Priest Accused of Sex Abuse; Lawsuit Filed

February 17, 2011

[with video]

A lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the Monterey County Catholic Diocese accusing a Salinas priest of sexual misconduct.

The civil lawsuit accuses Father Edward Fitz-Henry of abusing a 14-year-old boy seven years ago at the Madonna del Sasso Church. The charges include sexual harassment, sexual misconduct and inflicting emotional distress.

The alleged victim, who is now 21, said the sexual abuse took place when he was an altar boy and in the choir at Madonna del Sasso.

A lawyer for the man said the priest started with talking to the boy about sex during confessionals, and then later sexually assaulted him in a bathroom.

Charlie Keely, an attorney for Fitz-Henry, said the priest "completely and adamantly" denies inappropriate contact.

"He did know him as a parishioner at both churches, but he's shocked by the allegations," Keely said.

The Monterey Catholic Diocese conducted its own private investigation of Fitz-Henry. The investigator said they found that an incident 20 years ago that the church at the time called a "boundary issue," was indeed sexual in nature.

On Wednesday, advocates for sexual abuse victims of the Catholic Church gathered in front of the Diocese offices.

Group members said they want the Bishop to release every document regarding credible allegations of sexual misconduct.

Fitz-Henry has been suspended indefinitely until a church trial is held. The date for that trial has not been set.


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