SAINT PAUL (MN)
Star Tribune [Minneapolis MN]
April 7, 2021
By Jean Hopfensperger
University officials said they plan to strengthen sexual behavior protocols.
An investigation sponsored by St. Catherine University into its relationship with Catholic music composer David Haas, who for years held summer music programs there, confirmed that there were reports of sexual misconduct by Haas.
It also found that the school failed to mandate background checks on groups renting its facilities when Haas was there.
The investigation also found that Haas and Lori True, assistant director of Haas’ Music Ministry Alive (MMA) summer program, were aware that two of their team members faced sexual misconduct allegations: former Hawaii priest George DeCosta and Atlanta-based composer Paul Tate.
The investigative report, prepared by a legal team hired by St. Catherine’s, indicated that the Twin Cities-based Haas had an unusually privileged relationship with the St. Paul university.
For nearly 20 years at St. Catherine’s, MMA received support from a university staff member, student interns and the development office and enjoyed deep discounts or free use of the school’s buildings and auditorium.
“The … findings and recommendations have given us an understanding of the degree to which Haas appears to have exploited his prominent position in the world of liturgical music and his position with MMA,” wrote St. Catherine President Becky Roloff in a preface to the report, released last month.
However, Roloff added, “the report did not find evidence that formal complaints were made to St. Catherine University or its employees during the time Haas was present, 1999 to 2017.”
The university ordered the investigation last year after more than 40 women accused Haas of sexual misconduct spanning decades, including at the MMA program that drew thousands of students from around the country.
For years Haas has been one of the most well-known Catholic music composers in the United States. Many of his songs, such as “Blessed Are They” and “You are Mine,” are standards in church hymnals.
Haas, who also has taught at Benilde-St. Margaret’s in St. Louis Park and Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, did not respond to a request for comment. In the past, however, he has publicly apologized for his sexual behavior.
Stephanie Krehbiel, executive director of IntoAccount, a Kansas-based victims advocacy group that documented the scope of the alleged abuse last year, said she was pleased with the findings.
The report “validates what I’ve learned working with abuse survivors,” said Krehbiel. “It made clear that Haas abused the reputation of the MMA to exploit and abuse women.”
The investigation was conducted by attorneys at trainED, a division of the Minneapolis-based law firm Lathrop GPM that helps higher education institutions meet legal compliance and training needs. The report makes several recommendations, including strengthening the university’s policies on sexual harassment, background checks and child protection.
It was based on interviews with 48 individuals associated with the MMA program as well as documented research. Haas and Sr. Andrea Lee, former president of St. Catherine’s, were not interviewed because they would only do so under “certain conditions,” the report said.
The investigation found:
• Information about Haas that was reported by IntoAccount and the news media is consistent with its findings.
• There isn’t evidence indicating the sex abuse was reported to university staff.
• Even after Haas and True learned of the allegations against DeCosta — who had been sued by at least six men for alleged child sexual abuse in his home state of Hawaii — they allowed him to continue to participate in MMA camps.
• Though True had learned of sexual misconduct allegations against Tate, she invited him to perform at St. Catherine’s events. Tate had been an MMA team member.
In a statement Tuesday, True said that MMA leaders immediately removed DeCosta and Tate after learning of the allegations. “DeCosta came back as an adult track participant, not team member, for the last year of MMA (summer 2017). Paul Tate never returned to the MMA Team,” according to the statement.
The report found that MMA didn’t require all its leaders, team members or interns to complete child protection protocol training or background screening. The report recommends that the university create strong safety requirements for its vendors and outside entities and mandatory reporter training for individuals who work with minors at events and activities on campus.
Beth Halloran, executive vice president of St. Catherine’s, said the university is enacting all the recommendations made. “It will allow us to implement changes and policies that keep our community safe,” she said.
In addition, St. Catherine officials announced that Haas is now barred from campus and that his music will no longer be used at university events. True, an employee of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, can no longer participate in liturgical events held on campus, Halloran said.
Jean Hopfensperger is the religion, faith and values reporter for the Star Tribune. She focuses largely on religious trends shaping Minnesota and the nation.