Monsignor Craig Harrison

Monsignor Craig Harrison, of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, is shown in this Californian file photo.

A second man has accused Monsignor Craig Harrison of sexual misconduct.

Teresa Dominguez, communications director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, said Saturday a young man contacted the diocese on April 25 alleging "inappropriate behavior."

Dominguez said the diocese requested the man report the incident right away to police in Merced and diocese officials plan to follow up with him in the coming days.

The diocese has been reporting matters to law enforcement in the community where the alleged abuse took place. Harrison previously served at three churches in Merced prior to coming to Bakersfield in 1999. 

KERO-TV 23 in Bakersfield reported that the Merced Police Department said a man told authorities Friday that Harrison inappropriately touched him when he was a boy in 1988.

Merced Police Department told KERO it is conducting an investigation for misdemeanor sexual battery. 

The Fresno diocese placed the popular local priest on paid leave April 25 after receiving an allegation on April 12 from a man who said he was abused by Harrison as a minor at a church in Firebaugh. The news shocked the local community where Harrison is immensely popular and revered by parishioners and many others throughout the community. 

Kyle Humphrey, a local attorney and parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church who is representing Harrison, responded to the second accusation saying:

"I am not surprised ... It is predictable in high-profile clergy abuse allegation that people view the Catholic Church as an entity with deep pockets and these individuals see potential financial gain."

He continued: "When someone comes forward to allege an incident from 31 years ago, their motivation is suspect. These people are committing character assassination on a good man."

"We will continue to fight against these false allegations and we will restore Monsignor Craig's good name and see him reinstated to his rightful place as pastor of Saint Francis parish."

Harrison posted a message to his supporters on Facebook Saturday afternoon, writing: 

"I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support. I have received hundreds of texts, emails and calls. As I cannot respond to each of you individually, I want you to know how much your prayers have uplifted me during this difficult time. My prayers are with all of you and my faith in Christ in unshaken."

The Californian's Joseph Luiz contributed to this report. Stacey Shepard can be reached at 661-395-7417.

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