Thursday, August 28, 2008

Guilty by Association...

It is very uneasy to know how hypocritical we have become especially towards those in the public eye. For example Police Officers, Doctors, Lawyers and even God. We are quicker than a bullet to say something negative about all three of these professions. They're labeled as crooks, criminals, thieves and abusers of power. But ironically, we all look to them in our time of need. If you were mugged or your house was broken into who would you call?.... the Police. If you or a family member were sick who would you call?.... a Doctor. When you need legal advise or representation who would you call?... a Lawyer. And when things are great and life is treating you good or when you're out with your friends laughing, joking and enjoying life, how often does God cross your mind? But the second your in a pinch or get bad news about someone or something; all of a sudden your begging for Gods help and intervention. You even start bargaining with him just as long as He can help you out. It seems that until we are in need of someone we could care less for them or their well being. We take for granted how important these individuals are and the tremendous sacrifices they make just to be there to help us out in our time of need. Msgr. Wallace Harris is no different. False and horrific allegations have been made against him and because he is a servant of God, a Catholic Priest to be exact, he has been deemed guilt... Guilty by association.

I have had the misfortune of only having Msgr. Harris for the first two out of four years I attended the Prep. But those years have been the most influential years of my life. Although the Priesthood wasn't Gods calling for me, Msgr. Harris gave me the tools needed to succeed as a individual and as a proud Christian. He taught me discipline, hard work and persistence while still having empathy, morals, respect and faith in God. I say this to you with my hand over my heart that these are the same values I carry and use every single day of my life. I am a proud husband and father and I teach these very same values to my own children.

Let's call a spade a spade. It would be unrealistic to say that there are no bad people in the world and everybody is innocent. Truth of the matter is that there are plenty of bad people in every single race, creed, culture, group, committee, organization, etc. But it is unfair and unjust to label everyone negatively because of a few bad seeds. Such is the case with Msgr. Harris. The Lord said "Blessed are those who have not seen but still believe". If you knew him like the thousands of us do, you would know that there is no way possible that this man would be capable of committing any of the alleged actions. It's not in his makeup. So please view this matter and more importantly him, with a open mind. Let the testimonials of the thousands of people who have been lucky enough and blessed to know this man be the proof everyone needs to know that he is innocent. He is just another victim of a individual who is in the public eye.....

Victor Popovic
Cathedral Prep Class of '91

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My response to a NY Post article

Responding to Ed Robinson of the Post.

My name is Richard Murphy. I received a call this afternoon from a dear friend and high-school classmate informing me of the allegations made against Fr. Wallace Harris. I am so upset to think that anyone would accuse this man of being anything less than a mentor and a good friend. As a young high-school student at Cathedral Prep, transplanted from rural Ireland at the age of 15, I found myself alone in the big city. I was the odd man out but was so warmly welcomes at my new school unequaled to this day. Adding to this welcome was the faculty of which Fr. Harris was an out spoken member. I developed a close relationship with Fr. Harris during my time at the Prep and can say from the bottom of my heart that I did and still do have total faith in the purity of this man's heart. I am proud to say that Fr. Harris presided over my wedding, a moment that these false allegations will never take away from me. I stand by Fr. Harris in his denial of these allegations and welcome any call or correspondence from anyone seeking further information or comment.


Richard Murphy
Cathedral Prep-Class of 90'

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

We Come This Far By Faith..........


These words to this song describes my GODFATHER, and our relationship over the past 39 years. He has been there for all of us in good times and bad times, always speaking his mind. There were many of times we disagreed, but he always gave us an opportunity to grow and be men who stood by the decisions we made. There were plenty I made that H did not agree with; but he ALWAYS stood tall with me.

It is REALLY AMAZING AND RIDICULOUS that we have to defend Msgr. Harris at this time. His record and body of good and service he has done as a priest is OUTSTANDING. The spiritual guidance he has demonstrated UNCONDITIONALLY from ST. THOMAS to ST. JOSEPH to OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNCIL to CATHEDRAL PREP to ST. CHARLES to ST. JOSEPH SEMINARY, and on and on and on cannot be duplicated nor quantified

As many have stated in their blogs, Msgr. Harris has been a very influential person in our lives. He showed us that hard work pays off. We were taught how to appreciate the simple things of life. He encouraged us to be willing to give our time and efforts to others. Most importantly, he showed us how to use our God given talents to make other peoples lives better. All of us who work with him see his example day in and day out. He lives the words he preaches!

