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Top priest banished for child sex abuse

Feb. 2, 2012 at 1:50 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- A top New York City priest been sentenced to "a life of prayer and penance" by the Vatican for molesting as many as 10 children decades ago.

Wallace Harris, 64, the former pastor of the Church of St. Charles Borremeo in Harlem, was placed under close supervision at a Catholic-run residence where he lives and has been barred from ever publicly acting as a priest, the New York Post reported Friday.

In 2008, shortly after Harris arranged Mass with Pope Benedict XVI at Yankee Stadium, two men claimed the priest had molested them at the now-closed Cathedral Preparatory High School and College in the 1980s. Then, seven more men made similar claims with the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

However, no charges were officially made because the statute of limitations had expired.

In 2010, Harris officially resigned and was barred by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan from presenting himself publicly as a priest.

Recently, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith approved the recommendation of the archdiocese's review board and assigned Harris to "a life of prayer and penance."

The congregation stopped short of defrocking Harris, which will keep him under the direct authority of Dolan, whose orders he must obey or face further discipline, the Post said.

Robert Hoatson, a New Jersey Catholic priest who has been a harsh critic of the Vatican's dealings with sex-abuse cases, blasted the decision, saying, "Monsignor Wallace Harris should be defrocked by the Vatican and Cardinal-designate Dolan should petition the holy father to do so."

"The many victims who have already come forward to report their abuse by Harris deserve better," Hoatson said. "By relegating Harris to a life of prayer and penance, the Vatican is sending a message that he will never truly be held accountable for his extensive and despicable abuse of young men."

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