In late May 2020, it was reported that liturgical composer David Haas was accused of sexual misconduct. Since then, Catholic news sources reported that allegations have come from 44 women regarding abusive sexual conduct from 1979 to 2019. On July 9, 2020, Haas issued an apology on his website, announcing that he was beginning “professional intervention and treatment,” and “I have come to realize that I have caused great harm to a variety of people. I make no excuses for any harm that I may have caused. I take responsibility for my behavior and I am truly sorry.”
GIA Publications, a major publisher of hymnals, sacred music and music education materials, and affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, said in June that it had terminated its sponsorship and publishing relationship with Haas in January. GIA Publications stated that they support and stand with victims, and that we must join together to address and prevent sexual abuse.
In July and August, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and many dioceses around the country, announced they would no longer use Haas’ music. Saint Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Hebda announced in July 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. The archdiocese will not use Haas’ compositions at archdiocesan Masses and other archdiocesan events. And Archbishop Hebda 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.
A little closer to home in our Diocese of Superior, Rev. Fr. Gerald Harris, pastor of St. Bridget in River Falls and of St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception in Hammond, issued the following statement:
“In early June 2020, news was announced that church musician and composer David Haas has been accused of sexual misconduct over the course of about 40 years. In response to this allegation and in sensitivity and support of those people that have been abused by David Haas and others, moving forward we at St. Bridget Catholic Community, St. Mary’s in Hammond, and St. Thomas More Chapel at UWRF have chosen to not use David Haas’ music during our liturgies. While we have benefited praying with his music over many years, we feel it is important to not unknowingly cause further suffering to those who have been harmed by David Haas. We stand in solidarity with his victims and do not condone his behavior or any other abuse by people in positions of power or privilege in the Catholic Church or any other entity.”
As Bishop of Superior, I endorse the above statements. Survivors of church-related sexual misconduct deserve our support. We all continue to suffer from the impact of those who have abused others while in a church position of trust or power. We must do what we can to prevent re-victimization in our diocese by our music choices.
Therefore, with all that has come to light regarding David Haas, the Diocese of Superior will not use Haas’ compositions at diocesan Masses and other events. I also encourage all parish and other Catholic institution leaders to consider the many music options other than Haas’s. Please seriously consider the sensitivities involved with using Haas’s music in liturgies or other parish events, and continue to take appropriate steps to support those who have been harmed by sexual misconduct.
As always, if anyone has information of possible criminal sexual behavior, we encourage you to contact your local law enforcement. If you have concerns about improper conduct at a diocese parish or school, please report those concerns to the parish, school, and the Diocese Coordinator of Safe Environment/Victim Assistance, Ms. Kathy Drinkwine, at , by phone at 715-394-0216, or after hours, 715-718-1110.
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