His dedication, his determination, his desire and his discipline have patterned my life. I have to believe that the accomplishments and service with the thousands of lives that He has touched, will outweigh these allegations.

David Dennis
Cathedral Prep - Class of 87'

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wally... A Confidant, Advisor and Closest Friend!!

I first met Fr. Harris the summer before I started at the Prep. I admit it was a little intimidating. I was introduced to him by my parish priest at a summer camp that hosted kids for the month of July. He told me I would enjoy my time at the Prep but not to bother looking him up because he didn't speak to Freshman. I took this as a challenge. I didn't care that he towered over me or outweighed me. I think that took him by surprise. I admired the way he treated people no matter the stage in life. Yes, he has a sharp wit at times with a biting sense of humor but the only thing he ever wanted was that we all give the best effort in everything we tried.

I know more than most the "tough love" approach. In my Junior year, my Dad died. To this day, that was the hardest thing I've dealt with. Wally was there for me . He stood by me as I mourned my Dad's passing. He got me to refocus my mind as I was destroying all I had achieved at the Prep. My overall interest in everything I was doing was gone. I didn't care about school, sports or life. Those who knew me back then can attest to the fact that my world revolved around the Prep. Wally Harris was not only my teacher, he was and still is a friend in the truest sense of the word. From that time to this day, Wally has been my closest friend, confidant and advisor. My relationship with Wally has grown as I have grown. He had stood by me as I contemplated priesthood and ultimately decided that this vocation was not what God had planned for me to do. He never lost faith in me even when I lost mine. He brought me back to my faith and re-introduced me to God with love and simple honesty.

This is why I know these charges against him are FALSE. THE MAN I KNOW, LOVE AND RESPECT WOULD NEVER HARM A CHILD. IT GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING HE HAS TAUGHT ME AND WHAT HE BELIEVES IN. I pray everyday that this nightmare for him ends soon. I don't understand the motives of these men making these allegations, but know this, I will do whatever is necessary to clear his good name. Pray that they find the courage to right this wrong. Pray that the Church acts quickly and doesn't drag her feet. A man's life and reputation is at stake. I've known Wally 28 great years. He is my brother in every sense of the word. He has told me that trust in GOD helps him deal with this situation. I believe and trust what he tells me to be the Truth Church politics should play no part in this. Let's hope all parties concerned remember we need the truth.

Brendan Haugh
Cathedral Prep Seminary - Class of 1986

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Msgr Harris is the Priest that helped make me the man I am today.

For the past week or so, I have been reflecting heavily on this whole situation. How can this be happening to a man that has dedicated his whole life to serving others and our God?

I first met Msgr. Harris 25 years ago while I attended Cathedral Prep. During my four years at the Prep, my family went through many changes, one of major significance was when my parents deciding to get a separated after 26 years of marriage. Trust me it was great timing on their part! Here I was the only child still at home, while my brother and sisters were having fun at college. I had to decide on what college I would attend and which parent should I stay with. I didn't know what to do, or who to turn to in this trying time. Then I realized something that I will never forget. Even though my biological family wasn't doing so well, I had another family, the Prep Family. The Prep Family was more than anything I could ask for, not only did I get all new brothers, who are still in my life today, but I also got a second father who would be there for me for the next 25 years. He would be the person I could turn to for help with all my problems, the person I could call on when I was having spiritual questions, and would also to the person to tell me, that great news because she wasn't the one for you. The second father I am talking about is Msgr. Harris.

