Accused priest Craig Harrison has filed a slander lawsuit against a Catholic group that recently disseminated letters and emails alleging the Bakersfield clergyman committed sexual abuse while working at a Firebaugh church in the early 2000s.

The suit filed Aug. 6 in Kern County Superior Court says Stephen Brady, president and founder of Illinois-based Roman Catholic Faithful Inc., whose self-professed goal is to rid the church of clerical corruption, shared and published "false, defamatory, libelous and slanderous statements" during a May 29 news conference in Bakersfield.

The correspondence Brady publicized during the news conference detailed allegations that Harrison had sex with two high school students while serving as pastor of the Firebaugh church and that he would examine boys' private parts daily as a way of checking whether they had been using drugs.

The letters and email originated with an unrelated investigation conducted in 2004 by a retired FBI agent in Merced.

'LOOKING FOR THE TRUTH'

Brady said Thursday it was not his goal to harm or defame Harrison, and that he was only sharing information he uncovered while trying to find out whether the accusations against the priest were true. He called the lawsuit unwarranted.

"I have nothing personal against Monsignor Harrison whatsoever," Brady said. "I was just looking for the truth."

The suit was filed on Harrison's behalf by Bakersfield attorney Craig A. Edmonston, who could not be reached for comment.

Harrison, a popular figure in Bakersfield known for helping troubled youth, remains on paid administrative leave after being suspended in April from his job as pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. He has denied ever engaging in sexual impropriety.

His lead attorney, Kyle Humphrey, has said Harrison is the innocent victim of a cabal of accusers bent on destroying the priest's life as they seek payment from the church.

RESTORING A REPUTATION

Humphrey said Thursday afternoon the lawsuit against Roman Catholic Faithful and Brady was the first in a series of legal actions "to restore the reputation and good name of Monsignor Craig Harrison and to hold accountable these defendants for their false, malicious and reckless accusations." He declined to say who Harrison might sue next.

A representative of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which advocates for victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church, said the group is aware of about a dozen similar lawsuits, none of which it believes have been successful.

"We hope this move backfires and prods others who may have seen, suspected or suffered wrongdoing by Msgr. Harrison to step forward, get help, call police, protect others and expose the truth," SNAP's David G. Clohessy said by email.

The suit recounts accusations brought to light during the 2004 investigation conducted by retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Thomas H. Walsh. Among them are allegations Harrison had sex with a minor in the back of the priest's Ford Explorer, "that he is a sexual predator, corrupt, has a bad gambling problem and is a high roller."

It also said the materials disseminated, published and republished by Roman Catholic Faithful suggested one troubled young man committed suicide because he was allegedly abused by Harrison.

'RECKLESS DISREGARD'

The allegations are not only false, the lawsuit states, but they were made "negligently and maliciously and with reckless disregard for the falsity (serious doubts as to the truth) of the allegations."

As a result of the charges' publication, it says, Harrison has suffered permanent damage and injury to his good name and reputation. He has incurred and will continue to incur general and non-economic damages "for emotional distress, worry, anxiety, fear and humiliation in an amount according to proof." It goes on to say the economic damage he sustained includes medical bills, loss of income and harm to his ability to earn money.

Harrison's lawsuit seeks to recover those damages as well as legal costs.

At the news conference cited in the lawsuit, Brady told reporters he was in the process of going through his old files hoping to uncover information that could be helpful in his investigation into Harrison's alleged misconduct.

“I’m going to dig and I'm not going to stop digging,” he said at the news conference held at the Holiday Inn & Suites, according to The Californian's report at the time. “One way or another, we’re going to prove Father Harrison’s innocence or guilt.”

Brady allowed at the time that Harrison might be innocent.

“Father Harrison could be completely innocent, and this is just a conspiracy of half a dozen individuals out to destroy him, but I’ve never seen any conspiracy like that before,” he said at the news conference.

Bakersfield police recently closed its investigation into allegations Harrison sexually abused minors while serving as pastor of St. Francis. Police in Merced and Firebaugh continue to investigate allegations they have received against Harrison.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, whose investigation of Harrison is ongoing, said it was not in a position to comment on Harrison's lawsuit.

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

(53) comments

REMUDA

A Priest, like any other citizen . . . like any one of you all . . . has Constitutional rights under the law to be protected from false, unproven and unprovable accusations and statements denigrating his character, destroying his reputation and diminishing his good works, especially if done for financial gain . . . the most grave and egregious form of depredation.

Defamation that seems intentional is punishable beyond civil as this may reach criminal statute violations. All civil tort requires a $$ value to proceed to justice, whereas criminal acts may reach beyond in these claims, working against those who falsely claim injury.

Time will tell . . . Wait and see . . .

