Bakersfield residents displayed a huge outpouring of support for the embattled pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church at a candlelight vigil held Wednesday evening.

Crowds took up every seat in the church, pouring out of the doors and listening to the ceremony through the outside speakers during the one-hour event.

St. Francis ushers said the church holds roughly 1,100 people, and the building was filled to capacity. However, an overflow room at the back of the property that could hold 400 was roughly quarter-full.

The parishioners attended the vigil in a delicate act of faith for Monsignor Craig Harrison, who has been accused of sexual abuse. While showing support for their pastor, the church also did not dismiss potential victims of sexual abuse by the clergy.

"The last two days have given us quite a bit of time to reflect on who we are as a parish, as a community, as the universal church as well as the responses that we give during these very challenging times," said Francis Moore, a deacon in training, during the vigil.

He said the vigil would "lift up all victims of abuse." Later, he added that the church would pray for all priests, especially Harrison.

The vigil attracted some controversy.

Two Bakersfield residents stood outside the church, protesting the vigil. One of the protesters, Carolyn Stripling, held a sign reading, "believe victims of church abuse."

"It's sending the wrong message to victims of sexual abuse, and it's sending the wrong message to predators," she said. "I just want to be here today so (victims) know we're listening to their voices."

Another sign posted on a residence across the street from the church read, "don't support rapists."

Harrison was placed on paid leave last week following allegations of sexual abuse by two men, who separately told the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno that the priest had engaged in “inappropriate behavior” with them decades ago.

The police in Firebaugh and Merced, where the incidents allegedly took place in the 80s and 90s, have said they are investigating the reports.

The Catholic Church is also conducting its own investigation into the alleged incidents as well.

The diocese has said that in 2002, it found that an allegation of abuse against Harrison was unsubstantiated and took no action.

Harrison has proclaimed his innocence, and the vigil served as a platform for Bakersfield residents who have been impacted by the priest to show their support. 

“We’re going to be praying that the truth comes out, whatever the truth is,” David Brust, a concerned citizen who helped organize the vigil, said before the event. “We’re going to be praying for the victims and we’re going to be praying for the monsignor.”

He said Harrison had been a personal friend of his, and had not had a chance to properly defend himself because the exact details of the allegations, or an exact date of when they had taken place, had not been revealed.

“His life is permanently been changed,” Brust said of Harrison. “Where can he go the rest of his life where the specter of this is not riding on him, whether he’s found innocent or guilty or they decide there’s not even enough proof?”

The vigil was criticized by the national nonprofit, SNAP, or the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, that has clashed with the Catholic Church in the past over abuse by priests.

On Tuesday, the organization sent a letter to Fresno Catholic Bishop Joseph V. Brennan requesting he cancel the vigil, claiming the event would impede the police investigation and deter others from coming forward.

Joey Piscitelli, the northern California leader for SNAP, said he's seen similar vigils in the past.

When a priest has a large following in the community, often their supporters "bash" the alleged victims, he said.

"We understand that a lot of people want to support him, but the problem is that’ll scare alleged victims from coming forward," he said. "They’ll think they’re outnumbered and that they’ll be bashed."

Piscitelli said when he came forward after a priest abused him, supporters of the priest called him a "liar."

"They’re not involved or know what happened," Piscitelli said. "They’re not a party to the act, so how could they call victims liars?"

However, Kyle Humphrey, Harrison’s lawyer, dismissed the idea that the vigil could discourage anybody from coming forward, and he criticized SNAP’s characterization of the event. 

“This prayer vigil, as much as the SNAP, personal injury attorney, anti-Catholic organization, wants it to be about them, its only about support for Monsignor Craig,” he said. “It’s not about their victim advocacy, or their agenda to destroy priests and the Catholic Church. It’s an outpouring of support for people that know (Harrison) and love him.”

He added that he was unhappy with the handling of the allegations by the diocese in Fresno.

The lack of information that has been released by the church prevented Harrison from clearing his name, he said, which he described as “tarnished.” 

“What’s that old saying about putting the cart before the horse?” Humphrey said. “This time the cart’s been put way out in front of any horses, and this cart is full of reckless disregard for the truth.”

(49) comments

Brenda

I read the posts' above and it seems to me people are hanging Father Craig Harrison before proof of the Sexual Assault is found & he is tried and found guilty. Wait For The Evidence !! Once again, a man's life & career hangs in the balance before he is proven to be guilty of the alleged crime. Let an investigation ensue and I, for one, hope Father Harrison is innocent, if not, he will pay the price, however, do not convict him without Due Process Of The Law. Today it is not Politically Correct to doubt an accuser, however, there truth is people left, male & female alike. Find the truth before you condemn.

