Outside of Congress, one of the biggest races in 2018 will take place in Wisconsin as a number of Democrats are hoping to finally unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The Democratic primary is packed and the leader (by a long shot) in a number of polls is Tony Evers, currently the state superintendent of schools. Still, there are a lot of candidates and the primary is a month away.
Now one of the other Democratic candidates is being urged to get out of the race by fellow liberals.
As the state’s former Democratic Party chairman (from 1981-1985), you’d think Matt Flynn would find a lot of support. The problem is that, between 1989 and 2004, he worked as chief lawyer for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. That means his job was defending the Archdiocese against allegations of child sexual abuse at the hands of priests.
This is the same Archdiocese that eventually agreed to pay 330 victims (and their lawyers) $21 million in 2015.
How could a Democrat with a background in defending such behavior find the support of liberals today?
Flynn doesn’t seem to think it’ll be an issue. When he filed the paperwork to run, he called the Catholic Church the “centerpiece of Western civilization” and said he had nothing to apologize for.
Flynn said when he represented the archdiocese his goal was to settle with victims as fairly as possible and to make sure the abuse did not happen again. He said the church now immediately reports complaints against priests to police, removes them from ministry and, once allegations are substantiated, removes them from the priesthood.
“The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is a fine organization. The (Catholic) Church is a fine organization — it’s the centerpiece of Western civilization,” Flynn said. “It’s the centerpiece frankly of our Constitution, the Enlightenment, our whole Judeo-Christian tradition. I will always represent the Judeo-Christian tradition … and I’m not apologizing for that. It’s something that I’m very proud of.”
The pressure against Flynn is getting even strong now. Over the weekend, two Wisconsin activists wrote an op-ed explaining why Flynn’s nomination would be unacceptable. Peter Isely helped found the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) while Sarah Pearson co-chairs the Women’s March Wisconsin. In a year where the #Resistance hopes to defeat Republicans across the board, it’ll be hard to back a candidate whose résumé includes defending priests against child abuse.
Surely, if there is one axiom for public office and public service it is this: It’s not OK to be involved in covering up child sex crimes.
Ten-thousand pages of court-ordered released priest abuse files counter every public statement Flynn has made about his work and role. They show, beyond doubt, that he participated in reassigning sex offenders, secretly paid off child molesters through his law firm, actively intimidated survivors, ensured sex offenders were not reported to law enforcement and successfully argued for laws prohibiting survivors from suing the church.
As a lawyer, Flynn could have withdrawn his representation. Was he not ethically and professionally obligated to do so? He could have literally stopped child sex abuse.
The good news is that Flynn is currently on track to lose the primary. The bad news is he hasn’t lost yet and there’s a chance he could win. If he does, Republicans will be able to use a moral argument against him in the general election — why support a man who allowed child abuse to occur right under his nose? — and they’ll be making a good point! Why give them that opportunity?
Flynn should withdraw. If he doesn’t, Democrats should make sure they’re voting for a better candidate in the primary.
(Screenshot via YouTube)