Ex-Constable on Pedophile Patrol
February 16, 2011
The Diocese of Monterey is retaining Don Cline, a former Salinas police officer, as its investigator in an alleged case of sexual abuse committed by a widely beloved priest, Edward Fitz-Henry, according to several sources. In keeping with diocese policy, Vicar of Temporalities Tom Riordan would not confirm Cline's role and would only say the investigator was a retired local detective.
The diocese launched an investigation on Jan. 7 after receiving allegations of sexual abuse committed in 2004-05 in the Madonna Del Sasso parish in Salinas. According to statements issued by the diocese, a private investigator has not yet found any credible evidence pertaining to the allegation, but in the process of researching Fitz-Henry, uncovered credible evidence concerning sexual misconduct 19 years ago.
Cline is regarded as “an excellent investigator,” according to one person who knows him. Cline is retired and has about 30 years of experience in law enforcement. His favorite quotation listed on his Facebook page is, "Praise the Father, Worship the Son, Live the Gospel."
The investigator is charged with searching for criminal activity or any activity in breach of canon law, says Riordan. “Anything that would be sexual in nature is what we’re looking for,” he adds.
The investigator presented his findings to the Diocese-appointed Independent Review Board, chaired by Dr. Marc Tunzi, Director of the Natividad Family Practice Residency Program. The identities of other five review board members are confidential, but Riordan says they include two therapists, an educator, a priest and an individual with law enforcement experience. After hearing Cline's report, the independent review board determined only the allegations of 20 years ago were credible, at which point the diocese went public with the allegations and made an announcement to parishioners on Sunday. Next, the diocese refers the case to Rome.
As to the allegations concerning 2004, the diocese has not yet determined credibility, but the case is still open, says Riordan.
The alleged victim filed a civil lawsuit against Fitz-Henry yesterday. His attorney, Vince Finaldi, says the church investigation and trial process is "more to protect the church than to help the victim." Finaldi criticizes the selection of Cline as investigator since he only recently retired from the Salinas PD, which is pursuing a criminal investigation of the case. "It should be someone who is disinterested, and not attached to local police department," he says.
Finaldi also sees the church's investigation as a problem while police are conducting their own investigation. "There’s going to be a contamination of the [police] investigation," says Finaldi. As Cline questions parishioners prior to police questioning, Finaldi worries opinions may skew, and says parishioners have created a hostile environment for the victim as his identity has been exposed through questioning.
Riordan says "We’re criticized if we don’t do an investigation, and we’re criticized if we do an investigation....If we waited, the criticism would just be the opposite.
"We don’t want to do anything that would hurt the alleged victim or anyone involved, but we also need to have some due process as well." For the diocese to go public with allegations of sexual misconduct and invite any other victims forward, an investigator must present credible findings to the Independent Review Board. At a press conference Wednesday, Riordan responded to criticisms of the church's investigation process and said, "Our procedures are working."
Finaldi says his client raised allegations with several priests and the bishop in late November, but the diocese took no action until receiving correspondence from the lawyers Jan. 7. Riordan was unable to confirm or deny that six weeks had elapsed, and legal action was pursued, before initiating an investigation.
There is no clear point at which the church will suspend its investigation. However, since the "steps that the Independent Review Board triggers have already happened," it is unlikely that the investigation into the more recent allegations will continue much longer, says Riordan. In addition, the lawsuit "limits our abilities to communicate with the victims."
Finaldi says this case is significant because of how recent it is. The allegations concern sexual harassment and abuse beginning in 2004, two years after the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. At a press conference on Wednesday, Joelle Casteix, Southwest Regional Director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said this is the youngest alleged victim she has ever spoken to. "It takes a lot of nerve to go against your faith...I truly hope he finds the healing that he deserves," she says.
Mary Duan contributed reporting.