Wright County takes action after sexual abuse allegations disclosed.
A former priest, who was named in an internal archdiocese memo about parishes with “some connection to a history of clergy sexual abuse,” has been suspended from his work teaching sex education for Wright County.
Wright County Commissioner Charles Borrell said the county board, acting as the Human Services Board, unanimously voted Monday to suspend and cancel Harry Walsh’s contract with the county effective Jan. 31, 2014. He said the board made its decision “without casting any guilt.”
“We made it clear we’re not saying he did this or did that in the past,” Borrell said. “But there was some concern that one of our large school districts — Monticello — said they didn’t want him working with their district, so that makes it pretty hard to do the job.”
Walsh, 79, had been teaching birth control, sexual disease prevention and human sexuality for the Wright County Human Services Agency in Buffalo for the past 16 years.
Walsh, one of five priests named in the 2002 internal memo, was not included on a list of clerics who face credible allegations of child abuse that was published earlier this month by Archbishop John Nienstedt in response to public pressure after new allegations of clergy sex abuse this fall.
The list was compiled in 2004 as part of a national reform effort by the Catholic church in the United States and was to include all priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse up to that point. Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North has given the archdiocese until Jan. 6 to name any priests added to the list since then.
As of now, Walsh’s name isn’t included on the list, said Archdiocesan spokesman Jim Accurso.
“We will comply with the judge’s order per Jan. 6 deadline to put out additional names of priests who have credible allegations that we have deemed to be credible,” Accurso said.
Walsh issued a statement last week saying “any allegations of abuse by me are unfounded.” He said he petitioned to leave the priesthood in 2010 and that his decision had nothing to do with two allegations of child abuse in his file. He couldn’t be reached for comment on the suspension.
Nienstedt said last week he was unaware of those abuse allegations against Walsh until 2010. One of the cases, dating to Walsh’s service in Detroit decades ago, resulted in a monetary settlement for the alleged victim, the archbishop said.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788