I write this letter with tears in my eyes and anger in my heart. I am writing in defense of a man who has basically served as a Father in my life. I speak of Monsignor Wallace A. Harris. To us who grew up with him at St. Joseph’s of the Holy Family in the 70s and 80s he is Wally, H, or The Priest with the huge afro.
As a ’85 graduate of St. Joseph’s and ’89 graduate of Cathedral Prep- I am very familiar with H as well as the accusers. For me as well as other St. Joseph’s students with only a mother at home H was not only the father figure but basketball coach, camp counselor, teacher, director of the altar boys, etc. You see main stream America- Harlem in the 70s and 80s was not the Bill Clinton, Starbucks and expensive brownstones area you know it now to be- it was the center of the Crack epidemic and making ends meet with odd jobs and the help of welfare.
My mother stressed books, Church and sports. These values were some of the same ones that H stood for and has continued to preach at St. Charles Borromeo. When deciding a high school I knew that H would continue to take care of me and help me grow spiritually and become a young adult. Cathedral Prep is basically no longer around because it was geared to stress the priesthood. Obviously that idea did not work as me and other 14 year old boys picked the school for its excellent academic reputation, its strong ties with the New York Catholic elementary schools and it just happened to be the most inexpensive Catholic Boys high school at the time. At the Prep H was a father figure to Whites, Blacks, Asians and Latinos who shared a common faith and wanted to become positive individuals in society.
In my opinion sexual predators are more than likely to violate a person they have known for a long time and have close ties to their families (a position of trust and confidence). Monsignor Harris was the dean of discipline at the school basically the person who tells young men to get to class or find a new high school. See, the first accuser did not do well at Cathedral Prep and was gone after 2 years. The second accuser graduated, played sports and was very outgoing- hardly the resume of someone who has been abused for 4 years. Then again are these men still practicing Catholics or do they resent the religion or just attempting to get back at their old Dean of Discipline? Then we have a third accuser who also has started his own church. Let’s be serious if someone molests you, you get away from them not continue to be involved with them for the next 10 years!
For this Harlem boy, Monsignor Harris is not a sexual predator. Instead, he is the father figure I needed to lead and encourage me at Cathedral Prep, Syracuse University and Hofstra University School of Law. See growing up in the 80s in Harlem usually lead to teen pregnancy, jail, drug dealing or death if one did not have the right role models. Maybe the Archdiocese of New York and District Attorneys should contact more men like me for our opinion- believe me I can get them there to testify!