Monsignor Craig Harrison

Monsignor Craig Harrison

Newly disclosed letters and emails from the early 2000s detail allegations that Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison had sex with two high school students while serving as pastor of a church in Firebaugh.

In addition, an email from August 2004 alleged he would examine boys' private parts every morning as a way of checking whether they had been using drugs.

The accusations surfaced as part of an unrelated investigation conducted in 2004 by a retired FBI agent in Merced. Summaries of his findings were contained in material provided to The Californian Thursday by Stephen Brady, a representative of Roman Catholic Faithful, an organization of church members including investigators and lawyers, whose self-professed goal is to rid the church of clerical corruption.

It was unclear whether the accusations outlined in the letters were among those that have come to light in the weeks since Harrison, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church, was placed on paid leave April 25 over allegations of inappropriate contact with minors.

A spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, Teresa Dominguez, said by email she could not comment on the emails and letters because an investigation is in process.

Harrison's lead attorney in Bakersfield, Kyle J. Humphrey, questioned the authenticity of the correspondence and said the allegations they contain are part of a concerted effort by a cabal set on destroying Harrison.

All that's necessary to set up a claim against the church and destroy a priest, Humphrey said, “is take some information that was created at some point in time and say, 'Oh well, if someone accused him, he must have done everything he was accused of.'”

Harrison, for his part, has denied allegations he has ever had inappropriate contact with minors.

Among the correspondence shared by Roman Catholic Faithful was a July 19, 2004, email by a man who said he was "young and in high school" — it did not state his age at the time of the alleged incidents — when he had two sexual encounters and one "semi-sexual encounter" with Harrison. Two of the incidents took place in the bedroom of one of Harrison's adopted sons and the other was in the back of the priest's Ford Explorer, according to the man's email to a church official.

"Padre C (Harrison) had a way of making everything seem okay," the unidentified accuser wrote.

The email states the accuser cut off the relationship with Harrison after seeing him engage in a sex act with another high school student. When the accuser confessed the events to a different priest, he wrote, he was told to remain quiet and "give it to God."

Thomas H. Walsh, the former agent with the FBI, summarized the accuser's account in a letter sent Sept. 16, 2004, to former Fresno diocese Bishop John T. Steinbock. The letter said Harrison discussed the allegation with Steinbock and that Harrison hired an investigator to clear him of the charge.

Walsh could not be reached for comment Thursday.

On Sept. 29 of that same year, the diocese's then-director of human resources sent Walsh a letter saying Steinbock wished to respond by stating Harrison denied the allegations of sexual misconduct.

"He (Harrison) further states he has never had any inappropriate contact with any person," the letter reads.

The second allegation regarding Harrison inspecting children's private parts was contained in an email Walsh sent less than a month earlier, on Aug. 26, 2004, to Gordon Spencer, then-Merced County's district attorney. (A representative of the district attorney's office noted Thursday that Spencer no longer holds the position and she did not immediately confirm the email's authenticity.)

Walsh's email said a woman in Merced, where Harrison worked between 1987 and 1989, told him she had approached Harrison about her son, who had been raped as a child by a neighbor and was "a very troubled child." She said Harrison advised exercising "tough love" by throwing him out of her house and allowing him to live with Harrison.

When told of this plan, the boy allegedly struck Harrison and called him a "child molester" before fleeing the room, according to the email.

The email said the woman asked her son why he had accused Harrison, to which he responded that a friend of his who lived with Harrison told him "every morning Harrison lined up all the boys who were residing in the house and examined each boy's testicles with a flashlight … telling them that by doing this he could tell if any one of them was using narcotics."

At least four individuals have accused Harrison of inappropriate conduct with minors, with some of the alleged events dating back to the 1990s. Separately, Bakersfield police investigated then dismissed an anonymous report in 2002 that Harrison had inappropriate contact with a group of teen juveniles.

Earlier this week, a former Bakersfield man now living in the Pacific Northwest said he observed Harrison having inappropriate contact with minors, touching them and giving them gifts and money.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf.

(11) comments

Stating the obvious

Last night all of my kids and my spouse told me it was raining. 4 people in all told me it was raining. I did not not feel the need to go outside and check. When this many people say you’re a pedo, you are.

CaliMom26

Is the cabal supposed to be the very group of poor, young boys that Harrison targeted and inappropriately touched? Thats comical. I'm sure Harrison's attorney has a list a mile long of boys to start looking up dirt on -- because somehow that will discredit their accusations. Sounds like Harrison methodically chose to prey on these victims so he could always win in a "he said he said" situation because who would believe a poor, troubled youth over a highly regarded priest. Good god, I hope his man falls.

What might actually be said is that Harrison doesn't think he did anything wrong. Has anyone asked Harrison if he was inappropriately touched himself as a minor? Perhaps he thinks that grabbing or looking at ones testicles is a way to actually test for drugs. Maybe he truly thinks he is innocent. Sadly, it still constitutes child molestation if he in fact did this.

REMUDA

scan·dal·mon·ger
---
/ˈskandlˌməNGɡər/
----
noun: scandal-monger
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a person who stirs up public outrage toward someone or their actions by spreading rumors or malicious gossip.
----
synonyms: gossip, muckraker, tattler; rare >> quidnunc, calumniator
-----
You below . . . (and above) . . . you know who you are . . .

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

Guilty! Pedo!

Athanasios

At least his attorney is consistent - again with this being the result of a cabal designed to extort money from the Diocese. And, apparently, the cabal started it’s work in the 1980’s. It may be true, but I would hope there is a better defense than this.

alexkelley

The entire reporting of this news story by Sam (nubile #SJW glory hound) Morgen, Jon (failed radio personality) Cox and Jose (virtue signaler) Gaspar is some of the worst storytelling imaginable. It’s lazy, inconsistent, mostly unsubstantiated, hyperbolic & pathetically sensationalist in manner & tone. Here-say, rumors, blind conjecture, self-serving & highly suspect “witnesses”, incomplete research and old emails & documents with no factual, much less credible, information other than adding to the desired sensationalistic fervor our media troglodytes mean to create for themselves & this situation. Two of these reporters should know better since they both are aware of Bakersfield’s scandalous past (ex:the Stoll “witch hunt”) for overhyping unsupported allegations & inconsistent/unsubstantiated evidence. & one of this two reporters was a media contributor to some of those “witch hunt” stories. And of course we all know Morgen is just a newbie millennial taking the opportunity to make a name for himself by trying to take down such a high profile figure. As yet, NONE of ANY of their articles has offered one bit of contextual, reliable or substantiated information. It’s all SNAP-flavored, hyper-emotional, #metoo-styled drivel. You can see by the way so many media & SJW groups are piling on that they smell a movie-of-the-week in the making & they want their names in the credits and invited on the lecture tours & award ceremonies envisioned in their “vision boards.”

Nevermind

Shooting the messenger much? It's called reporting the news. It's called quoting people. The CHURCH is investigating, are they looking for a movie deal too?

Danielle

EXACTLY.

BillJames

That is pretty descriptive and damning information. And no, using a flash light to check a boys privates is not a way to check for drug use. It's the way a methodical sociopath would try and cover there tracks. Great liars have a way of explaining away everything.

KenWitham

I don't know what to say about that flashlight method other than I can't see how that would indicate narcotic use. Let's hope the truth comes out of this whole debacle whichever way that goes.

Jerry Todd

I was never in the service, but my vet friends were very clear when asked. In the military, it's called a "short arm inspection." He said since he was a troublemaker in the Navy, he had several short arm inspections. Could it be? Serious question.

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