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Archdiocese drops music, prohibits concerts, after new allegations against David Haas

CNA Friday, 10 July 2020
CNA Staff, Jul 10, 2020 / 05:22 pm (CNA).-  

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said Thursday it has received new allegations of misconduct on the part of composer David Haas, and that Haas will be prohibited from giving concerts and workshops in the archdiocese, and that his music will be prohibited at archdiocesan liturgies.

The archdiocese said it had in recent weeks “received additional reports from women in different parts of the country alleging that David Haas engaged in inappropriate conduct with them in the 1980s, when the women were young adults. The conduct described in these new, independent reports is similar in nature to the conduct described in previous allegations. Haas has denied any wrongdoing,” in a July 8 statement from safe environment director Tim O’Malley.

“We are sharing this information in the interest of accountability and transparency and believe that it may assist others, as it has assisted us, in making informed decisions. Survivors of sexual harassment and abuse deserve support and understanding.”

“Indeed, our community as a whole has suffered much from those who have used positions of power or privilege to harm others. We have a responsibility to be mindful of this and do what we can to prevent further injury to those who have already suffered harm.”

“Archbishop Hebda has decided that David Haas may not give presentations at workshops, concerts, or similar events hosted by the Archdiocese, parishes, Catholic schools, or other Catholic institutions in the Archdiocese. Likewise, the Archdiocese will not use Haas’ compositions at Archdiocesan Masses and other Archdiocesan events.”

“Also, the Archbishop has encouraged pastors, principals, and leaders of other Catholic institutions to consider the sensitivities involved with using Haas’ music in liturgies or other parish or school events, and to take appropriate steps to fully support those who have been harmed by sexual assault or abuse.”

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Haas surfaced in early June, when a group called Into Account sent a letter to some Catholic organizations and media outlets, addressing allegations against Haas.

The letter, obtained by CNA June 14, said the group had “received reports from multiple individuals reporting sexually predatory actions from the composer David Haas.”

Haas told CNA he denies those charges.

On June 16, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released a statement saying that it had “received two reports from another diocese that David Haas acted inappropriately with two adult women at an event in another state. Both women complained that Haas’ conduct made them feel uncomfortable. The Archdiocese had received an earlier complaint, in 1987, that Haas had made unwanted sexual advances toward a young adult woman. In each instance, Haas denied that he engaged in inappropriate conduct.”

The archdiocese said that in 2018, it informed Haas it would no longer provide letters of recommendation for his ministry in other dioceses, and that he would not be allowed to perform the St. Paul archdiocese “without disclosure of these complaints.”

The composer, a layman, is a central figure in the “contemporary liturgical music” movement that began in the 1970s. Among Haas’ songs are some contemporary standards: “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among others.

Several of Haas’ publishers have suspended or dropped their relationships with the musician since the allegations were made public.

CNA has spoken with an alleged victim of sexual assault by Haas, and with a woman who offered a picture of her experience with Haas in the 1980s.

Maria* told CNA that Haas invited her to dinner in the fall of 1980, ostensibly to discuss music ministry. She had recently attended a music workshop that he had put on in St. Paul, and he had reached out to her directly by phone, she says.

She says during the evening Haas professed love for her, and that while he was driving after dinner, he refused to bring her back to her dormitory when she asked him to repeatedly, taking her instead to a second restaurant for dessert, despite her continued requests to be taken home.

Maria alleges that Haas tried to hold her back when she eventually did get out of his car, insisting on a kiss goodnight.

In later weeks, she says Haas pursued her with love notes and tried to meet with her one-on-one, even while he knew she was dating a man she eventually married. She says she rebuked his advances, "but it could have gone bad fast if I hadn't seen the writing on the wall," Maria told CNA.

When the Into Account allegations came to light in May, Maria says she began to reassess what had happened to her. He had taken her out under false pretenses— using his position as a music minister to get her to agree to meet him— and would not allow her to leave the situation, she said.

Maria also remembers hearing rumors that other members of the choir in which she participated in college— which Haas helped to lead— had experienced similar “dates” with Haas.

She said she hopes her story might inspire other women from that choir to come forward with their own allegations.

*Maria asked for anonymity to avoid potential retaliation from Haas, professionally, and from the public.
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