New allegations against David Haas prompt top music publisher to sever ties with hymn composer

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA

David Haas in a concert at the Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines. / Titopao/wikimedia. CC BY SA 4.0

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 4, 2021 / 21:12 pm (CNA).

A top publisher of hymns will stop publishing works by David Haas after receiving additional allegations of sexual misconduct against the embattled Catholic composer.

“We have suspended our publishing and sponsorship relationship with Mr. Haas and have also removed his music, books, and recordings from our catalog and website,” said a letter from Alec Harris, president of GIA Publications.

The letter was sent to each diocese in late July. Portions of the letter were made public on August 2.

Harris said he was “deeply heartbroken” when scores of women accused Haas of varying degrees of sexual misconduct last year.

“I assume that by now you are aware of the non-profit organization that supports survivors of sexual abuse, Into Account, which recently released a comprehensive investigation and report about these allegations at www.intoaccount.org/reports/,” Harris wrote in the letter.

“Unfortunately, new information has just surfaced reporting continued grooming behaviors by Mr. Haas towards a young woman, which is why we are reaching out to you now with this email to share the actions and position we have taken with regard to Mr. Haas’ music,” he said.

A 21-year-old woman who had attended Haas’ summer camp, Music Ministry Alive!, when she was a teen, reached out to Into Account in June 2021. Haas, who is in his mid-60s, had sent the woman a letter that amounted to grooming behavior.

“While we understand that Mr. Haas maintains his innocence, we took these actions out of compassion and respect for the dozens of survivors who have come forward,” Harris said in the letter. “We believe Mr. Haas’ music no longer has a place in communities committed to maintaining a safe environment.”

Haas, a member of the laity, was a mainstay in the “contemporary liturgical music” movement that began in the 1970s, along with composers Marty Haugen, Fr. Michael Joncas, Dan Schutte, and the “St. Louis Jesuits” group.

Among Haas’ more popular songs are, “Glory to God,” “You are Mine,” “We are Called,” and “Blest are They,” among many others.

At least two dioceses–the Diocese of Oakland and the Diocese of Jefferson City–announced that they would be permanently suspending the use of Haas’ music at their parishes as a result of the new letter.

On June 13, 2020, GIA Publications announced that they had dropped Haas in January after receiving accusations of sexual misconduct and sexual assault.

“Early this year we became aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by David Haas, and we learned the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis was considering a decision not to provide him a letter of suitability,” GIA Publications said in a June 13, 2020 post on Facebook.

Haas resides in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

“In response, we suspended our sponsorship and publishing relationship with Mr. Haas, and have not sponsored his work since late January,” they said at the time.

Following the publication of a report by Into Account, the suspension has now been made permanent.

Following the initial accusations, nearly half of the dioceses in the United States urged parishes to stop playing his music during Mass and at other events, at least until an investigation into his conduct had concluded.


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12 Comments

  1. These are just allegations and while I have compassion for any victim of abuse, its disgraceful to find someone guilty before they have even been tried which is what these actions amount to.

    • To those who have been given much, much will be expected.
      Anyone in a position of leadership or influence, especially when the influence is over the young or vulnerable, should be held to the highest standard. I am a retired Catholic school teacher. I guarantee I would have been immediately dismissed for some of the comments, innuendos, and actions made toward me and 2 of my daughters 20+ years ago by another “famous” Catholic Church musician. My diocese did absolutely nothing. We were told “It’s not the whole of (person’s name.)” But this person played a pivotal role in damaging and undermining my children’s trust in the Church. Eventually, he was put “underground” for a few years until something “move visible” happened. Afterward, he resurfaced in another diocese. Sound familiar?
      It is time to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to people who abuse their position and listen to the “targets” of their bad, and at worst sick, behavior. This is not an argument about church music nor is it an attack on a person. It doesn’t matter how famous, popular, or powerful someone is. It doesn’t matter if the person is a better musician than Bach. While we stand in a stupor, drinking in the “charisma” of these predators, their “targets” are being dehumanized and losing their trust in the Church. How many testimonies does it take before we listen?
      Unlike some others who have commented here, I have enjoyed singing some of David Hass’ music. I am not against contemporary music in the Church. But a “rock concert” is not going to keep young people or anyone Catholic, especially when they or their family or friends are being abused by the ones appointed to shepherd them.
      I believe in innocent until proven guilty, but I also believe that fame, power, or popularity should not give a person special allowances. Too many Catholics are unwilling to look beyond their own comfort zone in the Church, let alone listen to the “cries of the poor.” People who step forward in cases like this are mistrusted, called crazy, diminished, blamed, etc.
      Most decent people don’t want to see someone else lose their job. But a choice has to be made. Why do we as a Church keep choosing the famous, powerful, and popular over our ordinary brothers and sisters? That’s what predators count on. That’s how they succeed.
      PS. Yes, I am still Catholic. I am Catholic because of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

    • My low opinion of his music has never wavered over the years. And it wouldn’t change even if he was made a “Venerable” or praised by a pope.

  2. I quite liked his Mass our choir sang. (I don’t know if he had more than one).
    I also believe I remember our choir director (different choir, different director) saying that Schubert’s Ave Maria was once a no-no because he wrote it for his mistress. More than a few musicians/artists were scoundrels. (Not suggesting Haas’s music is on the same level as Schubert’s).

  3. His music is unsuitable for the Liturgy. Good riddance. This is a small victory for those who want actual sacred music at Mass.

    Haas admitted guilt when he apologized last year on his website, after initially denying any wrongdoing. I don’t think any diocese can or should support the use of his music.

  4. Surely Haas deserves his day in court in order to prove or disprove his innocence, however, in my court his contribution to church music has been an abysmal failure.

    The OCP has 733 hymns in their publication. Now tell me, just which congregation needs more than 50 to 100 hymns(or 25 to 50) in the first place. Not only that, looking through the publication, more than just the David Haas hymns should be scrapped. For far too long Catholics have been subjected to the singing of a new church into being and having things raining down upon her people, for crying out loud. We could have a grand bon fire with all the misbegotten hymns in print forced upon us in the past 50 years.

    Let’s get back to worshipping God with our voices, not each other.

    • OCP preys on musically ignorant music directors/cantors and distracted/uninvolved pastors. They have an integrated system that “makes it easy” for any one off the street to choose music to plan a Mass. Unfortunately, the choices are usually all of their second-rate composers with their accompanying mediocre music. OCP profits off selling the copyrights of this music. Parishes purchase the same music year after year in a missalette-type subscription format (“Breaking Bread”) rather than a hardbound pew hymnal. It’s expensive besides.

      As for Haas, he’s not just a nameless, faceless composer, who has been accused of some sinful things; rather, he used his parish-sponsored workshops and his “Music Ministry Alive” group (which he founded) to groom underage victims whom he later would go on to abuse. He is well-known in certain circles, and used his stature within the Church to gain access to these women. Talk about a “safe environment.” Hearing his music at Mass now, whether one is a victim or simply has heard about these accusations, makes worship a distraction. We can do so much better.

      There is a wealth of Catholic music out there which can often be downloaded and reprinted for free, if you look around online or have a savvy music director at your parish. Until parishes have the scales removed from their eyes, OCP will remain the driving force behind mediocre music during the Liturgy.

      St. Cecilia, pray for us!

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