Sexual Abuse Allegations against Central Coast Priest

February 15, 2011

[with video]

SALINAS, Calif. - Central Coast News has learned of some allegations of sexual abuse against a Central Coast priest who has been with the Diocese of Monterey for over 20 years. It all started on January 7th, when an alleged victim wrote a letter to the Diocese of Monterey claiming Father Edward Fitz-Henry sexually abused him or her while he was a priest at Madonna Del Sasso Catholic Church.

Fitz-Henry spent two years at Madonna Del Sasso; and it's one of two churches the diocese is handing out fliers, to see if there's anymore potential victims. "Many people came up to me and they were surprised and shocked and voiced that to me," said Tom Riordan with the Diocese of Monterey.

Tom Riordan said the diocese immediately took action, suspending Father Fitz-Henry from preaching at his current church, the San Juan Bautista Mission. The diocese called Salinas Police and opened its own investigation. That's when the church found out about more allegations against Fitz-Henry.

"We learned additional information on an incident that occurred almost 20 years ago. The Independent Review Board has determined that there is evidence that this past incident involves sexual misconduct with a minor, and it appears to be credible," said Riordan.

Riordan said it's important the church remains transparent about what it finds. We know Fitz-Henry joined the Diocese of Monterey about 25 Years ago. The diocese said both alleged cases of abuse happened after he was hired, and nothing unusual showed up in the hiring process.

"We do a lot of screening work. The seminary is a whole formation process and then once we find something out, we take these kinds of steps to remove people when there is a credible allegation," said Riordan.

The Diocese of Monterey doesn't know if there are other victims. Central Coast News called Salinas Police to see where its investigation on Fitz-Henry stands, but haven't heard back.

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