NewsCovering Kern County


Diocese: Msgr. Craig Harrison was informed of allegations full day before it was released to public

Police: Alleged victim reports multiple occasions of inappropriate touching
Posted at 3:44 PM, Apr 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-27 02:23:00-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The well-known Bakersfield monsignor accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with a Firebaugh minor more than a decade ago was told of the allegations Wednesday morning by the diocese, a full day before the diocese announced the investigation to the public, according to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.

Victim Assistance Coordinator Cheryl Sarkisian of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno confirmed to 23ABC News on Friday that Bakersfield's St. Francis Church Monsignor Craig Harrison was "personally informed" about the accusations in a face-to-face meeting with Bishop Xavier Ochoa and diocese chancellor Teresa Dominguez on April 24 at 9:30 a.m.

On Thursday, just before 11 a.m., Monsignor Craig Harrison wrote in a Facebook post that he had "just learned" that he was on temporary administrative leave.

On Thursday, the diocese announced that a man had reported the allegations to diocese staff on Friday, April 12, saying that the alleged incident happened when he was a minor. The diocese said staff then reported those accusations to Firebaugh Police the following Monday, April 15.

Firebaugh Police on Friday said the now adult accuser told the diocese that when he was an altar boy at St. Joseph Church in Firebaugh when he was 16- or 17-years-old, he was alone with Monsignor Harrison when the victim was inappropriately touched on three separate occasions. Firebaugh Police say Harrison was the priest of the St. Joseph Church in Firebaugh at the time of the alleged incidents.

Sarkisian said Harrison came to St. Francis in Bakersfield in 1999 and that the clergy at St. Francis was notified of the accusations late Wednesday so Harrison would have time to inform his family.

Sarkisian added that the diocese encourages victims to report allegations to law enforcement themselves, but will report them on the victim's behalf if they prefer.

Harrison was placed on paid administrative leave by the diocese pending the outcome of the Firebaugh Police investigation and a separate investigation by the diocese.

Firebaugh Police said its investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed at this time.

The attorney for Craig Harrison sent a letter to the Fresno Diocese requesting that the Diocese provides him with the complaint, identity of the complainant, allegations and other pertinent information. As of Friday afternoon, Humphrey said he has not received a response.

Anyone with information relevant to this investigation, contact the Firebaugh Police Department (559) 659-3051.