The Bishop’s Men
The Diocese of Monterey mess gets messier.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Sometime soon – perhaps by the end of the month – attorneys for a 21-year-old man who says he was sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest as a teenager at Salinas’ Madonna del Sasso church will begin the process of issuing subpoenas and scheduling depositions. Those potentially on the list to be deposed in the civil suit against accused priest Rev. Edward Fitz-Henry and the Diocese of Monterey include: Bishop Richard Garcia; Rev. Nicholas Milich, who according to the Diocese was told of the abuse by the alleged victim, but decided to keep it in the family rather than report it to the police as mandated by both Canon and civil law; Don Cline, the veteran Salinas police investigator turned private investigator, hired by the Diocese to look into the allegations against Fitz-Henry; and Mark Tunzi, M.D., head of the family residency program at Natividad Medical Center, and head of the Diocesan Independent Review Board, the committee that commissioned the Cline investigation.
But there also likely will be names on the deposition list that could have ramifications far beyond those shaking the Diocese to its core. The names include a set of Carmel-area parents whose son (and perhaps sons) led the Diocese to send Fitz-Henry to six months of in-patient therapy at Servants of the Paraclete in the early 1990s.
The Diocese initially described Fitz-Henry as having been sent to New Mexico-based Paraclete a “boundary issue.” When Cline was sent out to investigate, he found the 20-year-old allegation was sexual in nature.
The parents don’t want to talk about it. The Weekly isn’t naming them.
According to attorney Vince Finaldi, who is representing the alleged victim in the suit, the mother told his firm it would have to subpoena her in order to get her to talk about the incident, which she said didn’t rise to the level of sexual assault and involved two of her sons. The father insists the family would have no comment. “We’ve got everything squared away,” he told the Weekly.
Here’s the problem.
The Diocese sent Fitz-Henry to Paraclete, a retreat center for troubled priests and brothers, because of the so-called boundary issue. In the course of his investigation, Cline found the boundary issue did rise to the level of a sexual transgression with a minor.
Between 20 years ago and now, if anyone who acted or is currently acting in an official capacity with the Diocese is found to have known what happened – and did nothing – they should carefully consider what’s happening in Philadelphia.
There, a grand jury report said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia provided a safe haven to as many as 37 priests who were credibly accused of sexual abuse or other inappropriate behavior towards minors. Msgr. William Lynn, once the secretary of clergy for the Philly archdiocese, was indicted on two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, accused of ignoring complaints about priests who allegedly raped two altar boys.
Finaldi works for the Newport Beach-based firm of Manly & Stewart, a firm seemingly comprised of once-devout Catholics who now specialize in suing the Catholic church. Firm co-founder John Manly’s first case involved suing the principal of his former high school, Mater Dei, for sexual assault; in the firm’s 10-year lifespan, it’s collected more than $100 million on behalf of its clients, including a landmark suit against the Diocese of Orange County that saw Manly deposing everyone in his path, and then releasing those depositions to the public.
The lawyers are convinced someone, possibly many someones, knew about Fitz-Henry.
Also working for Manly & Stewart, and on this case, is a name that sends shudders through Diocese around the country. Patrick Wall was, for four years in the late 1990s, a cleaner. Think Harvey Keitel as the character “Winston Wolfe” in Pulp Fiction.
If there was a mess that needed quick dispatching, Wall was sent in to dispatch it – quietly and efficiently. Wall, then a 28-year-old Roman Catholic priest and Benedictine monk, became a cleaner for the Catholic Church, a so-called “Bishop’s Man” sent to take care of messes in various size and scope. He estimates that between the 195 Diocese and more than 300 religious orders, there are currently about 1,000 cleaners like him.
He quit when there were too many abused kids and broken families to clean up.
A boundary issue, Wall says, is a code word, one that doesn’t at all mean what it implies.
“There are only two rules in priesthood. Don’t steal the people’s money, and don’t sexually abuse children,” says Wall, now married and the father of a daughter. “I believe we are going to be able to prove the same activity that was happening in Philadelphia was happening here. I believe we’ll be able to show a pattern.”
MARY DUAN is editor of the Weekly. Reach her at email@example.com