Minneapolis

Catholic composer Haas sexual misconduct report alleges 44 victims in 41 years

2020-10-30 05:45:54 –

Amy Anderson has kept a letter from Catholic composer David Haas for more than 30 years, an apology he sent to her parents after they reported to the St. Paul Seminary that Haas had sexually abused their then 18-year-old daughter.

“I know that you have had several conversations with Fr. [Charles] Froehle, here at the seminary,” Haas wrote on his letterhead stationary on Jan. 22, 1988. “I had no idea that I was making Amy uncomfortable … I do, however, hold ultimate responsibility for the entire incident …”

Haas added that he was getting counseling from the Rev. Kenneth Pierre, a psychologist with the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Anderson remains baffled, and “mortified,” that Catholic leaders let Haas continue his work as artist-in-residence at the seminary and failed to monitor his future behavior.

“We thought we’d taken the necessary steps to make sure this [sexual abuse] didn’t happen again, much less to nearly 50 women,” said Anderson, referring to the avalanche of sex abuse complaints against Haas reported this year.

“This should never have happened,” said Anderson, an executive at a St. Paul-area nonprofit. “People should have been warned.”

Anderson is among 44 women who alleged sexual misconduct spanning 41 years in an October report by Into Account, a Kansas-based victims’ rights group that compiled the report.

The report alleges that Haas targeted young women for “grooming” and forced sexual acts, often luring them to isolated locations and then forcing sexual contact. Haas has not been charged in these cases.

“Our goal is to let survivors know they are not alone, and to stop this from happening again,” said Stephanie Krehbiel, executive director of Into Account.

Haas was what one of the women called the “rock star” of contemporary Catholic composers. His songs are standards in Catholic and Protestant church services, hymns such as “Blest Are They,” “You are Mine” and “We Are Called.” Haas also taught at Benilde-St. Margaret’s school in St. Louis Park, was composer-in-residence at St. Paul Seminary and ran a Music Ministry Alive program for years at St. Catherine University. He traveled the world performing. His career gave him steady access to young women, and he took advantage of it, the report said.

Neither the archdiocese nor St. Paul Seminary answered Anderson’s question about whether Haas was disciplined and/or monitored after she and her parents reported the alleged abuse to St. Paul Seminary. Tim O’Malley, the archdiocese’s director of safe environment, stressed that Haas was not an archdiocese employee. St. Paul Seminary, where Haas was employed as artist-in-residence in the late 1980s, said it was unable to comment by Thursday’s deadline for this story.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis acknowledged several months ago that it was told of a 1987 report of “unwanted sexual advances” by Haas, but that Haas had denied it. It also received two complaints in 2018 that Haas had made unwanted sexual advances toward two women, which Haas also denied. The archdiocese then imposed sanctions, which now include barring Haas from providing any services at its schools, churches and other venues.

A pattern alleged

The new report details a pattern of Haas allegedly targeting women across the country for unwanted sexual contact. It also alleges that Haas raped a 13-year-old girl during a confirmation retreat in 1979 and that the girl’s chaperone reported it to three archdiocese officials.

Haas denied the rape, in a statement shared by his attorney, Alan Eidsness, and labeled it an anonymous allegation and “an attempt to smear me.” He has, however, publicly apologized for his sexual behavior.

“To anyone I have harmed please know that I take full responsibility for my actions and am truly sorry,” he said in a written statement. “I am continuing with professional intervention to help me face and understand how my actions have violated your trust.”

Anderson is among 14 women who used their full names in the report. She was a college freshman in 1987 when she attended a concert by Haas, whom she had met previously at a liturgical music camp. When Haas invited her out for a soda after the concert to catch up on things, she readily accepted.

But instead of heading to a restaurant, Anderson said, Haas drove her to a “quiet strip of farm country,” away from the College of St. Benedict, and initiated unwanted sexual touching.

“My mom remembers me calling her, crying,” said Anderson.

Since the Into Account report was released this month, four more victims have stepped forward, said Krehbiel, who said she is cooperating with an investigation into Haas and Music Ministry Alive by St. Catherine University.

Anderson, meanwhile, still remembers walking with her parents into St. Paul Seminary, where she said Haas had an office.

“We thought someone would take care of it,” said Anderson. “Thirty years later, I think of all these women who could have been saved.”

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