Thursday, May 14, 2009

Letter to the new Archbishop..

You’re Excellency:

My name is Benjamin Flores. I am a Native NYer, age 36, living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and I belong to the Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish (OLGC). After completing 8 years of elementary education at OLGC School, in 1986 I chose to attend Cathedral Preparatory Seminary. One of the primary reasons for attending this high school was due to the guidance and nurturing friendship I developed with then Fr. Wallace Harris; who was a visiting priest who presided over Sunday Mass at the request of his friend Fr. James Doyle. At that time, Msgr. Richard Guastella, was an Associate Pastor of OLGC and he was also a former Seminarian classmate of Msgr. Harris. Knowing these men thru my youth made me contemplate the possibility of the priesthood as a path in my life. Sorry to say, I did not answer that calling but have a deep respect and admiration for the men who did and do today.

I attended the Prep from 1986-1990. Part of the faculty that molded the Man that writes you today were Msgr. James Sullivan, Msgr. George Thompson, Fr. Salvatore LaSalle (deceased), Bishop Gerald Walsh, Msgr. Kevin Nelan, Fr. Edward O’Halloran and of course Msgr. Wallace Harris. All fine men, and all I consider excellent priests. After high school, I attended Penn State and earned a Business Degree in Real Estate & International Studies. Throughout all those years, I have maintained my close friendship with Msgr. Harris and leaned on him pretty hard; especially when my Father passed in the Spring of 1995 while I was studying overseas in Costa Rica. Thank God I had him to get me through it all.

Now that you have a little background on who I am and my relationship to Wallace Harris, I would like to inform you as to why I am writing this letter. I am requesting an audience with you and approximately 5-7 former Men of the Prep to share stories, experiences and lessons learned about the man we call Wally. Also, we would like to relay our concerns and doubts about the allegations brought against Msgr. Harris, especially since most of the men you will meet were one time students of the Prep during the years in question.

I know you are a busy man with an enormous amount of work and responsibility; but I firmly believe that if a man stands accused, and whether that person is guilty or innocent, you deserve to hear all sides of the story. If victims have the right to be heard, then so do the men who were not victims and believe in the Man’s innocence. The men you will meet have some of the closest bonds to Wally and can give you some insight to the Man that has been a friend, mentor, guidance counselor, Father to those with no Dad and of course one of the finest priest we have ever known. While Wally patiently but anxiously awaits his Judgment Day, I can not let the opportunity go by without reminding you of his 37th Anniversary to the Priesthood is just a few days. I firmly believe he deserves better and I truly believe you will give him the best and fairest treatment possible.

Msgr. Harris has been away from his Parish of St. Charles Borromeo and the Archdiocese of NY since August of last year. Requests for meetings and/or simple talks have gone blatantly ignored by your Predecessor for the past year. All we want to do is talk. We are Men in our mid 30s or early 40s, but we all feel like we're being treated like children. In some way we are. Like a child that has lost their parent in a crowded airport or the busy subway system in this great City. I am turning to you Archbishop Dolan, the Sheppard of the Flock, to help us. I completely understand the graveness of the alleged crimes and mis-doings that have been brought forth by the victims but I firmly feel that the men who believe in Wally and what he stands for, are victims as well. Victims because we are being shut out. The man who we would normally go to in such troubled times as these is not available to us. We do feel a sense of great loss and I ask that you guide us and lend us your ear while we wait for our friend to return home in whatever capacity and no matter what happens. A true friend is a friend for life and Wally needs those friends even more now as he struggles with this ordeal. But a friend can’t help if he is kept in the dark. Please shed some light on this for us and help us to ultimately help him.

Make no misrepresentations, I want Msgr. Harris back in NY and at St. Charles yesterday but I do realize there is a process. But this same process has taken over 5+ years for Msgr. Charlie Kavenaugh and this is something I can not let happen.

I can be reached via email at or by phone at (917) 860-5811. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Very truly yours,

Benjamin Flores III
Cathedral Prep
Class of 1990

Friday, November 7, 2008

Congratulations to the Prep Men - Sons of Harris

Submitted by Isabel Dennis - Cummings

Back in the day, the norm for my parents and circle of friends was to motivate children; success through - family life, education, hard work and staying close to the church. Hopefully children would do better than their parents, become model citizens and be a pride to their race.

Loyalty, Honesty, Dedication, Love, a positive philosophy of life where all components in the Road to Success.

It is with pride that I salute the Cathedral Prep alumni that have stood tall, loyal to their former teacher, mentor, friend Monsignor Wallace A Harris.

" a friend in need is a friend indeed"

It is easy to be there in good happy times but you re really needed in bittersweet/ bad times.

You are to be congratulated, encouraged and recognized for your willingness to STAND UP , WRITE , ARTICULATE and DO.......... You have walked away from the toothless tigers, those waiting standing muted.

