Thursday, February 17, 2011

Release information
Victims call for release by diocese of abuse allegations

Feb 16, 2011
By Connor Ramey
A national group that represents victims of suspected abuses by priests has called for the Diocese of Monterey to release all information about prior allegations in light of accusations against a San Juan Bautista clergyman of misconduct in 2005.

An official for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, held a press conference Wednesday outside the diocese office in Monterey and also accused the church of knowing about another suspected sexual incident reported, 19 years ago, involving the same priest.

The press conference by the organization, followed by a response from the diocese, came a day after a 21-year-old man filed a lawsuit alleging Father Edward Fitz-Henry, a longtime priest for Mission San Juan Bautista, sexually abused the accuser six years ago. Fitz-Henry has denied the allegations, according to his attorney.

"I'm glad they suspended him indefinitely, but I wish it was sooner," said Joelle Casteix, the western regional director for SNAP, four members of which also held signs, such as one reading "Will not be silent," while gathered in front of the church setting.

Following the SNAP group's press conference, diocese spokesman Tom Riordan also talked and answered questions. He confirmed the criminal investigation by the Salinas Police Department, regarding the 2005 allegations, still is under way. He also expressed support for SNAP and other organizations that help accusing victims.

"Anything that could help a victim in cases like these, I think it's a good thing," he said.

But Casteix, in referring to what she called a "2,000-year-old" problem of the Catholic Church, contended that the diocese has not done enough historically to address such suspected abuses. She also alleged an investigator hired by the diocese at times has harassed witnesses. Casteix contended the diocese should pull back on its own investigations and allow the police authorities to handle them.

The diocese spokesman addressed the organization's claim about the prior, suspected incident 19 years ago by responding how "hindsight is 20-20." He said the diocese at the time viewed the situation as possibly passing appropriate professional boundaries, and noted how church officials held a meeting with Fitz-Henry to express concern.

Riordan also pointed out that the diocese has a six-person review board that examines such allegations to determine whether they are credible, and said the diocese releases accusations only if they are deemed so.

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