Copper

Guilty or not you can’t fault him for his lifestyle. Do the arch bishops and Pope live impoverished? I feel like only some priests take vows of poverty . Didn’t Jesus himself have wealthy benefactors? I’m not sure God wants his people suffering in poverty? Most non catholic ministers have nice incomes some even uber wealthy televangelists. I just don’t see the co relation between poverty and faithfulness to God.

ConcernedCatholic

Get revenge Craig! I like it!

Jerry Todd

Diocesan priests take a vow of obedience to the Bishop. They do not take a vow of poverty. Many priests end up poor. I know several here in town that have prepared well for their retirement.



Msgr Craig was a successful businessman before he chose the priesthood. He brought his business acumen with him in answering the call to serve the Lord. He raised millions of dollars for the parish for a complete overhaul of the interior and exterior of the church building, built 2 new multipurpose fully equipped youth centers, at the parish site and at St. Francis School. With today's homeless crisis, he led the construction of a homeless center on Baker Street where they can be fed, launder or get new clothes and shower. BTW, all these improvements are the property of the Bishop of Fresno. That's the way the Catholic Church operates.



No one denies his sabbaticals, because like the President the same folks hate, he works way too many hours a day.



If the whiners know anything about tours, the Travel company does well by arranging tours that have a luminary to lead it. Without a draw like that, fewer people would bother to go. The luminary travels free. That's the way it works.



Dr. Glen Puder, popular Pastor of 1st Presbyterian married into the Disney family. He always traveled free on cruises in return for his personal local draw, also conducting services aboard ship.



Nothing will ever placate the whiners, mockers and accusers. It's a good sign their target is doing things right.

ConcernedCatholic

All the good outweighs him destroying lives huh??? Good one!!!! SO now youre making excuses for his lavish lifestyle. Are the people in Bakersfield off their rocker? I just did some research and found that he has a street named after him in firebaugh, and he named the youth center at his parish after himself??? Sounds like a humble man to me!!! Good thing they don't take vows of humility. lol

Jerry Todd

I'll agree on not naming buildings after living persons. Have too get after Bill Thomas about the Airport and local freeway improvements. I'll take those over your bitter, angry posts, indicating you don't have time to do the service God called you to. I'll bet you voted for Obama, who complained he entered the White House still paying off student loans. The BHO's bought a $9 million home in DC, a few miles from the White House. Yesterday it was announced they bought a $14.5 million summer home on 29 waterfront acres on Martha's Vineyard. Not bad for 8+ years, don't you agree?

St. Thomas Aquinas stated, "It takes two things to live a righteous life, a righteous heart and the means to act righteously." I've been digging around your posts, looking for that righteous heart. Still digging.

IMO

Very well said Mr. Todd.

Nevermind

If the accusers are lying, it's a pretty elaborate scheme. If a Priest wants revenge, then he should take a lie detector test......right? It's not admissable in criminal Court, so if he's telling the truth, why wouldn't he? Because he doesn't have to, does not convince me. A passed lie detector can be used In a Civil suit at the Judges discretion.

ConcernedCatholic

Take a lie detector Craig and if you pass you can have your parish back. AND.... it would be a very elaborate scheme and if these people are who craig says they are, alcoholic, troubled backgrounds, out for money, seems like their plan would have fallen through at some point, seems odd merced and firebaugh are taking so long. If there was nothing, why is this taking so long. People are not smart enough to fool the diocese into such an elaborate plan like this... also, the diocese had already been investigating from what I understand. I'm from AZ but it's easy to see objectively that this guy is guilty.

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Lie detectors don't prove anything (they are easily defeated once someone knows how they work) and aren't even admissible in court.

I knew you weren't local- pretty sad that you have no life other than making posts anytime there's a new article on Craig. I thought there was more for someone to do in AZ, but I guess not in your instance... #troll

bakoreader

Msgr Craig owns a very large home in Westchester, paid for by a wealthy parishioner. He travels to Italy every summer for a two month sabbatical, and once a year takes an international vacation with parishioners known as his "padre's pilgrims" organized by a local travel agency. This is not a priest living a humble life with a vow of poverty. It boggles my mind how he can be asking for contributions for a legal fund.

ConcernedCatholic

He will pocket the money.

ConcernedCatholic

His brother Rick harrison is bragging how 3 wealthy parishoners gave 80k a piece here in town. Him, susan, and the 'adopted' sons should be careful what they put online about other people. Doesn't seem like a holy and humble family to me.

Jerry Todd

Have you determined the home is actually owned by Msgr Craig, or just loaned?

ConcernedCatholic

Lazzerini

SNAP lies

First Monsignor DOES NOT own a house in Westchester!! He is given a two month sabbatical every ten years not every year! Come on Brady get your facts checked before you keep printing lies!

