BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Monsignor Craig Harrison of St. Francis Church in Bakersfield has been placed on Paid Administrative Leave pending an investigation of sexual misconduct with a minor.
According to the Catholic Diocese of Fresno, which oversees Bakersfield Catholic churches, an allegation of sexual misconduct was reported to diocesan personnel on Friday, April 12, by a man who was a minor at the time of the alleged abuse.
On Monday, April 15, diocesan personnel reported the allegation in person to the Firebaugh Police Department. Later that day, the officer who initially received the report was able to contact and interview the alleged victim.
According to the Firebaugh Police Department, the alleged victim reported inappropriate touching. They say the allegation will take several weeks to investigate while they continue to conduct interviews.
According to the Firebaugh Police Department, the alleged victim was 14 to 16-years-old at the time, and they believe the alleged abuse happened in 2003.
“We are looking into the possibility of there being other victims,” said Firebaugh Police Chief Sal Raygoza.
Chief Raygoza also says as part of the investigation, his department will be reaching out to other law enforcement agencies in cities where Monsignor Craig worked.
“We are contacting other cities where he worked at to see if there were any allegations or any reports taken by those agencies related to sexual misconduct,” said Raygoza.
Firebaugh Police say when the investigation is complete, it will be up to the Fresno County District Attorney's Office whether or not charges will be filed.
Monsignor Harrison responded to the allegations, saying he "will vigorously defend my honor from these allegations and look forward to my good name being cleared."
The Diocese of Fresno says they are deferring to law enforcement regarding any additional information about the police department’s investigation.
Concurrent with the investigation being pursued by law enforcement, the Diocese of Fresno is conducting an internal investigation.
Monsignor Craig Harrison has served at Our Lady of Mercy, St. Patrick’s and Sacred Heart of Merced, St. Francis of Bakersfield, St. Francis of Mojave, and St. Joseph of Firebaugh.
The Diocese of Fresno says Msgr. Harrison has been placed on Paid Administrative Leave pending the outcome of the investigation being conducted by law enforcement and the diocesan investigation.
The Diocese of Fresno is asking anyone who has information that may be relevant to this case to contact Officer Ricardo Monay of the Firebaugh Police Department at (559) 659-3051.
The Diocese also released the dates that Monsignor Craig served at the following assignments:
9/12/1987 to 6/21/1989 Our Lady of Mercy, St. Patrick’s and Sacred Heart, Merced
6/22/1989 to 10/16/1991 St. Francis, Bakersfield
10/17/1991 to 6/30/1992 St. Francis, Mojave
7/1/1992 to 6/30/1999 St. Joseph, Firebaugh
7/1/1999 to present St. Francis, Bakersfield
The Diocese of Fresno says anyone who wants to speak with diocesan personnel regarding relevant concerns in any location in the Diocese to contact Teresa Dominguez or Cheryl Sarkisian at (559) 488-7400 or your local law enforcement agency.
Full press release: