Harry Walsh, former pastor and music director of St. Henry Catholic Church in Monticello, has denied a list of claims made against him in a recent news report.
Walsh provided an emailed statement to the Monticello Times last Friday (Dec. 20) that stated the following: “I am saddened by the Dec.19, 2013, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) report. I am sad that facts are brushed aside and skewed to advance a narrative unrelated to me, and sad that sensationalism trivializes the real and important work that I do. Any allegations of abuse by me are unfounded.”
Walsh added: “I am not going to address every misstatement from the MPR report and [a] subsequent Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis press release, but I do want to address the two allegations and my decision to seek laicization [removal of rights to exercise the functions of an ordained ministry.]”
While Walsh’s name wasn’t on a recently released list of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, MPR presented church documents that contained information he had been accused in the 1990s of molesting a 15-year-old girl in Detroit in the mid-1960s and a 12-year-old altar boy in in South St. Paul the early 1980s. The archdiocese contributed to a financial settlement for the girl in 1996, MPR reported in its investigative story, adding two archbishops allowed him to continue working in parishes until the fall of 2011.
“In 1994 when I was completing my doctoral studies, and coincidental with the first major media coverage of sexual abuse by clergy, the Archdiocese received a letter from a woman making allegations against me dating back to my time in Detroit in the 1960s,” Walsh stated. “The letter was seeking compensation. The Archdiocese conducted an investigation. They interviewed me; I empathetically denied all of the allegations.”
Walsh said included in the list of investigation interviewees was a colleague who knew him and the alleged victim. “I understand this witness expressed skepticism about the claim,” Walsh said.
“I considered the matter closed. Subsequently, in passing, an Archdiocesan official mentioned to me that a settlement had been made. I recall stating ‘I am angry’. A settlement had been made without my knowledge or consent. The response from the Archdiocesan official was that this was just ‘a nuisance case.’ ”
According to Walsh, a Dec. 19 statement from the Archdiocese misstates that he received a $15,000 payment. Walsh said the only information he had about the South St. Paul claim, a parish he served in the early 1980s, was a reference in an Oct.11, 2011, letter from the Archdiocese that an allegation had been made but was never pursued by the individual making the complaint.
“Both the MPR article and the Archdiocesan statement link my laicization to these unsubstantiated abuse allegations. This is false,” Walsh stated in his email. “I requested laicization more than one year before I learned the South St. Paul complaint had ever existed. The Detroit claim was, in my opinion, without merit and had been closed. My decision to petition for laicization was deeply personal and was supported by my family.”
Walsh said he was cheered by the outpouring of “love and support” he had received from the community, friends and family after the MPR investigative story had been broadcast and appeared on the Internet.
Walsh wrote: “As one e-mail stated “The media has a lot of influence, but the power is in the truth of your innocence and with God, of course.”
Contact Tim Hennagir at [email protected]