Bakersfield

Bakersfield priest Harrison files defamation suit against Fresno Catholic Diocese, spokeswoman

Monsignor Craig Harrison, a well-known Bakersfield Catholic priest, has launched a second defamation lawsuit over allegations of sexual misconduct. His target: the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno and its spokeswoman, Teresa Dominguez.

Harrison has been embroiled in controversy since last April, when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno announced it was placing him on administrative leave after allegations of sexual misconduct were reported to the Firebaugh Police Department.

The suit stems from comments made by Dominguez as spokeswoman for the Diocese in a May 2019 article by San Francisco-based public radio station KQED.

In it, Dominguez said she believed Harrison’s then-accusser’s claims of sexual misconduct by the priest.

“I personally expressed my concern for him; told him that I believed him, and apologized for the pain this matter has caused him. I told him that I will support him and be an advocate for him in any way I can,” Dominguez said, via emailed statement, in the KQED story.

Harrison faced allegations in Kern and Merced Counties dating back to his service in parishes dating back to the 1980s. Various law enforcement agencies either closed investigations or made referrals to District Attorneys that did not yield prosecutions.

The lawsuit announcement against the Diocese and Dominguez comes less than a week after the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office announced it would not pursue charges against Harrison, citing the passing of the statute of limitations to prosecute.

“While the allegations made against Monsignor Harrison appear credible to investigators, they reportedly occurred in the 1990’s,” the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement over its filing determination.

Harrison has two other defamation suits pending currently.

The first is against a Benedictine monk, known as Justin Gilligan, over Gilligan’s statements of misconduct Harrison allegedly committed at his current parish, St. Francis of Assisi in Bakersfield.

Gilligan is alleged to have played a role in convincing the first alleged victim in Firebaugh to report incidents with Harrison to law enforcement.

The other suit involves Catholic activist Stephen Brady and his organization, Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc., over comments Brady directed at Harrison during a May press conference.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.