Isabel Dennis - Cummings

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why the silence?

It has been almost 4 months since Msgr. Harris was removed as Pastor, yet not one word from the Archdiocese as to what steps are to be taken to resolve this nightmare. All these unanswered questions, yet the Leader of the Roman Catholic Church in New York says nothing. I was interviewed by the Assistant DA of New York and they were more interested in resolving these allegations in a timely fashion. Can the same be said for these Church proceedings? I've been told to pray and God's Will be done; but I worry about one man's lack of will to do what is right and true. Return Msgr. Harris to active priestly duty. This is what I pray for!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reputation Thief

Isabel Dennis -Cummings is the author of this post.

"who steals my purse steals trash; tis something, nothing; 'twas mine, 'tis his and has been slaves to thousands. But he that fliches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed." William Shakespeare

The allegations against Msgr. Harris brings Shakespeare's words into 2008 reality. The Archdiocesan press release in August manifested another 2008 reality that we have witnessed that when black men are accused they are deemed GUILTY to be proven otherwise.

The excuse that the Bishops Dallas 2002 remedy to solve the sins of the priest by providing aid/sympathy for the alleged victim and public exposure to the priest - takes the situation over the top. What happened to innocent until proven guilty or privacy until the trial / inquiry is proven. WOULD JESUS SANCTION SUCH A TRAVESTY?

If this is the reward for years of dedicated service; submission to the establishment; being the BEST - then it begs the question whether Men of Color native born to America should entertain a life of priestly ministry. It appears the Archdiocese sees the profit of the cosmopolitan, highly educated, foreign born to fulfill the priest quota and the color diversity publicity perception.

The Harris assassination motivates the wondering about the current status of the Black priest in the New York Archdiocese - who are they - where are they - are there any active or are most in a controlled box of inactivity like Msgr. Harris?

The procedure for justice to address allegations against priest accused of child molestation needs to be thorough, within a reasonable time frame and sensitive to both the alleged victim and alleged accused. Protection, Privacy, Sensitivity must be ingredients in this process. Honesty in this process must be key for Justice.

Wallace Harris has become the sacrificial lamb in this 2008 mismanagement of justice. God is showing us, this procedure ruins the reputation of the man and leaves him damaged forever.

Shakespeare's wisdom, Jesus Christ story, the black mans struggle in racist America manifested in the Msgr. Wallace Harris travesty.

Isabel Dennis- Cummings

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Faith in a Good Man!

I first met Msgr. Harris in September of 1983 back when he was just Fr. Harris to those of us that knew him well. He was certainly an intimidating presence back then....especially when you are 5'3 and 125 lbs soaking wet. He came off as a stern disciplinarian at first but I quickly grew to realize that he was smart, kind, and a very witty guy that just wanted the best for all of us at Cathedral Prep. I will always remember Fr. Harris telling me to stand up straight at the Clairvaux Retreat House after I grew to a towering 5'6. I often thought of that as I proceeded to grow almost another foot. I learned a lot from Fr. Harris about never giving up, always try to find humor in every situation, and always being prepared to put your best foot forward in everything that you pursue.

The man that I knew couldn't hurt a young man and anyone for that manner. I truly believe that his accusers have misconstrued situations. I'm quiet sure that Fr. Harris will face this adversity with dignity and his faith will only grow. There are thousands of people that have faith in this man so hopefully this terrible situation will end in a fair conclusion.

Ed McCool
Cathedral Prep (Class of '87)

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Godfather...

It has been over 10 weeks since you were taken away. You are missed by so many people, but I know you are well aware of that. I know how much you miss everyone as well!

Hopefully, this terrible nightmare will quickly come to an end, and we can once again make our BJ Wholesale runs, “One-Day Only” shopping trips, and countless other wacky adventures we have done thru the years.

Most importantly, your guidance, leadership, the understanding you provide and the love you show me and my family is what I miss the most in this unusual time of forced separation.

So until we meet again; know that I love you and pray for your speedy return every single day.

Love Always!

The Godson...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Say Something

Statement on Monsignor Wallace Harris by the Archdiocese of NY

FOR RELEASE: August 3, 2008
For further information:
Joseph Zwilling
(212) 371-1011 ext. 2997

"An allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor against Reverend Monsignor Wallace Harris, Pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, has been received by the Archdiocese of New York. In accord with Archdiocesan policy and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the matter was immediately investigated by the Archdiocese and then referred to the Office of the District Attorney for Manhattan. The District Attorney’s Office conducted its own investigation, in the course of which it received a second allegation, which it subsequently reported to the Archdiocese. Monsignor Harris has therefore been directed to step aside from his position as pastor and is not permitted to function as a priest until such time as the Archdiocesan Advisory Review Board has studied the matter and made its recommendations to the Archdiocese. Monsignor Harris has denied the allegations, which concern actions that allegedly occurred twenty years ago."


