MINNEAPOLIS – The retired Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Harry Flynn, has resigned as chair of the University of St. Thomas Board of Trustees, the school announced Saturday, becoming the second leader to quit the board of the St. Paul-based Roman Catholic institution this month amid fresh criticism over the handling of clergy sexual misconduct cases.
The university said in a statement that the board accepted Flynn's retirement as chair and board member at its regular meeting Thursday. The statement also confirmed the board's vice chair, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, a former vicar general of the archdiocese, resigned from the board Oct. 4.
The statement did not give reasons for Flynn's or McDonough's resignations, and university spokesman Doug Hennes declined to comment.
Efforts to reach Flynn on Saturday evening for comment were not successful.
But the statement noted St. Thomas has retained outside counsel to lead an independent investigation of "matters related to clergy sexual abuse allegations that impact the university" and has appointed a special committee to oversee the investigation and review the findings and recommendations.
McDonough was involved in three investigations that have drawn recent scrutiny, all dealing with fellow priests accused of sexual misconduct. One involves a professor of Catholic studies at St. Thomas, the Rev. Michael Keating, who was sued Monday by a woman now in her late 20s who alleges Keating sexually abused her between 1997 and 2000, starting when she was 13 and he was a seminary student.
The lawsuit says that she reported her allegations in 2006 to archdiocese officials, including Flynn, who was the archbishop at the time, and McDonough, who was his top deputy. That was the same year Keating joined the St. Thomas faculty.
Authorities investigated her allegations then but declined to file criminal charges against Keating, and the archdiocese sent her a letter in 2007 saying there was insufficient evidence for suspending him.
Keating went on leave from St. Thomas the day before the woman's suit was filed. Keating's attorney, Fred Bruno, has denied the allegations.
The archdiocese was already reeling from allegations in recent weeks that top leaders, including McDonough, ignored warnings over the last several years about two other priests: the Rev. Jonathan Shelley, who was accused of having pornography on his computer, and the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, who is now serving a prison term for sexually abusing two children in 2010 and for possessing child pornography. Flynn's successor, Archbishop John Nienstedt, earlier this month established a task force to review issues of clergy sexual conduct.
Flynn, who served as archbishop from 1995 to 2008, had chaired the university's trustees since 1995. McDonough, who was vicar general from 1991 until 2008, had been on the board since 1991. McDonough also resigned from the advisory boards of the St. Thomas School of Law and the university's Center for Catholic Studies.
Michael Dougherty, a trustee since 2003, will serve as interim chair, while John Morrison, a trustee since 1996, will serve as interim vice chair. The board expects to elect a permanent chair and vice chair Feb. 13. Timothy Flynn, the retired chairman and CEO of the giant accounting firm KPMG and a trustee since 2006, will chair the oversight committee.