mass11

Monsignor Craig Harrison, with hands over the altar, celebrates Holy Thursday Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in 2017.

Monsignor Craig Harrison, in a public statement Thursday defending himself against accusations of sexual misconduct, expressed sadness at having been "left to fight without support" from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.

In a two-page letter issued mid-afternoon by his lead attorney almost a full month after he was suspended from his position as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Bakersfield, Harrison stated diocese officials have not given him the opportunity to share his own side of the story.

"In fact, neither (former) Bishop (Armando X.) Ochoa, Bishop (Joseph V.) Brennan nor any member of the Diocese has checked on my state of mind or welfare," he wrote.

"I have not been invited to respond or provide evidence to the Diocese," he continued. "Out of respect for the investigation, I have remained silent."

Teresa Dominguez, spokesperson for the Fresno diocese, said Harrison is aware the diocese is in transition as Ochoa retires and Brennan is installed as the new bishop.

"Bishop Brennan will be in contact with Msgr. Harrison," Dominguez said. "In the meantime, Msgr. Harrison knows that he can also initiate contact at any time to set an appointment to meet with the bishop."

Harrison stated he has agonized daily, even as he continues to be "lifted up by the support from my community through your letters, phone calls, emails and most importantly your prayers."

The letter says Harrison plans to return soon to his home in Bakersfield to assist his attorney in "proving my innocence."

Harrison released the statement two days after news reports quoted a former Bakersfield man now living in an Oregon monastery saying he witnessed Harrison touching and behaving inappropriately with minors.

The man, Ryan Dixon, who now goes by the name Brother Justin Gilligan, declined to provide details about what he allegedly saw, citing legal concerns.

Harrison said in his written statement that Dixon drank frequently and excessively, "embarrassing himself with his crude language and behavior."

"I reprimanded him and that day he left in anger," Harrison stated. "I have had little contact with him since, other than to encourage him in his faith path."

The letter says Dixon was obligated as a seminarian to report any misconduct, which he failed to do. "He did not report because nothing happened," Harrison wrote.

A board member of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which advocates for victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church, criticized the "mean-spirited" comments in Harrison's statement Thursday.

"A person can defend himself without attacking others. That's what Jesus would do. That's the precise opposite of what Msgr. Harrison is doing," SNAP board member Dan McNevin said by email.

Harrison's lead attorney, Kyle J. Humphrey, said he is working with several prominent lawyers in Harrison's defense. Among them are criminal defense attorneys H.A. Sala, David Torres and Jared Thompson.

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

(10) comments

nc2aref

Concerned Citizen...Please use spell check? Guikty? Momster?

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

Harrison, time to confess your sins and repent and beg for forgiveness

SNAPJudy

Thank you Ryan Dixon for sharing your story. Let's hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by Father Harrison will find the courage to come forward and contact law enforcement no matter how long ago it happened. The church officials are not he proper officials to be investigation child sex crimes. Keep in mind that silence only hurts but 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

Fram Smith

Now, more than ever, is the time for cooler heads to prevail. I know we live in a time in which many people are inclined to formulate opinions prior to the professional law enforcement community having the chance to gather statements under oath; let alone decide that criminal charges will be filed. One troublesome aspect of this sad, sorted, affair is that the church hired someone to "help" in the investigation. If that " help " consists of anything but handing over documents and assisting law enforcement in finding everyone that all the various law enforcement agencies need to interview, then they are involved in something called " obstruction of justice". This use to be a crime. In any case, Father Craig has every right to defend his character. And honest brokers will wait until law enforcement bring charges against Father Craig; or for that matter, against those who lied or obstucted the investigation. But waiting for the facts before reaching a conclusion is so out vogue in a world of snap judgements.

BakoGuy805

Perfect example of why a whistle blower program amongst the clergy is pointless. This statement is what any whistle blower would get which is defame the clergy member for crossing the line. Dixon broke a rule by not reporting years ago but who would? The statement again proves it’s ok to attack the whistle blower which the diocese should condemn. The Fresno diocese obviously has no control over their people because they need to tell this limelight addicted priest to get under the radar and stay there.

GaryJohns

Evidently, SNAP doesn't like it when someone else is doing the "attacking"......

Concerned Citizen of Bakersfield

Guikty! Chomo! Pedo! You’re done you momster!

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Grammar much???

nc2aref

Concerned Citizen....Please use spell check! Guikty? Momster?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.