A retired priest who has been sued by at least six men over alleged child sex abuse was allowed to participate in a summer music camp for high school students in Minnesota, according to Isaac Henson, who attended the camp as a high school student from 2015 to 2017.
“I distinctly remember [him] at morning prayer, evening prayer, sitting up front,” Henson said. “How was that allowed to happen?”
The retired priest in question is George DeCosta, and the first lawsuit filed against him was filed in 2012. DeCosta was a regular at the music camp. The summer camp, Music Ministry Alive (MMA), was run by composer David Haas at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The camp’s website described itself in 2016 as “an annual-five day summer institute held at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, for youth and adult leaders who have a passion for liturgical music and the desire to serve as ministers in their parishes and schools. This experience is open to any young person entering their 10th, 11th, or 12th grade year in high school or their first or second year of college.”
113 former MMA participants, parents and team leaders have sent a petition to St. Catherine’s. The petition seeks “transparency and accountability” for the presence of DeCosta in the program, as well as explanations from MMA.
DeCosta had his priestly functions stripped by the Honolulu Diocese in 2009 because of a credible allegation of child sex abuse, according to the diocese. At least six men have filed lawsuits accusing DeCosta of sexually abusing them when they were boys in the time since, and settlements have been reached in five of the cases.
DeCosta was listed on MMA’s “Meet The Team” page in 2012.
Msgr. Gary Secor, vicar general of the Honolulu Diocese said DeCosta’s participation in MMA “was completely without the permission of Bishop Silva.”
“From 2009 on, he was prohibited from activities that put him in contact with minors as part of his temporary and then permanent suspenstion,” Secor said.
Haas and former MMA assistant director Lori True told the Star Tribune in an email that they weren’t aware of the abuse allegations against DeCosta until after he was involved in the program, adding that DeCosta “was never convicted of any of these allegations.”
DeCosta was laicized by Pope Francis in July according to the Honolulu Diocese, meaning DeCosta is no longer a priest.