Support for the Rev. Craig Harrison (copy)

In this July photo, a sign showing support for accused Catholic priest Craig Harrison is posted outside Lucas Silver at 1730 Oak St. in downtown Bakersfield. 

Two men being sued by Monsignor Craig Harrison for defamation said in a legal filing last week they are being harassed and intimidated by the priest's family and supporters, possibly in an effort to silence them.

The allegations were made in an anti-SLAPP motion filed by the defense that seeks to have the lawsuit dismissed on grounds that it targets legitimate free speech about issues of public significance. (SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.)

Defendant Stephen Brady of Roman Catholic Faithful, an Illinois-based Catholic watchdog group, said in the filing he received "a series of bizarre emails" from Harrison's brother, Rick Harrison, in August and September, "apparently intended to harass and intimidate me."

The same filing contains a statement from Ryan Dixon, a former mentee of Harrison's who is now a Catholic monk known as Brother Justin Gilligan, that says his mother has been the subject of harassment. It says she has moved out of state because she feared what might happen to her.

Craig A. Edmonston, Harrison's attorney in the case, said he is unaware of such harassment.

"The case is simply about defamation, lies and restoring Monsignor's reputation and clearing his name," Edmonston said, adding that he will file an opposition to the motion in the coming weeks.

Harrison sued Brady in August after Brady talked about allegations of sexual misconduct by Harrison at a Bakersfield news conference Brady hosted in May. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno had placed Harrison on administrative leave in late April citing accusations of sexual misconduct against him involving minors.

Brady describes himself as a disabled Vietnam veteran and Catholic who was trained as a military police officer and started the group Roman Catholic Faithful when he began to investigate corrupt clergy in the mid-1990s. He claims to have forced the resignations of two priests — one in Brady's hometown of Springfield, Ill., and another in South Africa — through the group's work and said he was also involved in investigating priests in the Merced area in the early 2000s. Brady also disseminated documentation from the Merced investigation alleging that Harrison had sexual relationships with teenage boys.

But Edmonston, Harrison's lawyer, sees Brady's work differently.

"He has proclaimed time and again that Roman Catholic Faithful's business is to destroy lives. I've never heard of any legitimate entity whose business is to destroy lives," Edmonston said.

In the recent filing, Brady says he began to receive harassing emails from Rick Harrison, brother of Craig Harrison, in September. Copies of the alleged emails were included as exhibits.

“We have millions of dollars to fight you against Msgr Craig to end your wrongful pursuit of innocent people! See you in court!!!” said the first alleged email message, sent Aug. 20.

“Father Craig Harrison just got three donations for his defense of $90,000 yesterday! How is yours going Satan!” said another alleged email sent a couple of days later.

An email sent Thursday by The Californian to the email address listed as Rick Harrison's in the filing was not answered. Attempts also were made to reach him through his social media account.

Gilligan, who is the subject of a second defamation suit filed by Harrison, has not been served with papers in the case. Harrison and family members have posted messages on Facebook in recent weeks saying Gilligan has fled the monastery where he lived and that the priest's supporters are asking for the public's help to learn Gilligan's whereabouts.

In the defense's filing last week, a declaration by Gilligan was included in which he also alleged harassment. The declaration said that ever since Gilligan spoke out about Harrison several months ago, his mother was asked to leave her job at St. Francis. It said his mother's Bakersfield home was vandalized, his mother's tires were slashed and signs in support of Craig Harrison were put in her yard. It further states that, after living in constant fear, Gilligan's mother ultimately decided to move to Oklahoma.

When contacted Friday, Gilligan declined to comment on the situation outside the legal declaration he made. However, he also gave the Survivors Network for Abused Priests, or SNAP, an advocacy group for victims of sex abuse by clergy, a voicemail he received in which a man says: "We're tracking you," and then calls Gilligan an expletive.

The voicemail is not cited in the legal documents but SNAP included it and some Facebook posts in a letter it sent Oct. 10 to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The letter asks Becerra's office to "intervene" out of concern for Gilligan's safety.

A hearing to consider the defense's anti-SLAPP motion is scheduled for Nov. 25.

According to the Bar Association of San Francisco's website, the court when considering an anti-SLAPP motion must first consider if the defamation suit targets "protected activity."

Brady's attorney, Paul M. Jonna, claims Harrison's lawsuit does target such activity because his client was commenting on a matter of public interest. He added that Catholic clergy scandals and child molestation issues are important to the public.

If the court agrees, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to show he has some probability of prevailing in proving the defendant defamed him.

