Former St. Henry’s pastor, music director Harry Walsh answers questions about allegations, tries to clear reputation

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Harry Walsh, former pastor and music director of St. Henry’s Catholic Church in Monticello, recently addressed the allegations that resulted in his placement on a “credible sexual abuse” list released Feb. 17, 2014 by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. (Photo Courtesy Harry Walsh)

When Harry Walsh heard a knock at his door last Dec. 17, two Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) reporters standing in bone-chilling temperatures greeted him.

The former St. Henry’s Catholic Church pastor and music director said he wasn’t about to let two unknown souls freeze to death, so he invited them inside his home.

“They were out on the doorstep, and they identified themselves as being from MPR, and they asked me if I was Harry Walsh,” he said.

“They were standing out in the sub-zero cold, and I said, ‘Come in out of the cold.’ I didn’t have the heart to leave them standing there,” Walsh said. “They came uninvited and unannounced.”

Two days later, MPR broke a lengthy investigative story online entitled, “Abuse claims kept secret allowed priest to minister and teach sex ed.”

Walsh said one of the reporters asked him about sexual abuse allegations involving a person in Detroit. The reporter asked Walsh if the allegations were true, and questions about his position on celibacy involving priests in the Catholic Church and his employment with Wright County Human Services, which ended a week later during a scheduled board meeting.

“I’m trying to adjust to the fact that I’m not needed in the community, county, church and school,” Walsh said in an interview with the Monticello Times.

“That’s quite an adjustment for a man who has been pretty active. I’m enjoying not having to get up on a winter’s morning and having to go to the prison in St. Cloud or Lino Lakes and visit inmates,” he added, referring to his work as a sexual health issues counselor that included working with Wright County Human Services to provide sexuality education, pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted infections prevention education to high-risk youth or adults.

Walsh also started a monthly newsletter for the county called the Wright Informer that explained sexual health issues.

“That’s still going. I was sent the most recent copy, but I’m not contributing anymore,” he said, referring to county commissioners serving on the Wright County Human Services Board canceling his contract in December 2013 after news organizations reported Walsh had been accused of abusing two minors decades ago.

Walsh has repeatedly denied those allegations, and has spent the past six months trying to find out why his name appeared Feb. 17 on a list of nine priests against whom claims of sexual abuse of a minor had been found to be substantiated by Kinsale Management Consulting, a firm hired by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to review clergy files.

MPR initially presented church documents that contained information Walsh 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 South St. Paul the early 1980s.

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Harry Walsh, who was raised in Tipperary, Ireland, arrived in Monticello in 1985 to serve as the pastor of St. Henry’s. This picture was taken during a visit to Ireland. (Photo Courtesy Harry Walsh)

The Redemptorists of Glenville, Ill. 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.

Walsh provided an email statement to the Monticello Times in February that stated he was astonished to see his name on a list of priests against whom “credible” claims of sexual abuse of a minor had been made.

Again, Walsh denied any such allegation and said the Archdiocese has not informed him of why he had been placed on the credibly accused list and had denied his request for a copy of his clergy file, a request which Walsh said he made in the wake of the December media reports.

Walsh addressed the Detroit allegation first. “What’s wrong with it is she claimed she came in contact with me and first met me when she was 15 years of age,” he said. “We have documentation to show that when she was 15 years of age, I had just been ordained and was living in a monastery in Ireland.”

As evidence, Walsh presented a visa card that showed when he entered the Port of New York and the page from the passenger list of the ship that brought him to the United States. Both corroborated his claim.

“This wasn’t a Carnival Cruise Line ship. I was down in steerage class,” he said. “In those days, flying was way too expensive. This was in 1963. Only rich Americans flew the Atlantic in those days. This was the best way I could get over.” Walsh said the ship he traveled on was semi-passenger and semi-cargo. “All the documentation that I have show I wasn’t in the country or even on the continent,” he said.

Angst involving archdiocese

Walsh said Father Kevin McDonough, former vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, shed additional light on the Detroit allegation after a lunch meeting to review Walsh’s leave of absence status.

“We had a pleasant lunch, and when he was driving me back to my car, he said, ‘By the way, that Detroit thing is all taken care of.’ I asked, ‘Taken care of?’ and he said, ‘We just gave her enough to pay her attorney’s fees.’ That was the first and the last that I had heard of it. I was angry because I knew nothing about it, I wasn’t consulted, I knew that she had lied, and I wasn’t given a chance to speak. It was all verbal between McDonough and I.”

