Msgr. Craig Harrison to Resign, SNAP Calls on Diocese of Fresno to Release Results of Internal Investigation
February 18, 2021
At a press conference this afternoon, embattled Msgr. Craig Harrison announced that he is resigning from the priesthood. We hope that this decision will comfort the multiple accusers who have come forward and that Catholic officials in Fresno will release the results of their internal investigation soon.
Msgr. Harrison was first publicly accused of abuse almost two years ago. The clergyman and his attorneys may cite the fact that he was not charged with crimes as evidence of his innocence, but in fact local district attorneys stated publicly that they believed the claims against him were credible but they were prevented from bringing charges due to the statute of limitations. Avoiding charges on a legal technicality is not proof of innocence.
Many in the public and the media have assumed that the accusations against Msgr. Harrison must be false because he is a popular priest and his accusers came forward years after the alleged abuse occurred. But in fact, delayed disclosure of sexual abuse is the norm, not the exception, especially when the accused is a person of prominent standing within the community. If anything is unique about this case, it is that the accusers came forward earlier than data would suggest.
At the press conference, Msgr. Harrison says he plans to continue preaching. That is a tired path used by many who have been censured for abuse in the past. They switch religions and in that way continue to cultivate power and access to victims. Look no further than another Fresno example, Fr. Jesus Serna. Fr. Serna was a Catholic priest with the Diocese of Yakima, where he worked from 1997-2005, when he was first accused of abuse in 2005. After his laicization, Fr. Serna reinvented himself as an Anglican priest in Fresno, where he was arrested for sexually abusing vulnerable immigrant men. After he was removed as an Anglican priest, Fr. Serna switched religions again and continued to preach to his ardent followers, despite the trail of victims left behind.
Thanks to the “window to justice” opened in California by AB 218, survivors now have an opportunity to expose their abusers and enablers in civil court. We are grateful to legislators and California’s Attorney General for creating a climate where victims feel empowered to come forward. We hope that this story will encourage other survivors who may be suffering in silence to come forward, make a report to local police and prosecutors, and start healing.