The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno received and accepted the resignation of popular Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison, the diocese announced Friday afternoon.
In a written statement, Bishop Joseph V. Brennan said the church will begin the process to laicize Harrison, after which he will no longer be considered a member of the clergy. That process "is always a difficult and even a sad moment in the Church," the statement said.
The bishop's statement continued: "It is accompanied by a broad spectrum of emotions and much prayerfulness on the part of all concerned. This is true not only before the process has begun, but also long after its conclusion. God help us all."
Harrison, a Bakersfield native, had been pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Bakersfield since 1999. In April 2019, he was placed on administrative leave as church officials look into allegations of sexual impropriety and inappropriate behavior, which he denies.
In an emotional news conference on Thursday, Harrison announced that he would cut ties with the church in order to perform Christian activities with members of the community and his friends.
“I cannot ignore my call from Christ to serve and minister to his people,” Harrison said during the news conference while surrounded by his attorneys and family.
Brennan's statement said he received notice of the resignation on Thursday. To respect the "privacy of all parties concerned and because of the ongoing civil matter involving the parties," the diocese declined to comment further, the statement said.
Harrison has filed three separate defamation lawsuits that remain ongoing against people who have spoken publicly about the allegations of sexual misconduct. Two of those lawsuits are against people who are or were employed by the diocese.