The 2 stories that resonate deep in my soul concerning Msgr. Harris are the following:

A few years ago, I was teaching in the Bronx, and I went to see Msgr. to get some advice, and after we chatted for a while, he got up, went to his office and came back with a gift for me. I opened it and I was amazed by the art work that he had given to me. He had given me an African sculpture of a lion. I immediately said Thank You, Thank You and I told him, “So I guess this answers my question about my career”, and he said, "Yes" and asked me if I understood it? I then proceed to tell him, well it’s somewhat weird that you knew my last name translated to English it means, "Lion." Msgr. started to laugh, because the reason he gave it to me, had nothing to do with my name, but had to do with me becoming a great educator. Msgr. then informed me that I needed to be like a lion, even though you might not hear him all the time, you feel his presence, and that is how I need to run my classroom. He told me that I should yell or scream in my classroom or at my students, but always let them know that you respect them, and everything will fall into place. Well 10 years later I am happy to say that advice has carried me to great place, because I am currently the Principal of the #7 school in all of NYC, and if it wasn't for Msgr.'s advice, God only knows where I would be today!

The other story that I would like to share with everyone is the one which occurred while I was still at the Prep. I can't remember the exact day of the week, but I had just come down from working with my dad, and I was not too happy. Msgr. noticed something was wrong and started to chat with me about what had happen, which I told him. I was so mad with my father's and his store that some adjectives came out of my mouth that I really should not have said especially to my father. During our chat, I realized that I wasn't really mad at my father, but I was madder at myself for cursing at him. Msgr. Harris had taught me how to be reflective on my actions, and by the end of our chat, I decided to drive back up to my dad's store and apologize. Not only did I learn how to be reflective and humble, but I also learned what it means to be a person with deep Christian values. Throughout my life, there have been many people that complemented me on the values that I possess, especially for a young man, and I simply tell them, "Well if it wasn't for my parents and Msgr. Harris, this Man would not be the person standing in front of you.

I chose to share these stories as testament towards the character of Msgr. Harris. He has been my spiritual advisor, a mentor, and true friend for the past 25 years; so it pains me that someone would even think of accusing him of such horrible actions. I can truly say with whole hearted conviction, "Msgr. Wally Harris has helped mold me into the man that I see in the mirror everyday and thank you Lord Jesus for sending such a spectacular man, priest and friend into my life.”
Peter Oroszlany
Cathedral Prep - Class of 1989

Friday, August 15, 2008

What ever happened to Innocent until Proven Guilty?

It was with an overwhelming shock, sadness, and anger, which I read the allegations that are being thrown around about Msgr. Harris. It is not so much the allegations themselves, because sadly and unfortunately we as a society become numb to such things after we are faced with similar scenarios over the course of so many years. However appalling the circumstances, the newspapers write about it as another daily event and most people shrug it off as common occurrence within the Catholic Church and its priests these days. The reality however tells a different story. Some may be guilty of the crimes they are accused of, but others are caught up in this “witch hunt” without an ounce of truth behind the allegations they face.

What caused this type of outrage and anger in me when I read these STORIES, was the fact that these allegations were being brought out about a man whom I proudly have called a father figure, a role model, and a friend for the better part of 22 years. I in my heart know, as do the accusers, as do the many thousands of people whom have had any type of interaction with Msgr. Harris that these allegations are simply LIES. This is a man who has always stood for righteousness, and has always taught his students that this is the way to lead your life. He not only taught us this lesson through his words but has always shown us by the way he conducts himself on a daily basis.

There were many boys who entered the doors of Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in the days in which Msgr. Harris patrolled the halls, taught students, provided guidance, and basically dedicated most of his life to making sure that we left that school prepared for our next steps in life. I, as will many, must honestly say that I am a better person today for having known Msgr. Harris. This is a man with integrity and it saddens me that a man like this can have his name dragged through the mud while we sit back and the church sits back and allows it to happen without any recourse. His character, dedication to his students and parishioners, and all the good work which he has done over the course of his vocation, call out for a man who deserves better than this.

First of all, unless there was an admission of this to come from Msgr. Harris’ mouth, there is absolutely no way I would ever believe any of it, and I pray that no one else is fooled into believing it. If these so-called “men” believe their allegations to be true, why wait over 20 years to bring this out to the public. Here we are allowing a man, who has done so much good in his life for so many people, to be desecrated while his accusers are protected and shielded from having to face the public and own up to their defamatory allegations. This is nothing more than cowardly actions. How much easier can we as a society make it for someone to make false accusations about someone else, without there being any penalty?

