BAKERSFIELD, CA — Early Thursday morning, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno confirmed with 23ABC News that Monsignor Craig Harrison of St. Francis Church in Bakersfield, 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.
According to officials from the Diocese of Fresno almost two weeks ago, on Friday April 12, a man told church officials that Monsignor Craig Harrison allegedly sexually abused him when he was a minor. Three days later on Monday April 15, the Diocese of Fresno reported the claim to the Firebaugh Police Department located in west Fresno.
Officials at the St. Francis Church in Bakersfield said they learned about the allegations yesterday. Monsignor Craig was placed on paid leave after the church was notified by the bishop. Monsignor Craig is from Bakersfield and has been a priest for more than 30 years.
He's been at St. Francis for about 20 years, according to church officials. Before that, he was an administrator at a church in Mojave in 1991, then he went to St. Joseph Church in Firebaugh as a priest in 1992 and was there until the early 2000s according to the Diocese of Fresno.
Firebaugh police officials said the alleged incident happened around 2003 involving a man who said he was inappropriately touched by Monsignor Craig when he was between the ages of 14 and 16. It's unclear what year Monsignor Craig moved to St. Francis in Bakersfield.
Thursday, many parishioners were stunned by the news, "I can't believe it, I know it's not true, if you know Monsignor Craig he would never do anything like that," St. Francis parishioner Lupe Ramirez said.
The Firebaugh Police Department and the Diocese of Fresno are both conducting their own investigations into the claims. Church officials said the Diocese of Fresno will be making an announcement to all parishioners and parents of students at the school, at all masses on Saturday and Sunday.
A decision has not been made in regards to who will fill in during Monsignors Craig's absence.
Monsignor Craig also took to social media Thursday sharing this message with the community following the news.
This is a developing story and we will continue to bring you updates as soon as we get them in our newsroom.