BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Dozens of locals gathered Wednesday evening at Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Central Bakersfield in support of Monsignor Craig Harrison.
On April 24th, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno confirmed with 23ABC News that Monsignor Craig was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation surrounding sexual misconduct allegations made by a man who says he was a minor at the time of the alleged abuse. Since then, another victim has come forward, and we’ve learned that a third allegation was made against the monsignor in 1998.
This event was planned since those allegation of sexual misconduct were revealed against the local religious leader, but other locals and a national organization say the vigil should have never happened.
"Whether it's a priest or anybody,it’s a bad idea to have a vigil, especially at a church," said Joe Piscatelli with SNAP, know as Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "That would mean the diocese condoned this and that’s a poor move by the bishop to condone people supporting somebody who has multiple accusations of sex abuse. It discourages victims from coming forward because victims feel as though they’re not having a voice."
The organization sent a statement earlier Wednesday asking the vigil to be canceled. It says the vigil will "impede a police investigation and deter others who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse from coming forward.
But despite their efforts, the vigil went on.
“If Monsignor is watching this, I want him to see that people are still convening in his name, respecting and honoring him and letting him know that we don’t believe these allegations," said churchgoer Jamie Arias-Aguilar. "We’ll continue to pray. That’s the best we can do."
While others prayed for Monsignor Craig, others gathered in support of the potential victims. This caused tensed moments between supporters and protesters.
“I heard they were going to do a vigil to support [Monsignor] Craig Harrison and I just wanted to come out here to support the victims that are in this case and across the country, across the world, the victims that have the courage to speak up and aren’t believed," ," said protester Carolyn Stribling.
23ABC has reached out multiple of times to Saint Francis in regards to the vigil that was held as well as the allegations made against Monsignor Craig Harrison. But have not heard back.