For the first time since he was suspended from the Catholic Church more than a year ago, former priest Craig Harrison has been hit with two lawsuits alleging he sexually abused two young boys while serving as a priest in the Diocese of Fresno.
The lawsuits will be announced Wednesday in Fresno during a press conference by Jeff Anderson and Associates, a firm that specializes in child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests. The press conference will begin at 1 p.m. PST at the DoubleTree by Hilton at the Fresno Convention Center.
According to the attorneys, the two civil child sexual abuse lawsuits will be filed accusing Harrison of sexually abusing the boys as well as Fresno Catholic officials for ignoring and concealed his crimes.
In a statement by one of the plaintiffs, identified simply as Joseph Doe: he said: “Msgr. Harrison hurt me when I was an altar boy at St. Francis. I was just a kid, and he used his position of power as a priest to abuse me. Msgr. Harrison stole my childhood, and every day since then I have lived with shame. I want the Bishop to start protecting kids. I want the Bishop to stop helping abusers. I want the Bishop to stop keeping secrets about abuse.”
The statement from the attorneys went on to read: "On April 12, 2019, a survivor made a report of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by Msgr. Harrison to the Diocese of Fresno. Three days after receipt of this report, the Diocese allegedly contacted the Firebaugh Police Department. Msgr. Harrison was reportedly put on paid administrative leave due to an allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor that occurred decades prior in Firebaugh, California. Since then, two other survivors have come forward alleging childhood sexual abuse by Msgr. Harrison. One of the survivors purportedly previously reported the sexual abuse by Msgr. Harrison in 1998, and again in 2002. The Diocese deemed the allegation unsubstantiated and Msgr. Harrison continued his priesthood. A survivor who has alleged sexual abuse against Msgr. Harrison is a Catholic monk that referred to Msgr. Harrison as a mentor and felt compelled to come forward after hearing other allegations."
These lawsuits mark the first time since his suspension that Harrison has been targeted by alleged victims. Up to this point, it has been Harrison filing the lawsuits: including one against the Diocese of Fresno for defamation, and two other defamation lawsuits against former monk Ryan Gilligan (he has not filed suit against Harrison but has submitted damming statements against him) and an organization that tracks wayward priests, known as the Roman Catholic Faithful.
The attorneys also are putting pressure on the Diocese, and on Bishop Joseph Brennan, to reveal a list of "credibly accused priests."
"After decades of pressure, " the attorneys said, "the vast majority of US bishops have posted on church websites the names of and often some details about proven, admitted, and credibly accused predatory clerics. Unfortunately, the Diocese of Fresno is one of sixteen Catholic Dioceses in the United States yet to publish a list of credibly accused clergy. Many consider this long-overdue step to be the bare minimum church officials should do to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded."
Now out of the church, Harrison has been busy trying to rebuild his life and his reputation. He has positioned himself as a life coach and counselor, and has scheduled an appearance at the Fox Theater soon to address an audience of women.
The filing of the lawsuits against Harrison moves the case into a potentially critical and revealing phase, when details of the alleged encounters with Harrison will be submitted in court in lurid detail while Harrison and his attorneys will attempt to discredit the accusers one by one. Stay tuned.