Diocese: Second Priest Failed to Divulge Allegations

Hollister Free Lance
February 19, 2011

[with video]

Father Edward Fitz-Henry, shown in this 2007 file photo, has been suspended due to claims he inappropriately touched a minor in 2005.

The Diocese of Monterey has indefinitely suspended a visiting priest it says failed to divulge that an accuser - who is alleging sexual misconduct by a San Juan Bautista clergyman - notified him months ago about the claims.

A diocese spokesman Friday confirmed that its own investigator Thursday revealed the unnamed priest was approached by the accuser in November or December and told about the allegation. That second priest is from another diocese, but has performed duties over the past two years in this one, said Tom Riordan, the diocese spokesman.

Riordan said the diocese is not naming the priest because he is not accused of sexual misconduct. He declined to confirm specifically whether that priest, who was helping in this region because he has been taking care of some family members in the area, has worked at parishes in San Benito County. He also noted, though, how the priest has worked in four counties here - while the diocese is made up of Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and San Luis Obispo counties. Riordan did say the Diocese of Monterey has informed the bishop where the priest is based.

"He's worked at various places in our diocese, and San Benito is part of our diocese," Riordan said.

The latest revelation followed a lawsuit filed recently in Monterey County by the 21-year-old, who is alleging that Father Edward Fitz-Henry touched him inappropriately at age 14 in 2005 while serving as an altar boy at Salinas' Madonna Del Sasso Parish. The lawsuit alleges that Fitz-Henry discussed sexual issues with the then 14-year-old that eventually escalated to sexual touching. Also listed in the lawsuit are the Roman Catholic Bishop of Monterey, Richard Garcia, and Madonna Del Sasso Parish.

The diocese is contending it learned of the alleged abuse in January.

Riordan said the diocese is "not pleased" by the latest revelation, especially after telling members of the media earlier this week that he had been "confidently saying we didn't learn (about the allegations) until Jan. 7."

"This priest did not report that to anyone," the spokesman said. "Because of that, today, Bishop Garcia removed that priest from his faculties to function as a priest in our diocese."

Riordan stressed that the church has strict policies about priests reporting such allegations.

"This is a penalty because he didn't follow our procedures and policies," he said. "We take it very serious."


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