A delicate line emerges in defending a popular priest while respecting potential victims of abuse


April 27, 2019

By Stacey Shapard

When a celebrity priest is accused of sexual misconduct, where does the line between defending a beloved pillar of the community end and intimidation of an accuser begin?

The question came up this week after Monsignor Craig Harrison of St. Francis Church was placed on paid leave by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno after it received an allegation earlier this month that Harrison inappropriately touched an altar boy when he served at a church in Firebaugh, northwest of Fresno, years ago. That same day the diocese received a second report of alleged abuse by Harrison, diocesan officials said Saturday, this time at a church in Merced in the 1980s.

The initial allegations reverberated throughout the St. Francis congregation and the greater community — where Harrison has long been a fixture of goodwill, faith and homegrown pride. Immediately, hundreds posted messages of support for Harrison on social media.

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