Copper

That’s not the point Brenda . The point is that the se yep abuse survivors and any others in similar circumstances can be intimidated from coming forward when a public figure is exhaled and praised while the alleged victim or victims in this case are condemned called liars and looking for a payout. Multiple supporters of Craig have publicly said just that and it is a gross abuse

Tired of the BS

Brenda.... a lot of what you have said is accurate. Fr Craig is being hung and people are making judgements that he is guilty with no proof or anything. Accusations are just that until an investigation is complete. We hear all about the rights of a victim but none for the accused.

Copper

Wrong people are judging both ways just like bs and Brenda and judging for alleged perp . Both is wrong. The most important thing is staying neutral until all facts are on table and after the process is over. Then you can come forward however you please. The point for the hundredth time is sexual abuse survivors fear of coming forward because of the attacks against them and the automatic support of alleged perp particularly if they are a public figure. Bs and Brenda knows nothing of victims delicate mental state and what they are going through and potential victims waiting and watching how his plays out in public. Frankly if you are victim shaming and intimidating then YOU are directly responsible for enabling perps now and in future . Pull your heads out of your collective ...

Brenda

Copper, I am not judging both ways', a person is Innocent until a crime has been proven & evidently one accusation has been disproven. I have no horse in this race and do not know Father Harrison. I have known of supposed victims' through the years who have lied about sexual misconduct, lives & families were ruined. If Father Harrison is guilty it is up to Law Enforcement to prove his guilt, not mine & not your's. Remember the McCuen & Kniffin Case in the '80s' , ot was a Satanic Child Molestation case. Many of those convicted were innocent, & have now been released after years of being in prison. The last I knew, a man was still in prison & his attorneys' were trying to have his case reversed. The case was sabatoged by Mental Health employees improper questioning of the children and over zealous Law Enforcement. I have also seen teenagers' make accusations which proved to be Untrue once Law Enforcement questioned them. I believe if the man deserves' to have his guilt proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Believe, but, verify !

Boogerface Nutter

These are one-on-one crimes. Supporters will believe the priest while others, noting more than one accusation in different locations and noting the history of this sort of behavior with priests that have come to light, will, no doubt, side with the victims.
Knowing the landslide of criticism that will befall a victim who comes forward is probably the reason these crimes can go so long before being revealed.
If there was a god, this would have been taken care of internally.

So happy this monster is exposed and ruined...

Athanasios

“However, Kyle Humphrey, Harrison’s lawyer, dismissed the idea that the vigil could discourage anybody from coming forward, and he criticized SNAP’s characterization of the event.” Really? To think that a victim/parishioner could not potentially be dissuaded by this vigil is unrealistic. If he was representing a victim I’m sure he would sing a different tune. Maybe Kyle Humphrey should keep quiet and not try to win the public relations war. The only important thing here is that the truth comes out, not shaping public opinion.

bobspapa

The Baby Jesus weeps.

Conscience of Bakersfield

SNAP thinks they can bully people into not praying for a person they love, I wonder if SNAP will apologize to the Monsignor when it comes back these allegations were unfounded and uncorroborated.

IMO

If they do, it wouldn't be the first time as the have had to apologize to a falsely accused priest as part of a settlement. I've never heard of the organization before this week, however, it appears that by a simple online search one can find out that SNAP has a history of manipulating evidence against a falsely accused priest and has even been ordered to pay damages to said priest. Also found that "“SNAP routinely accepts financial kickbacks from attorneys in the form of ‘donations,'” and in return SNAP “refers survivors as potential clients to attorneys, who then file lawsuits on behalf of the survivors against the Catholic Church. These cases often settle to the financial benefit of the attorneys and, at times, to the financial health of SNAP, which has received direct payments from survivors’ settlements.” Do you own research on this yourself. And if you are abused..by anyone. Seek professional for help, physicians, law enforcement, hospitals. Not some organization that preys on the abused and the accused.

IMO

Additional article regarding SNAP- During 2011 Missouri judge ordered David Clohessy, the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), to be deposed regarding his role in cases of priestly sexual abuse. Clohessy fought the order vigorously, but lost. On January 2, 2012, he was deposed; the deposition was made public only recently. Read page 39-- Clohessy admitted that he has lied about some of his statements to the press. “Has SNAP to your knowledge ever issued a press release that contained false information?” He didn’t blink: “Sure.” [p. 39.] Link to deposition: http://www.themediareport.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/CLOHESSY-DEPOSITION-010212.pdf

Boogerface Nutter

Keep the blindfolds on and this sort of thing will keep happening.