TODAY IS OCTOBER 1, 2008, ACTUALLY 2 MONTHS SINCE MSGR. HARRIS WAS REMOVED FROM ST.CHARLES (he was rushed out like a thief in the night the Thursday before the grand announcement).

  • No advisory board meeting yet.

  • Now we have 11 accusers.

  • No more statements from the Archdiocese.

  • No visits to St. Charles from any Archdiocesan officials.

  • No show of support or comfort to the Parish



And all of that now means NOTHING. I guess right now i should be more like my teacher and mentor and just be OBEDIENT AND LOYAL to the Church of New York. Hell NO, my mentor and teacher instilled values in me along with obedience and loyalty like following the actions of Jesus. Jesus walked among the accused, and stood up for them.

For the past 5 weeks at St. Charles, we have been told to pray, be silent, wait, and to not do anything to hurt MSGR. any more, keep tithing, sign up, don't talk to the press and so on and so on. I HAD ENOUGH OF THAT. please someone tell me what are we waiting for, who are we waiting for and why are we waiting?

  • MSGR. didn't give you a chance to wait to sign up, he told you what he needed you to do.

  • MSGR. didn't bite his tongue, he said what he had to say and didn't care about your little feelings.

  • MSGR. needed money for a project, and you gave your money for the completion.

  • MSGR. was loyal to 1011 first avenue, but he was not afraid of the archdiocese.

  • MSGR. is our leader, and he has EMPOWERED each and every one of us to lead.




Either one will be good for me, I will continue to pray but the Archdiocese will not receive another penny from me or my family until this humiliation of MSGR. HARRIS IS OVER.

David Dennis - Class of 1987

Monday, September 29, 2008


The Great Commission, in Christian tradition, is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples, that they spread his teachings to all the nations of the world.

The most familiar version of the Great Commission is depicted in Matthew 28:16-20:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Why do I bring this up? What does the Great Commission have to do with this Blog or the situation surrounding Msgr. Harris? Two very important reasons that are the very true foundation and heart of the Roman Catholic Church. One may escape you, since not all will answer the calling. And that is to spread the Good News of God as a priest. Second, here Jesus gave his final mortal instructions to the remaining eleven disciples to go out and be His canon, His voice and tell the story of Jesus Christ and let all peoples know from every land that forgiveness and complete redemption can only be found thru Him. Jesus gave these men the Power to forgive sins just as He had forgave sins and He also gave them the authority to go out confidently and proclaim the Word knowing that He would always be by their side and their place in the Kingdom of Heaven was awaiting them; but first they had work to do.

So, these men went out and preached, recruited and baptized in His name and started to build the Church as we know it. Or do we really know it? Question? What if these men decided to go home after Jesus left them and do nothing? What if they were all just "Yes Men" and simply chose the easier route and the safer path of no danger and less headaches? The Roman Empire and many Jewish Leaders were still after them and wanted them silenced at all costs. What if they decided to just clam up and do NOTHING? This is an ironic tale because it mirrors and runs parallel to the exact same instincts that many people in this situation regarding Msgr. Harris would have the Men of Cathedral Prep do. What? Absolutely Nothing!! How does this follow in the words of Jesus?

It is our understanding that the BEST coarse of action according to many is to just pray and take NO action whatsoever. The Archdiocese will handle it in a proper way to ensure Wally is given his day in court. Whatever that means! I tell you all now; everyone that is reading this Blog, that this is not the nature of the Prep men that Msgr. Wallace Harris taught in high school, mentored thru college and has been a devout and loyal friend for over 25-30 years. Like the remaining eleven apostles, I too have been given my instructions and know in my heart what I must do and that is NOT to sit back and wait and just pray. This NEW GREAT COMMISSION did not come from Wally's Lips nor did it come from a voice in the clouds or a burning bush. My directive came from men like Fr. Sal LaSalla, Fr. Eddy O'Halloran, Msgr. George Thompson, Fr. Kevin Neelan, Fr. Gerry Walsh (now Bishop Walsh), Fr. James Sullivan, Fr. Wallace Harris and even John Cardinal O'Connor. All these men, priests yes, but more importantly our teachers and role models during our time at Cathedral Prep. These priests instilled in us the desire to be good Christian men proclaiming our faith and told us to shout from mountains on high for all to hear; because how will people know who you are and what you have to say unless they hear your voice; especially when held in darkness. Isn't it ironic that our sport teams were known as the Cathedral Prep Canons? Now, all of a sudden, people want the Canons to sit dormant and quiet. Doesn't make sense to me....

There is nothing wrong about voicing support for someone you believe in. There is nothing wrong with showing that support either. Fear is probably the most powerful weapon one can use against another; it's the Devil's own WMD. Fear is the EXACT opposite of what Christianity is all about. Those eleven men were in danger of losing their lives every single day but they chose NOT to be silent. They chose to be CANONS!

