Catholic composer David Haas is shown in a concert at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City, Philippines, in this 2016 photo. CNS photo/Titopao, CC BY-SA 4.0

Musical dilemma over abuse claims

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • September 11, 2020

VANCOUVER -- Peter Luongo, a parish music director in Surrey, B.C., is in a quandary.

He has frequently used the music of popular Catholic composer David Haas at Mass. But in light of recent allegations of sexual abuse against the U.S.-based songwriter, Luongo is torn over the use of such popular songs as “You Are Mine,” “Blest Are They,” “We Have Been Told” and “We Are Called.”

“It saddens me because the music is beautiful. I believe that the music David Haas has created has inspired Catholics, inspired Christians, has inspired non-believers,” said Luongo. “If those allegations are true, that is a concern.”

In recent months, sexual abuse allegations against Haas have left many music directors in an awkward position.

Dozens of dioceses in the U.S., including the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis (where Haas is based) have responded by cancelling his events and banning the use of his music at Mass. Haas has not been criminally charged or found guilty of any allegations.

“The expression ‘where there’s smoke, there must be fire’ seems to apply, but it’s interesting to note that no charges or complaints have been formally filed despite multiple allegations,” said Luongo. “I think we always have to respect that they are allegations until they are proven and I would always want to ensure that I was not passing judgment.”

Coquitlam, B.C., music minister Tami Comuzzi said she was also saddened and shocked to hear of the allegations against Haas.

“It’s always a sad day when someone with that amount of responsibility and influence in our Catholic music gets charged with something with that. It’s sad. It affects everyone,” said Comuzzi.

She said if Haas’ music offends someone in the congregation, she is fine with leaving it out of her repertoire.

According to the New York Times, about a third of American dioceses have stopped using Haas’ music. At least one hymnal publisher has dropped him, too.

Haas initially denied the allegations as “false, reckless and offensive,” but in July he released a public letter apologizing for causing harm to “a variety of people,” without specifying what harm or allegations he was responding to.

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The idea that the guilt of a predator can only be revealed through the criminal court system, and a guilty verdict is ridiculous. Man of these cases cannot be played out in the court system due to statutes of limitation. More than 40 women have...

The idea that the guilt of a predator can only be revealed through the criminal court system, and a guilty verdict is ridiculous. Man of these cases cannot be played out in the court system due to statutes of limitation. More than 40 women have come forward to report assault by Haas. That anyone, especially this music director would not believe these women and choose to continue to use Haas music, is beyond lacking in good pastoral practice and care. When we ignore the cries and the pain of sexual abuse victims, we send a message that they do not matter. The same message that Haas sent them when he was assaulting each one. Shame on this music minister for not standing with these women. Shame on the church for continuing to ignore those who are assaulted and abuse by church leaders.

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Laurie Delgatto-Whitten
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