Shortly after he was placed on administrative leave due to allegations of sexual misconduct and news of a freshly-launched law enforcement investigation, Bakersfield Monsignor Craig Harrison provided a statement on his personal Facebook of shock.
Nearly a month after those initial reports surfaced, and additional allegations came forward in Firebaugh, Merced, and Bakersfield – including one by a fellow member of the clergy on Tuesday – Harrison broke his silence with a statement on Thursday while still away from Bakersfield.
“I will be returning to my home in Bakersfield shortly to assist my attorney in proving my innocence. I am innocent of all accusations.
“It’s been nearly a month since I was forced to leave my beloved parish and my Bakersfield home. Each day has been agonizing. I continue to be lifted up by the support from my community through your letters, phone calls, emails and most importantly your prayers.
“Over the past four weeks I have been waiting to hear anything about the allegations against me from the Diocese and for the opportunity to share my side. The last contact I had with the Fresno Diocese was on April 24 when I was called to the Bishop’s office and told there were allegations against me. That day my ability to share Mass with my parishioners was suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
“It is with deep sadness that I have come to the realization that this is a battle that I am left to fight without support from the Diocese. Over the past month, while the Diocese investigated the accusations against me, they never once reached out to me for my side. In fact, neither Bishop Ochoa, Bishop Brennan nor any member of the Diocese has checked on my state of mind or welfare. I have not been invited to respond or provide evidence to the Diocese. Out of respect for the investigation, I have remained silent.
“I feel compelled to address the latest in a series of false accusations. The claims of Ryan Dixon have been heartbreaking because they involve false, defamatory, and slanderous charges by a man who is supposedly a member of the religious [order]. I have never done any of the things that he has said. When I first met him, he was in his twenties and seeking to become a Catholic.
“Like so many he came from a difficult background and broken relationships. He sought the solace of the faith and considered a vocation to the priesthood. He had been the focus of negative publicity and was seeking a new path. Throughout his time at the church, he drank socially and frequently, and I would caution him to remember he represented the church and he must get that behavior under control.
“Things came to a head in our relationship on a pilgrimage to Rome. Two seminarians, two Sisters of Mercy, two friends of the seminarian’s and I went to visit the Vatican. Ryan continued to drink excessively and embarrassed himself with his crude language and behavior. I reprimanded him and that day he left in anger.
“I have had little contact with him since, other than to encourage him in his faith path.
“He, like all other seminarians, priests, and religious are mandated reporters and are taught the rules of safe environment by the Diocese of Fresno. He was obligated to report any misconduct at the time and would have never suffered any consequence for following the rules.
“He did not report because nothing happened. Since the allegations were made by Ryan Dixon, I have received contacts by numerous people who wish to come forward and offer more information regarding Ryan Dixon’s behavior. My attorney and team will continue to work diligently to prove the falsity of these accusations.
“My attorney has been contacted by numerous people who were told by Ryan Dixon to make sure to watch the news the night his allegations were made public. He called again after that to ask what they thought about how he did on the news. Whatever his motivations might be, his allegations are completely false. Thank you for your continued prayers.”