Bakersfield

Ex-Catholic priest Harrison faces two lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse

Two civil lawsuits have been filed against Monsignor Craig Harrison accusing the former Roman Catholic priest of child sexual abuse. 

Attorney Jeff Anderson said Wednesday at a press conference in downtown Fresno that the two victims were boys at the time and are anonymously coming forward alleging they were repeatedly violated by Harrison at St. Francis of Assisi church in Bakersfield and St. Joseph church in Firebaugh. 

“Monsignor Harrison hurt me when I was an altar boy at St. Francis,” one of the victims said in a statement. “I was just a kid, and he used his position of power as a priest to abuse me. Monsignor Harrison stole my childhood, and every day since then I have lived with shame. I want the Bishop to start protecting kids. I want the Bishop to stop helping abusers. I want the Bishop to stop keeping secrets about abuse.” 

The victim at St. Francis church was allegedly assaulted by Harrison from the ages of 13 to 14 around 1990. 

“[Harrison] repeatedly violated that child who was a devout Catholic under the control of Father Harrison, who lured him into his rectory and violated him there repeatedly,” Anderson said. 

Anderson said the other victim was also violated in the rectory at St. Joseph church from 1993-1995 when he was 15 to 17 years old. 

“We stand here with them today grateful for their courage and answering the imperative that there is a peril posed by Monsignor Harrison not just to these children, but to children past and, we believe, present,” Anderson said. “And that there’s a peril posed by the practices employed by the Catholic bishop in Fresno.” 

Anderson also called on Diocese of Fresno Bishop Joseph Brennan to release the list of names of clergy who have been credibly accused of being predators. 

Brennan announced two years ago that he will release those names, but the list has yet to materialize.

Wednesday’s announcement comes after Harrison resigned in February, which itself followed a 22-month leave of absence after initial allegations came to light. 

While prosecutors in four counties investigated several claims, they did not move forward with a criminal lawsuit because of insufficient evidence and an expiration of the statute of limitations. 

Last month a Fresno judge threw out a defamation lawsuit that Harrison had filed against Fresno Diocese spokeswoman Teresa Doinguez.

Harrison has two other defamation cases currently pending against Catholic activist and predator watchdog head Steven Brady and Catholic monk Justin Gilligan (née Ryan Dixon), who accused the former priest of sexual misconduct. 

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, Harrison’s attorney Kyle Humphrey released the following statement: 

“From the second we heard the false claims against Monsignor Craig three years ago, we suspected they were leading up to a lawsuit. We even identified this particular lawyer as someone who would likely be involved. So, while it is devastating for Monsignor Craig to have to continue to give his time and emotional energy to false claims; we now have proof that our suspicions were correct. We said from the very beginning that this was always, ultimately about money. It is shameful, but not surprising, and is just another opportunity for us to once again demonstrate Monsignor Craig’s innocence.” 

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.