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Bakersfield priest files defamation suit against Monk over misconduct claims

Bakersfield Monsignor Craig Harrison filed a defamation lawsuit against a Catholic monk who went public with accusations of sexual misconduct against the popular priest.

Harrison filed a lawsuit against Brother Justin Gilligan, a Catholic monk previously known as Ryan Dixon. In late May, Gilligan issued a lengthy statement alleging misconduct by Harrison.

In a suit filed in Kern County Superior Court last week, Harrison argues that Gilligan’s claims were false and defamatory.

Currently, Harrison is under investigation by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno and the Firebaugh police department.

According to The Bakersfield Californian, Gilligan played a role in convincing the potential victim in Firebaugh to come forward to the Diocese and law enforcement.

Harrison was also under investigation for additional misconduct claims in Bakersfield and Merced.

Bakersfield Police closed their investigation into Harrison in July, citing insufficient evidence and the passing of the statute of limitations on assault claims.

While Merced Police have concluded a separate investigation, however, the Merced County District Attorney is declining to pursue charges until all criminal investigations are complete.

Harrison was placed on administrative leave by the Diocese when the Firebaugh allegations surfaced on April 24.

Read the Lawsuit

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