Tired of the BS

Well said. If only other people could get this. It’s obvious there is financial gain for someone.

Copper

Obvious you tired of BS are clueless to sexual abuse survivors .

Copper

Well maybe the church should have its own organization that helps support victims .

Tired of the BS

Cooper... obviously you only believe one side of the story. If you attend church, you would know all the good that is going on, especially for victims of all kinds. Your pathetic.

ConcernedCatholic

Don't worry he's not coming back.

Copper

Tired of the bs I have not publicly stated which side I believe because I would never participate in victim intimidation tactics like Kyle , Craig and the 1,000 Sheeple that attended that sad display of fake Christianity. I’m glad their is good going on for victims from the church body being the church is directly responsible for so much of it. That is exactly the point that the church never came out nor anyone from the church has at one time come out and supported any alleged victim . Did they invite them to come speak and tell their side of the story? Did they at anytime during the service speak out against sexual assault?did they ask if anyone else in he parish has been victimized to come forward? I hope that answer is yes. This could have been done without taking any side. Did this happen? I have attended Church since birth. I have seen many fake christians who look more like Pharisees than Jesus. I have seen many people who use the church for a social club or business advancement than the care and keeping of people. I have seen too many people elevate leaders of a church to a godlike persona when they are actually just men. You tired are the pathetic one in your participation of victim intimidation tactics. God is watching and is very disappointed I’m sure.

Copper

This was victim intimidation by a mob. Period. Shame on all who participated . No wonder the Catholic Church has the problems it has. Guilt or innocence aside this was pervertedly inappropriate.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

So, you claim to know what was in the hearts of all the people that attended the vigil? Based on your last sentence, you've also determined that all in attendance are either perverts themselves or had a distorted view or "your" truth? Ad Hominem attacks are the last thing anyone needs right now...

Copper

No I said pervertedly inappropriate to gave a vigil “for” Craig. It could have been a vigil for “ all those affected by sexual abuse” but it was not advertised that way or reported on that way. And I have yet to read one comment from a Craig supporter that hasn’t participated in victim shaming and victim intimidation tactics. That’s the truth . Not my truth but fact spelled out in black and white.

ConcernedCatholic

Unfortunately SNAP won't have to apologize to anyone, it will be "Monsignor".

bakoreader

Wow, Kyle Humphrey insulting personal injury attorneys?? In addition to criminal law, he IS a personal injury attorney! I've defended the people he has sued! So far we don't know that either of the two men who have come forward with allegations have retained an attorney, so why is Kyle already bashing them and their "personal injury attorneys"?? I'm pretty sure when Kyle is making his opening statement to a jury in a criminal case where he's defending someone accused of a crime, he asks the jury not to judge before they have heard all the evidence. But he sure is quick to judge these two men who have come forward.

Copper

Kyles already attempting to try his case in public arena

SNAPJudy

The victims are to be commended for their courage in coming forward.
Let's hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by Monsignor Craig Harrison will find the courage to come forward and contact law enforcement no matter how long ago it happened. This is not an easy thing to do, but keep in mind that silence only hurts and by speaking up there is a chance for healing and protecting others today.
Judy Jones, SNAP "Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests" 636-433-2511, SNAPjudy@gmail.com

Copper

Thank you SNAPJudy for all your support fir the victims and fir encouraging them to have the courage to speak out to help themselves and others going through the same thing.

Tired of the BS

Absolutely amazing the assumptions that I read and hear.... I’m pretty sure that most of you don’t know Fr Craig and haven’t stepped foot in a Catholic Church, let alone St Francis. To sit back a judge is hypocritical. I was at the vigil and prayer was asked for the victims and Fr Craig. It’s unfair that he’s assumed guilty when there isn’t any proof.... Someone’s word. I pray that any victims have the courage to speak up sooner than later in their life. As for the protesters, a place of worship isn’t your place at all.... how would it be if I protested a vigil for victims all because I think their lying and just trying to gain attention?? Wouldn’t be right. Fr Craig deserves to be treated fairly.

Copper

You are missing the point over your head I imagine.

Athanasios

I’m sure you prayed for both Fr. Craig and the victims but, I have to ask, how many were motivated to come to pray for the victims and how many were there to pray for Fr. Craig? Could the congregation have prayed for both without a service? No one knows the truth right now, It’s just that the optics of this are not good and give the appearance of the parish circling the wagons rather than letting the process play out.