Walsh said there was a statement in his file about a payment. “I was not a member of the Detroit archdiocese,” he said. “I was a member of the Redemptorist Order, and they are distinct. It was a nuisance lawsuit,” he said.

Walsh said he didn’t know anything about the South St. Paul allegation for 20 years. “I only found out that there was a male who had made this allegation last December, when MPR showed up at my door,” Walsh said. “They told me. Not the archdiocese.”

Walsh said he didn’t know who the male was, and he had no idea who the male was until he finally saw his file March 4. “There were four things mentioned [in my file] with this individual that were listed under non-credible and two under credible,” Walsh said, adding the two allegations under credible involved his accuser not asking for money and inclusion of the Detroit allegation made 20 years previously,

“Here’s the snag,” Walsh said. “I think MPR, and the archdiocese, were trying to show a pattern.”

Walsh said abusers have consistent behavioral patterns, something he recognized through his doctoral work as a sexologist.

“People who abuse children don’t abuse a male and a female. Abusers are either all male or female orientated,” Walsh said. “And abusers don’t lay low for 30 years. They stay pretty active. I would have been very happy to confront him, because I didn’t know who he was. I was really anxious to know who he was, because I don’t go after altar boys. He didn’t show up, and didn’t come back.”

Clergy removal explained

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Harry Walsh, former pastor of St. Henry Catholic Church in Monticello, was honored Nov. 12, 2011, at the Monticello VFW Post after leaving his role as St. Henry’s music director. (Monticello Times File Photo)

Walsh also revisited why he sought laicization [removal as a member of the clergy] in 2010 and additional questions surrounding his ongoing relationship with a female parishioner who was living in his home. “She was homeless, and a bonding took place that’s friendship-based,” Walsh said.

“That relationship has grown and matured over 20 years. I got a letter on Jan. 25, 2010, from the archdiocese that stated my living arrangements were not acceptable,” Walsh said. “They said I could not do any music ministry in any church in this archdiocese. That’s basically why I left St. Henry’s. Basically, I was kicked out,” he said.

Walsh said he received what he saw as a series of antagonizing letters that led him to petition for laicization in August 2010. After Walsh sent his petition to the archdiocese which was the procedure Walsh said he had been told to follow, the archdiocese responded and acknowledged the receipt of the petition.

According to Walsh, there was no more communication after that and he did not hear from the archdiocese again until October 2011, when he received  a letter saying he had not pursued his laicization as requested.

That letter referenced the abuse allegations for the first time, stating he could not participate in archdiocese ministry. “It was not a priestly position. I was just being a music director, and using the one talent that I had at the time,” Walsh said. “Music has been my salvation. I was doing a job that anybody could have done. You didn’t have to be ordained. I was surprised that action was taken. There was some obsessive need for them to prove it was a sexual relationship, not just a friendship. They’ve tried to make a friendship out to be some sort of ‘Fatal Attraction,’ ” Walsh added.

Dismissal by Wright County

Walsh said reporting of unfounded allegations from Detroit and South St. Paul were the primary reason his name appeared on the Feb. 17 credibly accused list.

“It’s important, for the sake of fairness, to make sure that it’s known that the people in Wright County Human Services supported me all the way,” Walsh said.

When asked how many people he had helped while under contract for Wright County Human Services, Walsh replied: “Their names are legion. Thousands.”

The Wright County Human Services Board met Monday, Dec. 23, for its last regularly scheduled meeting of the year. Jami Goodrum Schwartz, human services director, requested Walsh’s contractual relationship with the county to provide sexuality consultant services be added to the agenda as a personnel item.

Brian Asleson, assistant county attorney, Carol Schefers, public health director and Christine Austin-Roehler, health promotion coordinator, also attended the meeting, which featured approximately 15 minutes of discussion regarding Walsh’s county contract and media reports that had appeared the previous week.

Schwartz told commissioners that after the MPR news story aired, she met with Schefers and the county’s two public health supervisors, Asleson and two representatives from the Wright County Jail who had previously observed Walsh working with inmates.

“We met and agreed from the information at hand and from what we were picking up from news articles, which were our first information regarding any of this, that no Wright County client or inmate had been put at risk thus far from working with Harry Walsh over the past years,” Schwartz stated in a recording of the Dec. 23 Wright County Human Services Board meeting that was made available at the Monticello Times’ request.

