Former Times publisher provides comments about Walsh story

To the editor:

I applaud Managing Editor Tim Hennagir for the exhaustive and very necessary piece in last week’s Monticello Times (“Former St. Henry’s pastor, music director Harry Walsh answers questions about allegations, tries to clear reputation”).

I’ve known Harry Walsh for almost three decades since he first arrived in Monticello as parish priest at St. Henry’s in 1985.

Though never a parishioner, we became both professional and personal friends. At his church, members cherished his homilies (delivered with a distinctive Irish brogue and a genuine human touch) and loved his religious, musical creations.

In his service to Monticello, Harry’s congregation became far larger than his Catholic flock.

When he left the day-to-day parish priesthood, he ministered and counseled to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. His work took him to troubled teenagers, the jailed at Wright Country, prisoners at St. Cloud…and individuals who were in need of his sage advice.

Harry touched my own family, playing the organ at the nursing home for my late father and being a calm, perceptive voice when my mother needed his friendship and counsel.

My parents joined many Monticelloans who enjoyed his music, brought to both the nursing home here and Mississippi Shores, where my mother resides.

It’s been my personal belief – now buffeted by Hennagir’s research – that Harry Walsh should never have been placed on lists of Catholic priests who committed sexual abuse of young people.

Had a thorough investigation or full disclosure been done by archdioceses, I assess, Harry’s name would not have appeared.

Having combed the lists to find priests who could be found and identified, Harry Walsh emerged – alive, living nearby and even open to an interview.

But I wish my colleagues in the Twin Cities media had dug deeper and discovered what I believe is the truth: There’s no validity to the charges and a grave injustice was done by the considerable reporting and wide dissemination of the story.

The result has been devastating to Harry. At a time that he should have been celebrating his 80th birthday (perhaps with a public open house in Monticello), he’s had to quietly but determinably fight to save his reputation and protect his livelihood.

Part-time, paying jobs have regrettably been lost…as have countless, I’m guessing, nights of sleep.

I still have hopes that Minnesota Public Radio, the Twin Cities dailies and the broadcast media will return to this case and publish the whole story.

I’m proud that his hometown newspaper, the Times, hasn’t forgotten Harry Walsh.

Donald Q. Smith
Portland, Oregon