Sexual misconduct allegation levied against Fresno Catholic Diocese priest

Merced Sun Star

April 25, 2019

By Yesnia Amaro

A 59-year-old priest with the Diocese of Fresno is on leave after being accused of sexual misconduct in Firebaugh.

Rev. Monsignor Craig Francis Harrison is being investigated after the allegation was made this month by an adult male, who was a minor when the alleged offense happened, according to a statement from the diocese.

Harrison currently serves at St. Francis Parish in Bakersfield. “I can confirm that there was a report taken, Monday April 15,” said Raquel Tabares, Firebaugh police records supervisor and lead dispatcher. “Right now, (the investigation) is still in the fact-finding stage.”

In a Firebaugh police’s news release issued mid-day Thursday, police say the alleged victim was allegedly inappropriately touched when he was 14 to 16 years old.

The diocese in its statement said the allegation was reported to its staff on April 12. The diocese reported it to the Firebaugh police three days later.

A Firebaugh police officer contacted the person who made the complaint, according to the statement.

The diocese is conducting its own internal investigation, and has notified all the parishes where Harrison has previously served. That includes Our Lady of Mercy and St. Patrick’s in Merced, St. Francis in Mojave, and St. Joseph in Firebaugh.

David G. Clohessy, with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests local chapter in Missouri, called out the diocese for taking three days to make a report to police.

“Three days may not sound like a long time,” he said. “But child sex abuse reports are supposed to be made immediately to police.”

Clohessy said he calls on law enforcement to not only investigate Harrison, “but to also look long and hard at church staff who may have broken the law by their delay or by ignoring or hiding other reports or warnings or ‘red flags’ about Fr. Harrison’s alleged wrongdoing.”

“We call on Fresno Catholic officials, including incoming Bishop Joseph Brennan, to explain this self-serving delay,” he said in an email.

Four other priests in the diocese are currently on administrative leave, pending ongoing investigations.

Late last year, the diocese acknowledged it was investigating three of its priests after complaints submitted to the diocese.

Earlier this year, the diocese said it was also investigating a fourth priest. Plus, last year a Los Banos priest was sentenced to four years in state prison after pleading no contest to possessing child pornography.

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