Human Services meeting discussion

“There had never been any complaints lodged against Harry Walsh for the work he had provided or inappropriate behavior,” Schwartz said, adding,“However, in light of the shadow cast in the news and the populations which Harry Walsh worked with it was felt that Harry Walsh’s ability to positively impact the public health programs that he worked with was diminished, and he was no longer an asset to Wright County.”

On Friday, Dec. 20, Schefers informed Walsh he should suspend any work that he was currently doing on behalf of Wright County Public Health until further notice.

“We received confirmation from Harry that he did receive that communication and he understood its impact,” Schwartz told the human services board.

Asleson said Walsh’s contract ran through June 30, 2015, but there was a provision that says the agreement could be terminated by either party upon 30 days written notice.

“That’s kind of what we are dealing with. It’s a situation where we don’t have to give a reason. We have the ability to terminate,” Asleson said.

Boardmember Pat Sawatzke said at least one school and perhaps more would not let Walsh provide services.

“He’s put himself in a position where the folks out there will not allow him to provide services,” Sawatzke said. “We have our own concerns, I’m sure, but also that contributes to the fact he can’t be effective.”

Motion to terminate contract

Boardmember Charlie Borrel offered an initial motion during the Dec. 23 meeting to direct Wright County Human Services staff to send Walsh a letter stating Wright County would be terminating his contract effective in 30 days.

Sawatzke was willing to second Borrel’s motion but had a question about paying Walsh for the month of January.

“I don’t know if I’d even pay him for January unless he pushes the issue,” Sawatzke said. “He’s not providing services. If he wants to push the issue, I guess we can deal with it.”

Wright County Human Services Board Chairwoman Christine Husom asked if there was additional discussion after Borrell said he would accept a friendly amendment from Sawatzke.

Boardmember Mark Daleiden asked if there would be any downside to acting “before the dust had settled” regarding the controversy surrounding Walsh that had surfaced in the media.

“We don’t have the media here asking us why do we still have this guy working for us, or calling us at home and everything else, and having to get him [Walsh] pushed out that way,” Sawatzke said.

Husom asked Schefers and Austin-Roehler, the health promotion coordinator, to summarize the sexual education services that Walsh was currently providing and what the downside would be of not having him working in that capacity.

Evaluation of performance

“He’s worked under my guidance, and I just want to say that for the record, we’ve only had positive reports,” Austin-Roehler said. “He’s an excellent teacher; there’s never been any hint of anything in his work for us. I would like to say that we do have a legal contract with him and I think we have to abide by what the contract says about the 30 day notice with payment for him. But we have to look at the good name of the county.”

Husom said Walsh had not been convicted of anything. “We can’t hold a trial here and determine if he’s guilty or not guilty, but what we need to do is act appropriately in light of the schools and the feedback we are getting from the public about this,” she said. “A lot of it is perception. Whether whatever happened, happened, we don’t know, but I guess I would be in favor of paying him for that 30 days. That’s not a big expense for us.” Walsh’s contract stated that his 2014 monthly payment would be $1,523.

Borrell asked Austin-Roehler if she was aware of allegations made against Walsh that stated he was having an affair with a woman while he was a priest.

“I don’t ask employees about their personal lives,” Austin-Roehler said.

Borrell then asked, “Were you aware that there was an allegation of sexual misconduct in Detroit?” Austin-Roehler replied, “The first we heard about this was last week.”

Borrell said if Walsh been up front and told Wright County Human Services he had a past allegation and stated he had not been found guilty, he would have been better able to defend Walsh.

Daleiden replied, “He hasn’t been proven guilty of anything.” Borrell replied Walsh had not been forthright about his “very colorful past.” Daleiden agreed with Sawatzke that Walsh was unable to continue to perform his duties for the county.

Board terminates contract

Borrell recommended that in the future, before commissioners a sign a contract, the applicant should be asked to answer this question: “Is there anything in your past that would be embarrassing for the county if it were brought out?”

Husom said normal background investigations contain a question about being convicted.

Schwartz said she wasn’t sure if human resources could include a question similar to the one suggested by Borrell, who restated his motion to read Walsh’s services would be terminated immediately and his contract terminated Jan. 31, 2014. Walsh would not be paid for the month of January. That motion was unanimously approved.

