BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Thursday, former Monsignor Craig Harrison addressed the media regarding the allegations against him along with the lawsuit he filed against the Diocese of Fresno. Harrison said that he feels stepping down is one of his only options and he is ready to start living his life again.
“I am announcing that I am resigning as a pastor at St Francis Parish,” said Harrison.
Thursday, Monsignor Craig Harrison stepped down as a priest at St. Francis Church nearly two years after a man in April 2019 reported to Firebaugh Police in Fresno County that he had been inappropriately touched as a teenager by Harrison.
Three other men came forward shortly after the first allegation.
“I submitted a letter to his Holiness Pope Francis to resign as a catholic priest,” said Harrison.
Harrison was put on paid leave in April of 2019 due to the claims and has continued to be on leave since.
After months of investigations, no criminal charges were filed by Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, Bakersfield Police Department, or in Merced County where three separate sexual misconduct allegations were made.
However, in February of 2020, when the Fresno County DA’s office announced they would not be filing charges, they said this in a statement:
"While the allegations made against Monsignor Harrison appear credible to investigators, they reportedly occurred in the 1990s. These allegations were not reported to law enforcement until April of 2019. Delayed reporting is not uncommon in sexual assault cases, but it can limit the ability to criminally charge and prosecute offenders."
Also in February of 2020, Harrison filed a defamation lawsuit against the Diocese of Fresno as well as their former spokesperson, Teresa Dominguez after statements, Harrison did not agree with regarding the sexual misconduct, had been made in an article.
According to Harrison, the Bishop requested that he drop the lawsuit filed against the Diocese.
“He said, ‘if I don’t drop the lawsuit, I am going to be punished,” said Harrison.
Harrison said that he was not allowed to participate in funeral services or posting prayers on social media, which played a part in his decision to step away from the priesthood altogether.
“How can I abandon the foundation, the charities, the things I work for in this community that I love? Well, I can’t.”
23ABC reached out to St. Francis Church in Bakersfield for comment but they denied an on-camera interview. Deacon Francis Moore from the church provided a statement, saying that he “prays for unity for all of those involved.”
23ABC also reached out to the Diocese of Fresno for comment but did not hear back in time for air.