Bodysnatcher

I've never practiced Catholicism and I disagree on many things the Catholic church does, but this man, Harrison, is innocent until proven guilty. So, to all you residences from Salem out there declaring him guilty before any investigation into the allegations is completed, explain to everyone else how you arrive to your conclusion? Do we need to believe the "victim"? No. However, we can't not believe the "victim" either. Harrison should have his day in court. If you can't afford this man that basic right, then God help us because you are some sad human beings.

Totally creepy - reminiscent of hysterical mobs waiving at Hitler in a parade he organized...becoming more and more clear that this priest is the worst of the worst...he’s ruined thank god, but now he needs to be locked up

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Now that you've thrown the rule of law out the window (innocent until proven guilty), you throw napalm on the fire by invoking Hitler. You are truly a shining example of ignorance and/or stupidity- it's very hard to decipher which based on your posts.

Beth56

Alleged victim's? Alleged Priest? Until the truth comes out about these young boys who are now men, a priest/child molester who obviously aren't afraid to intimidate their victims they're just children however they have a habit of growing up and that's a problem, for the priests/child molesters, eventually the truth comes out and even though they were just young boys at the time, they have grown up and are talking about what happened then, now. I don't think a group of men have come out and made up these stories just to smear a Priest. I'm not saying that the Priest did anything, yet however, to me, it seems like telling somebody no matter who it is that about a Priest that molested them years ago. That has to be extremely hard on these men. It could be even harder for a child and it was because it never was spoken about until now. These men could be opening up a door for other men who have kept silent until now and just possibly have given a voice for young boys who are victims now! The victims, in this case, are forever changed for life and now are suffering from PTSD and other mental issues. Don't have a parade for a priest sitting comfortably in a convertible car waving at the crowd distracting everyone who's watching him because all the while he's been hitting innocent children then driving away.

Tony Tee

Dear God:
I come to you in confidence and trust in your word. I ask for strength to stand in this trying time and to come out victorious in my Faith in Truth and Justice; And to find Forgiveness for those bitter in soul who are spreading vicious accusations before the investigations are complete. . . I forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they say or do.

Those who trust in the Lord will find renewed strength.
Strength is what I seek. It’s what I need in this trying time of Confusion.

I release my word for Truth, Peace and Justice within my community. I know my word will not come back to me empty because those who trust in the Lord will find renewed strength.
And so it is. Amen.

Username

Does God read the comments section of the Bakersfield Californian?

Copper

Does God see all the people condemning the victims and invoking His name in the process . Pathetic

Copper

Tony that is absolutely disgusting prayer shame on you ! Fake Christians like you are what gives Christianity a bad name.

Copper

Absolutely and utterly inappropriate insensitive display of victim intimidation tactic by a mob I’ve ever seen. The fact that Craig green lighted this shows serious sociopath/narcissistic disorder. His glory . Sad this congregation didn’t use this time to support all victims of predatory priests and offer them their support. Regardless of how you’re personal feelings are for Craig nothing about this is ok. Totally shameful and a perfect play his his attorney good job .

Beth56

I couldn't agree with you more!! Well done!!

REMUDA

Ah . . . behold then . . . 'SNAP' . . . !
---
And 'celebrate' your 'OWN' vigil if you like . . . !
----
See how it goes to PRAISE those who say "J'ACCUSE" . . . what venue . . . & where? (after 20 years in hiding)
-----
$$$ . . . ?

Beth56

That's moronic! Hiding in their own skin? Maybe it's a conspiracy, a cover-up until now. They had 20 years to make this story up so they could get some $$$$$ wow it might just work!?

REMUDA

SNAP . . . ?
---
Listen up . . . !
----
Old Navy Leadership saying . . . !
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"Praise In Public, Reprimand In Private . . . ! "

JR

It's creepy. Like some hypnotized Stepford Wives thing. People who haven't the intellectual ability to rethink a belief even though something as tragic as children and adults may have been sexually abused. An experience that stays with them for life. How dumb and selfish can you get.

lrlopez74

If you Catholics ever-so-faithful would actually up off your knees and DO something about your priests raping children, we wouldn't constantly need to pray for everyone involved.

LocalCatholic

It was a very beautiful vigil. Please pray for everyone involved.

Jerry Todd

Speaking to someone who has experienced the actions of groups similar to SNAP said these outfits are financed and orchestrated by people seeking to destroy the Church in particular and Christianity in general. The name John Podesta comes to mind. His efforts to force change in Church teaching are known.

Copper

I do believe the Catholic Church has done plenty to destroy itself by protecting priests who molest children and rape nuns. Kyle Humphries said it’s not about the victims. Guess what Kyle it is exactly about the victims and the justice they deserve and the cover up by the church .

JR

No. YOU pray that the victims of this molester can find some peace in their life.That would be beautiful.

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