Accused Priest Hires Attorney for Lawsuit

By Connor Ramey
Hollister Free Lance
February 21, 2011

[with video]

The San Juan Bautista Mission priest accused of sexual misconduct has hired a new attorney in his civil lawsuit accusing him of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old member of the Madonna Del Sasso Parish in Salinas in 2005.

The new attorney, San Juan Bautista's Daniel DeVries, will represent Edward Fitz-Henry in the civil case filed Tuesday in Monterey. A criminal investigation is under way by the Salinas Police Department, but no charges have been filed against Fitz-Henry. The priest does, though, already have a criminal attorney hired as well.

Fitz-Henry was suspended indefinitely after a church investigation discovered new information about a previous incident 19 years ago. The new information about a sexual relationship in Carmel 19 years ago was deemed "credible." The church is still investigating the credibility in the lawsuit accusations.

Fitz-Henry is accused of participating in sexual touching with a 14-year-old member of the Madonna Del Sasso Parish choir in 2005. The lawsuit also names the Monterey Roman Catholic Bishop and the Madonna Del Sasso Parish.

The lawsuit accuses the Monterey Diocese of ignoring previous warning signs of sexual misconduct - thus allowing the 2005 incident to happen. Diocese officials say they previously had perceived the older incident as a "boundary issue" and not sexual in nature, they have said. Priests are suspended when information regarding a sexual act is deemed credible by a six-member board - which includes church members and physiatrists.

Fitz-Henry was a pastor at the San Juan Bautista Mission from 1994 to 2005 and returned in 2007 after he spent two years at Madonna Del Sasso.


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