I now begin to question their motives especially considering the timing. Here we have an African American priest who has risen to some level of prominence within the Catholic Church and among the Catholic Community. Add to that his role in the organization of the Pope’s recent visit to the United States, and the publicity which surrounded it. It does not take much to realize that any disgruntled person, anyone with a grudge against the church or even any personal grudge against Msgr. Harris, let alone anyone just looking to get some money, could easily see his name in the news during these events and decide that this would be the perfect time and the perfect scenario to steal the headlines.

Do we want the TRUTH in this situation though, or are we just idly going to sit by hoping that time will sweep it under the rug and the News chasers will find another story that grabs their attention? The truth for all doubters is easily and irrevocably attained with the use of a polygraph test for all parties. For those who know Msgr. Harris like I do, a polygraph will never be needed because we know the TRUTH is that he is INNOCENT and FALSELY ACCUSED.

Peter Alves
Cathedral Preparatory Seminary – Class of 1990

Trust Well Earned

I am a graduate of Cathedral Prep, Class of 1989. Msgr. Wallace Harris was on the faculty when I was at the Prep. During that time, he was Dean of Discipline and Vice Rector. He was my teacher and advisor. In fact, I would say he was my mentor.

Msgr. Harris was the Man who welcomed us all in the morning. He was also the one we had to see when we got out of line. He was the one who wasn't afraid to let us know when we were headed in the wrong direction. He spoke plainly, so there was never any confusion. At a time in our lives when we were trying to figure out who we were, he was there to point us in the right direction. I owe much of who I am to him. I am not trying to paint the picture of a saint, just the man that I know to be Msgr. Wally Harris.

The media is painting the picture of a monster, lurking in the halls of my Alma mater. The corrupter of young men and the stealer of innocence. In light of recent events, we are all shocked and confused. We hear allegations against our friend and immediately we say, "No way. Not Possible!" We read the reports and listen to the news and may even start to think that maybe, just maybe, the reports are true. Today, you don't even have to be proven guilty. Character assassination only takes an accusation. Because it made the papers, it must be true.

We cannot allow this to happen. I cannot believe the accusations. Wally Harris has lived his life with Dignity and Grace. He has been a moral compass for so many of us. He has shown the compassion and indeed the tough love that we have needed. He has been there for me when I needed him most. That media monster could not be the same man. That monster is not Msgr. Wallace Harris.

When everything finally comes out, I know that Msgr. Harris will be vindicated. I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that He is the good man that we all know. He is one of the most humble and respectful men that I know. He is a true man of God. He has earned and will continue to have my trust and utmost respect.

Respectfully submitted,
Peter Orloff
Cathedral Prep Class of 1989

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Boy that Stands behind the Man.

My name is Benjie Flores and I am writing this letter in response to the sexual abuse allegations brought against Msgr. Wallace A. Harris of St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem. If these so-called events happen over 20 years ago, they would have occurred during Msgr. Harris’ tenure as Vice Rector and Dean of Discipline at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, a Catholic high school located on West End Avenue on 87th Street in Manhattan (now St. Agnes High School for Boys). I know this to be accurate timing since I was a student there at the time in question.

My family and I have had a personal relationship with Msgr. Harris prior to me attending Cathedral Prep while he was a visiting priest at Our Lady of Good Counsel on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I attended the parochial school (now closed by Cardinal Egan) from Grades 1-8 and was an altar boy most of those years. I even worked in the Parish Rectory for about 3 years and I knew Msgr. Harris very well and considered him to a be a valued mentor, entrusted confidant, and treasured friend. I ultimately decided to attend the Prep for my High School years because I knew he would never steer me wrong. Thank God I followed that calling. He would always refer to me as his “Son” due to the fact that we were both big portly guys that carried the majority of our weight in the belly region but oddly enough had tiny thin chicken legs to show for it. Fr. Harris quite often said that I had that quality that men hope to possess when entering the priesthood and that I should consider the vocation. Even though I chose another path in life, that did not deter him from being my dear friend and most trusted Counselor over the next 25 years.

