes "he told me to not worry about it," and called it a “hassle” to do anything legally if the accuser did not file a report yet.  Flynn downplayed their encounter after speaking with reporters on the phone for 45 minutes, calling Knighton’s characterization “false.”

"He came in and wanted to see me and I said go talk to your lawyer,” said Flynn. “I don't represent you and I told the Archdiocese. They met with the family and then they threw him out of the priesthood and turned him into the cops. That's how it works."

Flynn has defended his work for the Archdiocese throughout his campaign. Two womens groups and two state democratic lawmakers have ask him to drop out of the race. With just three weeks left before the primary, Flynn said the GOP is trying to target him and he won’t apologize for his work.

“This guy Marv Knighton was a bad guy and he comes in with a 10 year old letter ... a document that is made by the Republican Party or any advisories or democrats that you take that with a grain of salt," said Flynn.

Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland is coming to Flynn's defense. In a letter Weakland said, “The ultimate determination was made by the Archbishop. The lawyers were not involved.” Weakland continues on to describe the process when a priest is accused.

“In the first years the process of reassignment of a priest accused of pedophilia followed this procedure. The accused was sent to a therapist for treatment, either to one here in Milwaukee or to one of many institutions dealing with such cases,” wrote Weakland.

While one priest defends Flynn, another is calling on him to drop out of the governor's race as well. Father Dominic Rosciolo works as a priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and called Archbishops Weakland’s letter not credible.

“I suggest that it would have been better if Archbishop Weakland had kept silent rather than rise to defend the deplorable actions and tactics of chief legal counsel to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Matt Flynn.” said Rosciolo. “Weakland, as is widely known, resigned in disgrace in 2002 because of a hush money settlement paid to a young man who said Weakland had sexually abused him.”

The Republican Party of Wisconsin also called out Flynn in a statement:

“Matt Flynn lied about his role protecting these dangerous predators —  this letter proves his dishonesty and now his only defense is hiding behind a disgraced bishop who was his partner in the cover-up,” said Alec Zimmerman Communications Director for Republican Party of Wisconsin. “Victim's rights groups, the Wisconsin Omen's March and even Democrat legislators have all condemned this behavior. The only question remaining is why are these other Democrat candidates failing to stand up over Flynn's involvement in this scandal?”

Knighton's alleged victim did not file a complaint right away, but in 2002 the complaint was eventually brought to the Archdiocese and then referred to a Milwaukee County District Attorney. Knighton was charged with one count of second degree sexual assault. In 2002, the jury acquitted him but the Catholic church held a separate investigation which found him guilty. In 2011, Knighton lost his appeal.

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