I want to know why people are still scared to voice their feelings on the Wally matter? Why do some do and others don't do? What is the real danger here? Wally not being allowed to go back to St. Charles and be Pastor? Is that it? Or, maybe Wally being defrocked as a priest? Maybe.. It is possible. The New York DA's office has said that Wally can't go to jail under any of these allegations, even if proven true, due to the statute of limitations having expired many years ago. So what is the fear? I understand why Wally can not speak for himself at this time. Besides his pen that drafted some of the rules and guidelines that govern his exile right now, he took a vow of obedience to the Church and to his Bishop. Fine! But that does not mean the flock has to follow the Shepherd on this journey as well. Just cause the Cardinal says so, makes it so? Maybe it is the American spirit in me that makes me cry out for swift justice and a speedy trial, but that does not seem to be the way of the Church in these cases.

I truly believe Cardinal Egan should tackle the issue head on and address it with vigor and sincerity; like Pope Benedict did on his recent US visit. The problem of sexual abuse by priests exists and we can not hide from it. It exists in every religion but just like the United States, when you're the Biggest and the Richest, everyone is gunning for you and if you are always the 500 lbs gorilla in the room, you are the easiest target to blame for the problem that exists well beyond the walls of Vatican City or St. Patrick's Cathedral. I believe Cardinal Egan should voice support for his priests and let them publicly know that he is praying for them as well as let victims know that they too have room in his heart, thoughts and prayers as well. This is not an issue to take sides either way; but as the Shepard it is his responsibility to tend to all in the flock and not just the wounded or the dead. I pray for Msgr. Harris every nite that this ordeal would come to some resolution soon and I also pray for Cardinal Egan that he may see this thru to the very end, no matter what the result because I am sure this weighs heavily on his mind and heart. He has a job to do and it must be carried out at all costs. He knows his popularity is not at the height or magnitude of a Terrance Cooke or John O'Connor. But make no mistake, he is NOT a stupid man. He knows and appreciates the gravity of the matter, but I just wish that the Cardinal, who is known for his distinct and booming voice, would listen very closely to this group of Men from the Prep and realize that more voices and testiments should be heard in suport of the man not so much the issue. Being a CANON is not just a Team Name or Mascot for us Men of Cathedral Prep, it is the way we were taught to live our daily lives.

In Matthew 10:27 Jesus instructs His followers: "Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops!"

Benjie Flores
Class of 1990

Sunday, September 28, 2008

In Support Of Msgr. Wallace Harris

My first experience of school was St. Joseph's of the Holy Family in Harlem. It was walking distance from my home where I grew up with an older brother and younger sister. It was where I spent 8 years growing through childhood and adolescence. It was a place that shaped me as a man and it was the place where I met Fr. Harris. I was 6 years old then, now I'm 46. For forty years I spent minutes, hours, days, months and years in the company of Fr. Harris, now Msgr. Harris and never once was he inappropriate with me in any way.

I write these words first and foremost to make a clear statement that I believe in the innocence of Msgr. Harris. I believe that what is going on here is much bigger than what anyone currently understands. And I am certain that there are people in the Catholic community in New York City who are determined to destroy the legacy, the work and the influence of this giant of a man.

I grew up in Harlem and although I went to Catholic schools all my life, attended Church every Sunday, and learned to turn the other cheek. Let it be known that in my world only a coward accuses through the voice of another. I grew up in a place where both men and women came forward to accuse another in the light of day. And I learned on those streets that only those brave enough to be seen are worthy of reply. At this time there are 10 accusations. Of the 10 one has come forward and with that we are all certain that this one face is the face of an opportunist and a liar. And as such not worthy of further comment.

So where are the other 9? At a meeting of the 20 Cathedral Men we were able to deduce that the first two accuser's stories have numerous holes in them. And we also discovered that not one of us had been questioned or called. And that no one else that we knew had been questioned or called. To this date, no one who supports Msgr. Harris has been asked to witness for him. It would seem strange to me indeed that the Archdoicese of NY who sponsored the education of every Cathedral Prep alumnae is not interested in hearing from us. But there are two, and two seems to be enough to condemn. If Msgr. was not already condemned he would still be at St. Charles. The actions taken against him are the actions taken against those deemed guilty. And his deafening silence - a silence that he has been informed by them is necessary - further confirms that the Archdoicese of NY presumes his guilt over his innocence.

With so many new accusations, don't you think its time that we hear from him? With these new accusations being levied, don't you think its time that voices of support rise up to be heard? Or are we like sheep going to the slaughter? Too conditioned to even look up and see our fate. Too trusting to rear up and protect ourselves. Just little dumb sheep happily walking to the slaughterhouse and bringing those that we love along with us.

Brian Dunn
Class of 1981

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Son of H

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!