Children and Youth

Sexual misconduct report names four priests who served in San Benito County

Diocese of Monterey issues list of ‘credibly accused’ clergy dating back to the 1950s.

The Diocese of Monterey released a report in January that named 30 clergy members it believes have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct, including four who served as priests in San Benito County. One of the four served as recently as Dec. 24, 2018.

Revs. Scott McCarthy, Felix Migliazzo, Edward Fitz-Henry and Paul Valdez are included on the list. The report (see PDF at bottom of article) defines an accusation as credible when it involves clergy, it involves sexual misconduct with a minor and it alleges that the incident occurred at a time and place that clergy was assigned.

According to the report, McCarthy was accused in 2002 of an incident that occurred in 1976. The allegation was known, but was reclassified to “credible” in the 2019 report. He is listed as retired but had his “priestly faculties” removed in January, according to the report. This means he cannot perform public religious ceremonies.

According to the Diocese of Monterey 2015 directory, McCarthy served as a priest in Monterey County from 1983 to 2007.

BenitoLink made several attempts to contact the Diocese of Monterey to verify reports that McCarthy gave Mass at the Mission San Juan Bautista and in Hollister’s St. Benedict Catholic Church, but calls were not returned.

However, St. Benedict parish official Silvia Sierra confirmed that McCarthy had led services at the church multiple times. Sierra said McCarthy’s last Mass was Dec. 24, 2018.

Migliazzo served at the mission from 1983-86, according to the diocese directory. The 2019 report states he was accused in 2007 of sexual misconduct that occurred sometime in the mid-1970s. According to the directory, Migliazzo served a parish in Marina from 1976-78. Migliazzo died in May 2005.

Valdez was assigned to Hollister from 1989 to 1990 before serving seven other parishes in the region, according to the directory. The 2019 report states the alleged incident occurred in 1997 and was reported to the diocese in 1999. The directory states he was assigned to Salinas between 1995 and 1999.

According to the 2019 report, Valdez is retired and in January the allegation was reclassified from not credible to credible. As with McCarthy, Valdez’s faculties have been removed.

The diocese report states the incident involving Fitz-Henry took place in 1990 and was reported in 1991. He is no longer a priest, according to the report. A timeline put together by Monterey County Weekly places Fitz-Henry at Carmel Mission in 1990.

The diocese hired the Weintraub Tobin law firm to “review files and to make an independent decision as to whether a clergyman’s name should be included on the list of those credibly accused,” the report states. The diocese’s independent review board also vetted the list before names were released.

Accusations in the report date back to the 1950s, up to as recently as 2009. The report states the files reviewed were only related to accusations of sexual misconduct against children. It also states the list does not include names of clergy who worked for other religious orders.

The report notes that there have been no credible accusations made since 2009, and defines clergy to include priests, deacons, religious men and candidates for ordination (seminarians). It separates the 30 clergy members into three categories:

  1. Credibly accused clergy whose names were not previously released or in the public domain (McCarthy).
  2. Credibly accused clergy whose names were previously released or in the public domain, who were working in the name of the Diocese of Monterey when the alleged abuse occurred (Fitz-Henry, Valdez).
  3. Plausible accusations received by the Diocese of Monterey following the clergyman’s death (Migliazzo).

Of the four priests on the list who conducted masses in San Benito County, Fitz-Henry had the highest profile.

According to a Monterey County Weekly 2013 timeline: Fitz-Henry lived and practiced at the Mission San Juan Bautista for 10 years starting in 1995 before being reassigned to Madonna Del Sasso Catholic Church in north Salinas.

Fitz-Henry returned to the mission in 2007 when Bishop Richard Garcia received a letter from the mother of alleged victims of sexual misconduct in the early 1990s, which according to the diocese report is the only credible accusation against Fitz-Henry.

In 1992, Fitz-Henry served over three weeks in treatment at Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, where clergymen received treatment for addictions, depression, pedophilia and other issues. The program ended in 1995, according to a New York Times report.

Fitz-Henry was suspended from the ministry in January 2011 pending investigation by the diocese’s independent review board.

Fitz-Henry never returned to the ministry. He sued the diocese in 2012 for defamation, disclosure of private information, and infliction of emotional distress. The parties reached a settlement a year later with Fitz-Henry receiving an undisclosed amount and agreeing to be stripped of his priest duties.

In a 2015 interview with Monterey County Weekly, Fitz-Henry called the 2011 allegation “absolutely wrong . . . a lie,” that destroyed his life and that he wanted to face it in court, but the diocese didn’t give him that chance.

 

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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.