Priest from Yakima Suspended in California

By Jane Gargas
Yakima Herald-Republic
February 23, 2011

A priest from the Catholic Diocese of Yakima has been suspended from duties while on a long-term assignment in California.

The Rev. Nicholas Milich is being disciplined by the Diocese of Monterey, Calif., because he didn't report sex-abuse allegations made against another priest.

Milich has been working in Monterey for two years while on loan from the Yakima Diocese so he could be closer to his elderly parents who live in the area.

Locally, Milich, 62, served in Richland, at Holy Redeemer Church in Yakima and in Ephrata, which was his last assignment here.

The Rev. Robert Siler, chief of staff for the Yakima Diocese, said that the Monterey bishop suspended Milich last Friday for failing to report to either the diocese or the police that a parishioner told him that he had been molested by the Rev. Edward Fitz-Henry.

The alleged victim came to Milich about two months ago, saying that he had been molested by Fitz-Henry several times in 2005 when he was 14 and serving as an altar boy.

According to Siler, Milich told the Monterey bishop that he didn't report the incident because the young man is an adult and that he already had contacted a lawyer.

However, the alleged victim was a minor at the time of the incident, which the Monterey Diocese considers a mandatory reporting issue.

Police in Monterey are now investigating the young man's allegations, which Fitz-Henry has denied.

The Yakima Diocese also requires staff and volunteers to report to diocesan authorities or to the police any allegations of clergy sex abuse of a minor.

Washington state does not require clerics to report abuse allegations, but the diocese here has written that requirement into its clergy sex abuse policy.

Yakima Bishop Carlos Sevilla has spoken with Milich, but it is unclear whether the priest has asked to return to Yakima.

If Milich does ask to come back, Siler said that the lay advisory board would be consulted on how to proceed. Siler said that the diocese would take steps to make sure, in the event that Milich does return, that he clearly understands the sex abuse policies here.

"What he did was certainly not malicious, but it was a serious error in judgment," Siler said.

He also added that Milich, who was ordained nearly nine years ago, was a well-respected priest here.

"He's one of the kindest persons I know," Siler said.

* Jane Gargas can be reached at 509-577-7690 or


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