Monticello district action

According to Superintendent Jim Johnson, the Monticello School District sent a letter home with students in December 2013.

That letter from Johnson, dated Dec. 19, was addressed to Turning Point Alternative Learning Program families in grades 9-12.

The letter stated the following: “This morning it came to our attention that Harry Walsh, a community member that offered paid counseling services at Turning Point, has been accused of inappropriate interactions with minor children.  These allegations do not involve students at Turning Point and the claims concern events from over 25 years ago, prior to the time period he lived and served in the Monticello area. Because we take student safety very seriously we will not be using Harry Walsh in any capacity pending the outcome of an investigation into these allegations. If your child feels they need to speak with someone concerning this issue they should talk to one of the Turing Point staff.”

A copy of the letter was sent to Schefers at Wright County Public Health Dec. 19 as a follow-up to a phone conversation regarding the MPR story, Johnson stated.

“I contacted the county as soon as I saw the allegations in the newspaper,” Johnson said. “We severed with him at that point. I called Wright County and told them we wouldn’t be using him anymore. It’s possible because of that conversation, that the county didn’t send me anything in terms of a letter,” he added.

School district follow-up

Walsh had provided services for the district since 1998, Johnson stated in an email. Most of Walsh’s work was done with small groups of students in the Alternative Learning Program.

“We’d made a decision prior to any action by Wright County,” Johnson stated. The safety and well-being of our students is the highest priority we have as a district. Given the accusations, we decided it was best for us to stop using Father Harry until he was cleared of all allegations.”

Johnson said a school board vote was not required to release Walsh.

“Because it was a contract for service, and he wasn’t an employee of the Monticello School district, I made a decision on the morning of Dec. 19 to terminate his service when the MPR story broke,” Johnson said. “It didn’t require board action.”

Human services confirmation

In a follow-up email to the Monticello Times, Schefers, Wright County’s public health director, said it was true that the county sent out a letter to the schools in Wright County letting them know that Walsh was no longer working for the county and would not be teaching in their schools.

“We sent the letter via e-mail to superintendents of all the school districts in Wright County, except for Monticello, as that school superintendent had already called me and told me that the school board had met and did not want Harry teaching in their schools,” Schefers stated in an email. “I don’t remember the names of the group homes.  I was working from home trying to get this done and still have Christmas at my house, so I know that I did not keep the letter that was sent.”

According to Schefers, she only received one phone call from a superintendent about the situation involving Walsh’s contract termination.

“That superintendent was not familiar with what classes Harry was working with in their schools and was just asking me for that information,” she stated. “I told him to talk with his health teachers, and I never heard from him again. I did not hear from anyone else regarding that letter”

According to Schefers, the letter sent by Wright County was only meant to be informative, but did contain her name and telephone number if the school superintendents wanted to contact someone.

Walsh was under direct contract with Wright County for 16 years. “This has been a difficult many months for a few of us who worked with Harry,” Schefers stated. “He did excellent work for us.”

Canon law advocate comments

“The assumption is, ‘You are guilty,’ not ‘Prove your innocence,’ ” said Father Mike Sullivan, pastor at St. Joseph The Worker Catholic Church in Maple Grove and a canon lawyer who served as Walsh’s advocate when Walsh reviewed his clergy file March 4.

“In civil law that’s pretty difficult to do, and it’s the other way around. You are assumed innocent until proven guilty. Even when you are in a court and they find you not guilty, it doesn’t mean that they found you innocent.”

Sullivan also belongs to Justice for Priests and Deacons, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization composed of priests, religious, deacons, and laity who are dedicated to educating Roman Catholic clergy and laity regarding their canonical rights, especially with regards to due process and cases involving alleged abuse.

“Harry got a copy of our newsletter and made some connections,” Sullivan said. “Because we are in the same proximity [with Monticello being a short distance from Maple Grove] he asked me if I would help him out.”

Sullivan said he was able to provide a one-time review for Walsh, but would not be able to represent him in any type of contentious situation because he’s too integrally involved within the archdiocese by serving as a diocesan presbyteral council member.

“I can certainly give advice and consultation about what to do, then refer a priest back to Justice for Priests and Deacons, who can provide help and assistance.”

Sullivan agrees Walsh is a casualty. “I wish there was something we could do legally to fix that,” Sullivan said. “It’s like having a terminal medical condition.”