I have maintained my close personal relationship with him over the past 2 decades, thru my college years, thru various jobs that I have held or lost, thru various girlfriends I have had and lost, from weddings and Christenings of friends and family that he presided over, to the death and burial services of my own father in March of 1995. I was in my last year at Penn State studying oversees in Costa Rica Central America when I got word that my father had suddenly passed away from a massive heart attack. It was one of those events in life that changes you forever and I don’t think I would have come out of it the way I did if not for Wally Harris. My family is primarily made up of women and I was always out-numbered by a fair margin at family functions and that was no different at my Dad’s funeral. I had held myself together pretty well for the sake of my Mom, Sisters and other family members but on the first day of the wake, when my Grandfather (my Dad’s father) walked in, I began to lose it. I could not fathom the idea of this 75 year old man having to bury his 51 year old son. As I turned teary eyed to look away, at that very moment walked right in to the arms of a just arriving Fr. Harris and that is when I let it all out. As I watch a father say good-bye to his son, another Father reached out to his Son, ME, and consoled and assured him the way Fathers do.

Wallace Harris is not only one of the finest priests’ I have ever come across in my life but he also exemplifies the true ideology of what it means to “Be a Man!” He goes the extra mile for everyone he meets while still preaching the Word of God with self-respect, positive conviction and exemplary character. He is so in touch with the trials and challenges that young men face in the world today and will always give you brutally honest feedback and sound advice even if it is not always in strict adherence to Catholic doctrine. Just imagine holding a job of this magnitude where your words, advice, actions, teachings and in many cases discipline would be the foundation of true moral fiber and shape the hearts and minds of hundreds of young impressionable boys. Msgr. Harris did this job day in and day out, every semester, every year, on weekends, during Summer & Holiday vacations, all the time. He did all this and still found ways to minister to the flock at various churches and parishes throughout the Archdiocese. To many, with no fatherly presence at home, he was that very being and figure to them.

My Dad, always told me, “Benjie it is always up to you and whatever you do in life, do it the best you can and always try to make a difference in this world. There are no short cuts!” Wally Harris exemplifies these very words and has and will continue to make a difference in this world. I have often said, the Archdiocese of NY could use a Wally Harris in every parish because the man gets the job done and I can honestly say, he wakes up every morning looking to do God’s work with everyone he meets.

I can not and will not believe these allegations unless hearing them directly from the sources and Father Harris’ complete admission to these events. If the chronology is correct, I most definitely know these accusers since our entire High School was no bigger than 100-120 total students. I just find it odd that these charges are brought up now, 20 years later when there was ample time to come clean and purge yourself of these emotional burdens, especially over the last 5+ years when the whole Boston Diocese scandal broke out and there was a nationwide manhunt for pedophile priests. The Church and the media were pleading victims and assuring them of total protection and privacy that their voices would be heard without prejudice. They promised that severe but appropriate action would be taken swiftly and accordingly and for the most part they lived up to their word.

The sad thing in this case as with so many across the county is that the mere accusation portrays a verdict of guilty in the eyes of so many due to the bad apples that did spoil the bunch. Is there a problem with pedophilia and priests in the Church? Yes, I do believe there is. This is an issue that is not just localized in the United States and the Catholic Church but all over the world in every major religion. Some of you may not know this, but the very rules and guidelines to remove a priest in the Archdiocese of NY were formulated by the man accused, Wallace Harris. That is how serious he knew this problem was and he also had the forthsight to know that many innocent men were in danger of being accused with little to no recourse in thier defense.

When all the evidence is presented and testimony is heard, I firmly believe that Msgr. Harris will be vindicated fully; but at what cost? What happens to the career of a man that many believed was to be the first NY African American Bishop since the Most Rev. Emerson Moore passed away in 1995. Many, including myself, believe Msgr. Harris has what it takes to be an Archbishop, maybe even the 1st Black Archbishop in NYC history. Damn shame that we are all so quick to presume guilt quicker than innocence just because it makes for a better storyline.

In closing, my heart-felt prayers and good-will go out to all victims of sexual abuse, no matter what their age, color, religion, sex, nationality or sexual orientation may be. It is a morally wrong and evil act that does deserve just punishment and must be dealt with in a swift efficient manner. I also pray for the Souls of the men and women that have performed such horrendous acts on innocent children that they may seek the help they so desperately need and ultimately find God again because anyone on this particular path is obviously lost and needs help to find their way home.

Benjie Flores
Cathedral Prep - Class of 1990