Notable N.Y. Priest Is Accused of Sex Abuse

By Patrick Arden
Metro New York

August 5, 2008

The future looked dim yesterday for Monsignor Wallace Harris, the prominent Harlem priest accused of sexually abusing two minors 20 years ago.

A stream of TV trucks pulled up in front of the rectory at St. Charles Borromeo, hoping to catch a glimpse of the humiliated Harris, who gave the invocation at Gov. David Paterson’s inauguration and organized Pope Benedict’s visit here.

But a handwritten sign wired to the church’s fence summed up the feelings of this neighborhood: "Don’t believe the media hype."

An allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor against the Rev. Monsignor Wallace Harris, Pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, has been received by the Archdiocese of New York. The pastor, inset, gave the invocation at Gov. David Paterson’s inauguration.
Photo by Aharon Rothschild

The Archdiocese of New York yesterday said Harris stepped down from his role after the allegations were made public at a Sunday service at his church. Harris denies the claims.

"I can’t believe it," cried Sonia Farley, pulling her two young children across the street to confront a reporter. Farley doesn’t belong to the parish, but she gets groceries from its food pantry. "He’s been so nice to us."

"I can’t believe he did these things," seconded Joseph Mack, who’s lived on the block for 18 years. "If you’re in trouble, he always listens, and if he can help he’ll help. We’d hate to see him go."

Mack was sitting on the stoop with Luz Santiago. "No one out here can say anything bad about him," she said. "At the holidays, he hands out turkeys, and he helped build that senior home on the corner."

The matter was referred to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, which said yesterday that the statute of limitations for the complaints had expired.


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