ConcernedCatholic

He takes a trip every summer to the Holy Land.

IMO

Do your homework. He doesn't own the house. As far as the travel..who cares! the annual trip is one of faith. If he wants to travel with parishioner's on his own time,which he does, its his business.

Eauchiche

I don't care how many men laid hands on Harrison, i don't care how many fancy dresses he has hanging in the sacristy down at the church. This guy is no priest.

ConcernedCatholic

His supporters don't get that he is being accused in 3 different towns... and all these guys are just making it up. Do you think people are really that smart to make stuff up like this???? Pretty damning Craig.

ConcernedCatholic

Humphry says accusers are pigs lining of to the trough for a payday but the HOLY priest is the first one to sue for money..... gtfo..... shaking my head.

Meeshka

His suing seems very un Christ like. Isn't vengeance to be God's? It makes him look petty, arrogant and immature.

ConcernedCatholic

Emotionally immature and arrogant. I thought priests are supposed to be humble and live simply, like the poor.

ConcernedCatholic

Funny how Humphrey said all these accusers are out for money and Craig is the first one suing....... LOLLLL Pigs lining up to the trough.

IMO

Brady is a one man show working out of the basement of his pizza parlor. Hes got nothing to take except a very bad sport coat. Think maybe there are legal fees to recoup? Brady is not an accuser, hes just looking for his 15 min of fame and had nothing to offer. Guess he is getting what he asked for. They have internet available at St Lukes?

ConcernedCatholic

Yeah lets send Craig back there for compulsive lying.... I think he's been there twice. Where's sergio craigy?

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Brady and the RCF are the ones begging for money right now- have you seen their website? Mean Msgr Craig is suing them, so they are now begging for Paypal contributions to fight this suit. Why don't you give them some scratch- given that you're such a "Concerned Catholic" and all... LOL

ConcernedCatholic

I heard Rick Harrison is bragging that Craig raised over 300k in the last couple days to start suing people... Really Godly family I must say!!!

ConcernedCatholic

Hot mess susan!!!!!!

Zest

I never heard of a priest adopting kids.

ConcernedCatholic

I never heard of a priest suing his accusers... WWJD?

Gene Pool Chlorinator

Jesus was never sued- your analogy is as worthless as your multiple inane posts...

ConcernedCatholic

A priest suing people??? Isn't he supposed to represent Christ?

IMO

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

SNAP lies

Are you saying a priest has no rights! I’m sure if you were falsely accused with no evidence you would get legal help. He is protecting himself from these horrible organizations and people who like to rehash false claims with no evidence!

ConcernedCatholic

There was evidence by BPD.

Jerry Todd

Jesus would throw the money changers out of the Temple and call them a brood of vipers. Seems to have hit the nail on the head, from money changers out for the easy buck from frightened Diocesan officials to vipers who have never sinned - not having the conscience to know the difference, while circling the accused with stones in hand, ready to strike again. The end goal is the destruction of the moral authority of the Church and any Judeo-Christian entity that gets in their way.

ConcernedCatholic

So glad he is seeking 'unlimited' damages when he doesn't need money. Especially from what I hear, he is the wealthiest priest in Fresno area of priests.

ConcernedCatholic

The real Craig Harrison showing his true colors.

SNAP lies

I think the Monk should be fired for lying those are his true colors

ConcernedCatholic

You're right!!!!

ConcernedCatholic

I never heard of a priest suing anyone.

SNAP lies

Only Stephen Brady because is attacking good people for his 15 mins of fame. A Disgusting man!!

SNAP lies

I hope he sues the Monk!

ConcernedCatholic

I hope he does too!

ConcernedCatholic

Sue the monk! Sue the monk!! :)

Gary Crabtree

Every article re-hashes the same old stuff. Just report the new and forget about background. We TBC readers have been hounded to death over this. This is going to be another Crisp and Cole story that will last for years.

Rayovac

"I have nothing personal against Monsignor Harrison. I was just looking for the truth." And, in the process, drag his already sullied name through the mud even further so that he will never work as a priest again. Sorry, but you can't just make public horrible allegations of this sort without at least some evidence and he knows this (unless of course you are the Democrats going after a conservative Supreme Court nominee...then you can make any claim you want).

SNAP lies

This guy and his group are asking for donations to defend him! Such a loser!

ConcernedCatholic

Apparently, Msgr has been raising funds all over town to sue. Jesus didn't sue his accusers and he was falsely accused.

Jerry Todd

Just give George Soros a call. He loves this kind of stuff.

ConcernedCatholic

He worked with the FBI agent Tom Walsh in 2004. Not allegations without evidence.

SNAP lies

So they found nothing what did they find out 15 yrs later? Go ahead. Besides made up stuff like the Monk!

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