Moving forward, the church needs to find a way to honor and respect real victims as well as the falsely accused who may be targeted because someone has a gripe to pick, Sullivan said.

“How do you investigate that part? I don’t think the Catholic Church in the United States has reached that point yet,” he added.

Clergy file conundrum

Walsh asked how he could get gain access to his clergy file, Sullivan said. “He wanted to know what was going on, what was taking place and how Jennifer Haselberger [former archdiocese canon lawyer and MPR whistle-blower] had access to his file. He wanted to know how she could make copies of what was in the file.”

Sullivan said that it was his assumption, when listening to archdiocese sources explain what had happened, that Haselberger had been suspended from her position as chancellor for canonical affairs for not complying with her superior, but she came back to work.

“When she left the archdiocese in April 2013, she walked out with the equivalent of a copy paper box filled with eight reams of paper.” Sullivan said.  A ream of paper is about 500 sheets.

“We did do a lengthy review,” Sullivan said. “Ironically, they had somebody in their office sit with us as we reviewed the file. That’s to help insure the integrity of the file. I had to kind of smile, because I was thinking, why didn’t somebody do that with Jennifer [Haselberger].”

Sullivan said that according to canon law, clergy personnel files belong to the bishop. “He is the equivalent to the diocese. He’s supposed to be able to see the files alone. If anybody else wants to see a file, including the chancellor, which is what Jennifer Haselberger was, and the vicar general, the Rev. Peter Laird, they are allowed to see a file together. The bishop can see a file alone, but those two need to see a file together.”

Laird resigned from the archdiocese in October 2013. According to media reports, Laird stated his departure was necessary following a court development which included some allegations that the archdiocese may have covered up a priest’s possession of child pornography.

Clergy file key questions

In Walsh’s file, Sullivan discovered there were not always explanations supporting the documentation.

“For example, in the first instance, the Detroit allegation, the religious order paid out an amount of money, but it didn’t say why. The information about that came from the research that the archdiocese did when the allegation came to light but long after he [Walsh] had left the Redemptorists after serving in Detroit, where this allegedly occurred. They may have seen a cancelled check, but there are no letters in the file, no cancelled check, no documentation from the order, just the diocese [in Detroit] stating the order paid the money. My sense in looking at that, without knowing why they paid the money, is that back in the 1980s this would have been considered a nuisance lawsuit.”

Sullivan said he initially worked with Walsh in 2010 on his laicization [removal from being a member of the clergy].

“Jennifer [Haselberger] mailed Harry a letter requesting A, B, C, and D,” Sullivan said. “One of the points mentioned was a letter requesting laicization and what needed to be in that letter. I helped him craft that letter, and we sent it back,” Sullivan said. “We did everything that she specified and had asked for. The letter was in Harry’s file, but we had the archbishop asking us what was going on.”

Sullivan said in his written argument with the archdiocese regarding Walsh’s file that medical records and psychological files should have been placed be in a sealed envelope.

“It’s not that the envelope can’t be in the file, but those type of records should be sealed. They should be available for the bishop to read, but not accessible for anyone else just to sit down and read them,” he said. “The difficulty with the file, and as I wrote in a letter to Susan Mulheron, chancellor for canonical affairs at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was that there were some things in Harry’s file that we wanted clarified, and some things that were not fully explained.” Sullivan said.

Walsh is looking to have some of the records and information he has provided in his defense placed into his clergy file.

Dealing with data, accusations

“The difficulty will be inserting information into a chronologically organized file,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to be hard to insert something from June 2014 against an allegation from the 1980s that’s going to be many hundreds of pages apart within the file,” he said. “What I think would be beneficial would be to go back to where an allegation originally appeared and put a sticky note referencing the other location with further information,” he said. “That would help a person who would be reading it.”

Sullivan said when the Diocese of Los Angeles settled a lawsuit a number of years ago, a prosecutor said clearly more than 50 percent of the abuse allegations in the lawsuit were false and that the church never should have paid out of court. The prosecutor said those allegations were never thoroughly investigated, Sullivan said.

“Looking at the allegations against Harry, one involved a time when he physically could not have been in Detroit. That allegation could not have happened the way it was described. The second person [in South St. Paul] later withdrew the allegation. For me, that’s two allegations, but the Kinsale group and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have said those were credible. I don’t know how you get credible out of that,” he added.

