MPR: Retired priest accused of abuse teaches sex ed to troubled teens


A 79-year-old priest formerly active in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accused of abusing two teens decades ago, currently teaches sex education to troubled teens in Wright County, MPR News reports in a lengthy new investigative report.

Harry Walsh was accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl in 1965 when he was assigned to a church in Detroit, MPR reports. Decades later, in 1996, she received a settlement payment from the Detroit Archdiocese, MPR reports.

Walsh arrived in the Twin Cities at age 34 in 1969 and served at St. Pius X in White Bear Lake, and then at three other Twin Cities parishes during the 1970s, MPR reports. He then started a new job in 1980 at Holy Trinity in South St. Paul, where he would later be accused of sexually touching a 12-year-old altar boy. MPR reports that the boy did not report the abuse until he was grown, in 1996, and he did not follow up with a lawsuit, and the archdiocese dropped the complaint.

Walsh spoke to MPR for the story, and he denied ever abusing any children and said he had never heard of the accusation about the altar boy. He also denied he had sexually abused the girl in Detroit.

MPR notes that Walsh's career later took some odd turns into sex research – in 1991, he sought a doctorate degree at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Sexual Health in San Francisco, later unsuccessfully sought a "sexologist" job with the church, and in 1997 contributed to a book, "How I Got Into Sex: Leading Researchers, Sex Therapists, Educators, Prostitutes, Sex Toy Designers, Sex Surrogates, Transsexuals, Criminologists, Clergy, and more..." In the book, he described a life of sexual repression, MPR reports.

MPR reports that Walsh is now paid $1,508 a month in Wright County to provide “medically accurate sexuality education, pregnancy prevention and STI prevention to high risk youth or adults.” A county official who signed his contract said she was unaware of any abuse allegations.

Walsh was not on a recently disclosed secret Archdiocese list of priests believed to have been "credibly accused" of abuse.

The MPR report was just the latest chapter in an ever-unraveling priest-abuse crisis for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Among the latest developments, Archbishop John Nienstedt – who had written to the Vatican just last year voicing frustration that abuse claims against Walsh had been dropped – himself this week faced an abuse charge.

Nienstedt adamantly denies he touched a teen's buttocks during a group photo after a 2009 confirmation ceremony. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is defending Nienstedt, and seeks to identify the accuser.

Nienstedt on Sunday in a homily at an Edina church apologized for not doing more to respond to reports of priest abuse.

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