John RJ Doe Sues Monterey Diocese for Sexual Abuse
February 16, 2011
Alleging sexual harassment and abuse, John RJ Doe filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Father Edward Fitz-Henry, Madonna Del Sasso Parish and the Bishop of Monterey. Allegations include repeated instances of genital touching and one instance of attempted forced oral sex when the victim was 14, in 2004-05. Violations began when Fitz-Henry began asking about sexual experience and masturbation during confession, according to the lawsuit, and touching and hugging occurred in locations throughout the Madonna Parish.
The lawsuit also contends the Diocese created a "conspiracy of silence," promoting "a policy and procedure of concealing and hiding allegations of sexual misconduct by employees."
The plaintiff, who remains anonymous, is represented by attorneys Vince Finaldi and John Manly of Manly & Stewart, a firm specializing in clergy abuse. The Newport Beach-based firm currently represents more than 200 children who were abused by priests or other adults.
Finaldi says the Diocese should have taken action against Fitz-Henry as much as 19 years earlier. The Diocese, which launched an investigation into Fitz-Henry on Jan. 7, has not determined the allegations of this lawsuit to be credible. However, in the process of investigating Fitz-Henry, an investigator found credible allegations of sexual abuse dating 19 years back. At a press conference on Wednesday, Vicar for Temporalities & Administration Tom Riordan said the Diocese had been aware of "a boundary issue" at that time, but never pursued an investigation, because "we did not know it had any sexual misconduct attached to it."
Finaldi says, "'Boundary violations' is classic church code for, he violated his obligations as a priest....Obviously something happened if you’ve got something in his file saying there’s a boundary violation.” The lawsuit identifies past allegations as part of "an elaborate scheme, which had already been in place, utilized to conceal the identities and actions of sexual abusers."
Finaldi says the suit is "something that’s done to provide healing," and that his firm takes a "holistic" approach to coping with sexual abuse, which includes helping victims seek therapy. According to the suit, the victim came forward after identifying the abuse as the source of his recent suffering from nightmares, significant weight gain, depression and anxiety, cutting himself, shame and embarrassment. John JR Doe has not able to maintain a job according to the lawsuit, and is requesting lost wages as part of the unspecified compensation sought.
The Diocese announced the allegations against Fitz-Henry, whose priestly faculties are suspended until further direction from Rome, at mass on Sunday at Madonna del Sasso and Mission San Juan Bautista, where Fitz-Henry was stationed. Both the lawyers and the Diocese have invited any other victims to come forward.
The defense attorney representing Fitz-Henry, Carolyn Ingalls-Keeley of the Worthington Law Centre in Salinas, could not immediately be reached for comment. Riordan also was unable to offer specific comment because the Diocese had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.
Mary Duan contributed reporting.