(22) comments

She Dee

Does not surprise me that intimidation is being used as a manipulation tool by some of these brain washed fools hiding behind a computer screen. Perhaps they were abused as children & they want to help their abusers. That's how my mind thinks...but then, I know a few too many people who have had their lives ruined by the good people of the church.

Conscience of Bakersfield

Interesting that the two men, from different state and having nothing to dow with each other are using the same legal team and speaking in a unified voice with SNAP. LOL, these contrived allegations are such a fraud. Dixon's mom had moved and was fired long before these allegations ever came up.

Bako4586

If there was nothing why is it taking Firebaugh and Merced so long to complete their investigations? It's been 6 months, Firebaugh was the first to open a case against Harrison and they are still not finished.

The Jackal

Powerful Predators they need to stop touching boys pee pees.

RubySue

Well, you know that one cop in Firebaugh has his hands full, with those pumpkin smashings on Halloween and the dog bite case down on N Street.

JackF

Hi Cindy, on behalf of my family, I want to let you know that we are offering prayers for your son Brother Justin and all those being taken advantage of by our fallen priests. He is a brave human being for coming forward to defend others. We are in disbelief and shock because we trust all of them (priests) and care for them dearly. To hear news hit close to our community like we have this year, it saddens our hearts, but we still hold our faith firm. We pray for you and your family pretty lady.

KenWitham

Gilligan should have known there would be backlash if his mother was employed by the parish. However, it doesn't make the harassment of her okay. I can't believe that anyone outside of the affected parties would want to do anything but let this play out. That Msgr. Harrison is not publicly asking his supporters to stop such harassing behaviors is proof enough to show where his heart is at this moment in time. What a mess this whole situation has become!

JackF

Colladeral damage

rec_62

I'm embarrassed to attend St. Francis Church. I don't want to be associated with this mean spirited behavior. Shame, shame, shame on any of you who have hurt that family and destroyed their property. Justin is our Brother in Christ from our own parish! If you have been mean to him and his family then you are not following the doctrine of the catholic church and you are worshiping a false prophet. Father Harrison is NOT a proclaimer of the will of God.

Jerry Todd

Apparently you now nothing and are profound in proclaiming it. Where did the mean-spirited behavior originate? Once this fiasco became public via legal professionals who know where the deep pockets might lie and how to train their clients, it become necessary to defend the parish and the pastor who has done so much for so many people. Has he ever sinned? Sure. Are any of his sins listed among the unforgivable? Not unless he denied the Holy Spirit. How long and how much do alleged victims need to gain revenge? At what cost to thousands of people who know, love and serve God, including the accused? Those who stirred up this imbroglio and the sissies who hide behind fake names to throw their mud from have IMHO no standing anyway. The last time St. Francis was attacked like this was when the Carpenters Union paraded around with placards with rats eating and a big "Shame on St. Francis" for hiring a non-union parishioner to do some remodeling work. The union even had hired pickets who were making out in front of the school kids (I have the evidence and even put it in a Bible Study book I wrote.)

Copper

So are you admitting to intimidating the accusers?

Gene Pool Chlorinator

IF you are so embarrassed, then attend another Catholic church? There are options open to you...

You are aware that none of these new allegations have been proven truthful, right??

Knowsalotofcatholics

SHAME ON FATHER CRAIG'S CAMP!! WHAT A DISGRACE! Christian much?! All of you should be letting the attorneys DO THERE JOB! Harrassment and violence are also against the law. I hope and pray the files are released to the public. Just for Gilligian's mother's sake. I am so appalled that this form of violence and harrassment is being permitted. I know it is a passionate topic and a person's "reputation" has been tarnished, BUT it still gives NO PERSON the right to harrass, threaten, etc.

HeresJohnny

This is such a mess I'm personally afraid to comment...

Knowsalotofcatholics

That is what they want to happen!! Don't be afraid. Comment away. Someone has to! Jerry Todd isn't commenting about this article!

Jerry Todd

I did, but it was apparently rejected. 1Corinthians 6

Bako4586

I heard from multiple people the Craig camp has a private investigator going around harassing anyone against the Msgr.

RubySue

Then it must be so. If more than one person repeats it, it can't be a rumor, right?

Bako4586

Really Edmonston?? Your wife is doing the same thing on Facebook and you claim you have no idea about you all harassing these men?

Bako4586

I've seen the way his brother and sister are going after these men on Facebook and it is absolutely disgusting. I can't believe Msgr consents the way his family and supporters are acting.

PedoHater

Of course. Jesus wept. Sad

All Star

I'm not catholic. I have never met Craig Harrison. I have never met any of the alleged victims. That said, what a circus this has become. Let all the lawyers, and their clients, go on The Jerry Springer Show and get this over with in one hour.

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