I hope it isn’t true. For his sake but mostly for ours.
I’m talking about Craig Harrison. If I hadn’t written his name, odds are most people in Bakersfield would have figured out to whom “his sake” referred. Since we heard the news Thursday, it’s all anybody has been talking about.
Talk about erasing everything else from the front page. If the news that Harrison has been accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy when he was a priest in Firebaugh 25 years ago had been the only news in Friday’s paper, it might have been the most read paper in The Californian’s history.
Everybody I know had the same reaction. Whether you are a Catholic, Jew, Muslim or religiously neutral. In addition to hoping that the allegations aren’t true, it was “I just really love the guy.”
“Love” is a strong word. “Love” is thrown around a bunch. “Love” in this case is neither exaggeration nor carelessness.
Before I dive in, this is also true. If the allegations prove true, then justice will have to be served. A crime is a crime.
It seems like everybody has a Father Craig story. The funeral they attended where he spoke with humor and tenderness, the fundraiser he emceed, the hospital bedsides in the middle of the night where he comforted the sick and administered the last rites to the dying.
Some of these people were parishioners, some were not. He doesn’t care if you are Catholic. He isn’t one of these “It’s my way or the highway” guys. His road is wide. Wide enough and long enough for almost everybody.
In his service to this community, he’s probably done more good, known more people and influenced more lives than any 10 other people.
I suspect if you assembled all of those stories into a book, that book wouldn’t be small. It wouldn’t be midlength. It would be “War and Peace.”
Craig’s our neighbor. I remember when he moved his parents in with him when they got sick toward the end of their lives. He saw them through. He did what a good son does.
If your kids moved out of town, he’d ask about them. By name. He knew where they lived, who they had married and what their children’s names were.
He probably has thousands like that. Rich, poor, and many in the middle.
Shortly after my dad died, Craig was in Rome. When he returned, I got a note in the mail that read, “The sacrifice of the mass is being offered for the happy repose of the soul of Herbert Rovell Benham by Laurence J. Spiteri at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City at the request of ...”
The bottom of the page read: “The souls of the just rest in the Hands of God and no torment shall touch them.”
I keep it on my desk. Although I am not Catholic nor was my father, it comforts me. It makes me think that he might be in a good place, a place in addition to the place in my heart.
How many times do you think that has been repeated across the community? As close to infinity as any one person can muster.
I hope it isn’t true. For our sake, but for his, too.