According to Sullivan, Justice for Priests and Deacons has a common saying: If a person knows the date when a priest served in a particular church, that’s all that’s needed for a credible allegation. “So, for example, if you don’t like the color I painted the inside of the church, all you have to do is make an allegation,” he said. The other thing that we’ve found out is that if a diocese assumes that it’s true, it pays. Then, they turn around and say since they’ve paid, the priest in question must be guilty. It’s a very circular argument. I find that response very non-credible as far as the church goes in making a concerted effort,” he said.

Archdiocese responds to request

The Monticello Times asked the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to respond to a number of specific questions regarding the handling of Walsh’s clergy file and an April 30 letter sent by Sullivan to Susan Mulheron, chancellor for canonical affairs at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Specifically, the archdiocese was asked to address a statement in Sullivan’s letter claiming there were several errors found in Walsh’s file during the March 4 review.

The Monticello Times asked the archdiocese via email on June 18 to directly respond to counter claims or statements in his Sullivan’s letter that address errors involving the Detroit allegation, the South St. Paul allegation, the previous handling of Walsh’s petition for laicization, medical records in the file and other accusations.

Jim Accurso, media and public relations manager for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, forwarded the newspaper’s request for information to the proper archdiocesan officials.

In an email, Accurso stated, “I received this response from Susan Mulheron, chancellor for canonical affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: ‘As a courtesy to Father Sullivan, I would prefer to respond to him first, as he wrote the letter, before I respond to you. As soon as I have done that, I will try to respond to your questions.’ ”

The Monticello Times did not receive a response from Mulheron before its story went to press.

Expert offers explanation

Dave Pierre is one of the country’s leading observers of the media’s coverage of the Catholic Church abuse narrative. He’s the author of two critically acclaimed books, “Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church” and ‘Catholic Priests Falsely Accused: The Facts, The Fraud, The Stories.”

Pierre is the creator and author of TheMediaReport.com and has been interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) and other radio outlets and newspapers.

Pierre recently spoke with the Monticello Times about the generalities of sexual abuse accusations made against priests and how the media reports them.

“The media is creating stories,” Pierre said in a telephone interview. “They know stories about priest sex abuse get a lot of hits on news websites. They are fighting for clicks online. They are trying to boost revenue and traffic to their websites. They know that these stories get a lot of attention. It’s sex, it’s priests.”

According to Pierre, there’s “no doubt” that when abuse stories first broke in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many allegations against priests were true.

“There’s been a huge spike in the number of dubious and false accusations,” he said. “That’s true in the last few years, especially when people read about settlements.”

Accusations have incredible power

According to Pierre, if a priest knows he is innocent, he still find himself in an incredibly difficult situation of trying to prove that they didn’t do something.

“It’s very rare that a priest is able to uncover evidence that’s shows its impossible for an accusation of abuse to have taken place,” Pierre said. “Accused is essentially guilty in the eyes of the public. Once a story or accusations against a priest are out in the media, where it’s on MPR or any of the local news stations, that priest’s reputation is essentially destroyed. I would say you could argue that a quarter of the priests in general have been falsely accused,” Pierre added.

Pierre said priests who have successfully fought for their innocence have went out on their own to prove the case against them is false.

“They’ve done that by getting friends and supporters together, and hiring a private investigator,” he said. “I wonder if too many priests just sit back and expect that the church will clear these things on its own,” he added. “The truth is, the church isn’t in a position to do a thorough investigation that such cases often warrant. I would tell any priest who says that they have been falsely accused to hire a private investigator and look into the background of the accuser. Often, things have been uncovered that show the accusation is false.”

Walsh wants story told

Walsh indicated in his interview he has no inclination to take that course or seek court action, even though he has retained civil counsel.

“How many years is the Lord going to give me on this Earth?” Walsh said. “I’m 80 years of age. Come on. I don’t want to spend the last few years in and out of courthouses. There are other things to do. I’d rather play the piano than go to court.”

During the last few months, Walsh said he hasn’t been out much in the community, not because he feels guilty, but because he doesn’t want to have to go through long explanations with lots of people.

“I used to walk what I call the ‘Gerbil Track’ at the Monticello Community Center,” Walsh said, referring to the center’s popular walking track.

“All I want is an opportunity to get my story out,’ he said. “I want to get the truth out to the community. If I can do that, and people believe me, then I’ll be walking the Gerbil Track again.”

Contact Tim Hennagir at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com

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