Diocese suspends all use of music by composer David Haas

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

The Diocese of Davenport has suspended use of the music of David Haas, a well-known composer of contemporary hymns, because of new allegations of sexual abuse of minors. Bishop Thomas Zinkula released a statement Oct. 14 about the musician and allegations against him:

“On June 16, 2020, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis issued a statement that David Haas was denied a letter of suitability (letter of good standing) after receiving reports that Mr. Haas “acted inappropriately” with adult women. Therefore, Mr. Haas cannot be invited to any event to perform or present in the Diocese of Davenport. Mr. Haas directs the Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry in Eagan, Minnesota (https://www.archspm.org/statement-regarding-david-haas/).”

“Since then, additional reports have been received that Mr. Haas abused minors. Effective today (Oct. 14), in addition to the restrictions above, I have suspended the use of David Haas’ music at all diocesan events. Pastors, principals and leaders of other Catholic institutions should consider the sensitivities involved with using Haas’ music in liturgies or other parish or school events, and take appropriate steps to fully support those who have been harmed by sexual assault or abuse. These restrictions have also been applied by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis where Mr. Haas resides.”

Eleanor Kiel, director of liturgy and music at St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf said, “The news about the allegations of sexual misconduct against David Haas are troubling. When we first learned about it, it was shocking.”

The Bettendorf parish used many of his hymns, such as “We Are Called,” “Blest Are They,” “We Have Been Told” and “You Are Mine.” Each of those songs were probably used twice a year, but most frequently at funerals. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Kiel said the parish used two of the songs as instrumentals at funerals. “His music is good. Solid musically and good theological text. It tends to move people. ‘We Are Called’ is a theme song for justice.”

Kiel said she understands the bishop’s sensitivity toward victims of abuse. “However, I feel that the art that Haas has created, once it is given to the church, should be considered separate from the man who composed it.”

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Kim Noftsker, music director at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport, said she agrees with and understands the bishop’s reasons for suspending the music of Haas. The parish has used a few of his hymns. “Most of his songs are better suited to the piano,” said Noftsker, who usually plays the organ. She said parishioners were familiar with the hymns of Haas and enjoyed singing them. “The text of ‘Blest are They’ is nice when the Beatitudes are read. This particular song quotes the Scripture quite well.”

Noftsker said many dioceses across the county have banned Haas’ music. “I belong to several organist groups and this has been a big discussion among music directors and organists. In this case, I feel this is the right decision for this time as he is still a living composer and his (alleged) victims are living as well.”


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