Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The enduring horror of the image of "falling man" haunts the 9-11 anniversary, the blood feud between Bishop Joseph Brennan and accused sexual abuser Craig Harrison and fewer boys than ever are attending college

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

 * ... SEPTEMBER 11 ANNIVERSARY: Of all the horrific images coming out of September 11, 2001, the visual of "falling man" has haunted me most. The identity of the man, seen falling upside down from an upper floor window of the World Trade Center, remains in dispute but the image stands as mute

testimony of the horror of that day. Remember this day in the appropriate way you choose, but pray we have seen the last images of "falling man."

 * ... BOY, GIRLS AND COLLEGE: There is a disturbing trend in American higher education and if it continues women will be earning college degrees at twice the rate of men. That's right, fewer men than women are going to college and even fewer men are sticking it out to earn a degree. According to the National Student Clearinghouse, at the end of the last academic year women made up 59.5 percent of college students while men accounted for just 40.5 percent. And it's worse at graduation, where after six years of college 65 percent of women received diplomas compared to just 59 percent of the men. Researchers say boys face more obstacles than women, including video games, pornography and childhood related medications.

 * ... BABIES OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE: And here is another sign of the times compliments of the National Academy of Science: more educated American women than ever had their first babies later in life and outside of marriage. In this group, about 24.5 percent of them were between the ages of 32 and 38 when they had their first child, and they weren't married. A decade ago, researchers said it was relatively rare for college educated women to have a child outside of marriage. In fact, these same researchers say non marital childbearing is increasing across all educational levels.

 * ... FRESNO DIOCESE VERSUS CRAIG HARRISON: The bad blood between the Diocese of Fresno and former priest Craig Harrison, who is facing multiple charges of sexual abuse while he was a priest, grew worse over the weekend when Bishop Joseph Brennan released a scathing letter calling into question both Harrison's past actions and his current behavior. At its core, of course, the dispute surrounds the fact that the Diocese suspended Harrison two years ago after seven men came forward to say Harrison abused them, and the fact that the Diocese investigated the claims and found them credible. That has been a difficult thing for Harrison's supporters to stomach, and they have turned their anger on their own

Bishop, arguing Brennan has an obsession with Harrison. But this story has found legs and an audience well outside of Kern County, and an organization that defends sexual abuse victims, called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), issued this statement: "A little more than a month ago, when the Diocese of Fresno finally released its list of credibly accused' clerics, Msgr. Craig Harrison’s name appeared on it. In a media statement following, SNAP demanded that the Diocese be more transparent about their findings, what they knew, and when, as Harrison continued to repudiate these allegations. To us, refusing to acknowledge the external findings by the District Attorney and the findings of the Diocesan review board appeared to be just plain denial by Harrison. A letter from Bishop Joseph Brennan was read this past weekend to parishioners, acknowledging the Diocese had received accusations of abuse from seven children against Harrison. The allegations were first made public in April of 2019. The Bishop said that the review board for the Diocese of Fresno found each accusation 'credible,' which subsequently led to a case being opened at the Vatican against the priest. In shorter words, the judiciary tribunal in Rome will consider whether or not to officially remove the resigned Harrison from the clerical state. We applaud Bishop Brennan for taking this step toward transparency, as we believe it has answered some of our questions. More importantly, this step may well encourage others who were victimized by Harrison or another priest, nun, or religious in the Diocese to find the courage and strength to come forward and report to law enforcement. There is also still time for survivors who have been time-barred from justice to file a civil suit for damages in California, and we encourage those interested to seek legal counsel."

 * ... MEMORIES: Beautiful old picture of the El Tejon Hotel which sat on Truxtun where the Bank of America tower is today. Thanks to the good folks over at the Kern County of Old Facebook page for this one. The picture is circa 1920.

 * ... JAIL: And then there is the old Kern County Jail that was located at the corner of 16th and Eye streets in operation from  May 1894 to December 1915.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno addresses the case of former priest Craig Harrison, saying seven men initially came forward to accuse Harrison of sexual abuse, urges parishioners to drop the reference to Harrison as "father" or "monsignor"

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication.

Bishop Joseph Brennan has reached out to parishioners in the Diocese of Fresno explaining more about the allegations of sexual abuse against former priest Craig Harrison and revealing for the first time that seven men had accused Harrison of wrongdoing.
 A letter from Brennan was read at St. Francis Church late last month in which Brennan addressed the Harrison case and acknowledged that the allegations against the once popular priest had led to deep divisions among parishioners.

 “I know it has not been easy for you there at St. Francis,” Brennan wrote. “I try to make decisions based on what is best for the flock. You have heard many voices these past two years … from your local media, Facebook, news conference and others.”
 The diocese, Brennan said, was forced into a position of not commenting on the case after Harrison took legal action against the church. He added that failing to make a comment also protected the privacy of Harrison.
 “Since April 2019,” the point at which Harrison was suspended from the church, Brennan said “we have been on quite a journey, to put it mildly… A journey (that)  has been neither wanted or planned by any of us. Over these two years I have heard from many of you sharing with me your anger, disappointment, frustration … “
 Brennan revealed that when Harrison was suspended, the diocese “received allegations of misconduct involving seven minors against Craig Harrison.”
 The church eventually said the allegations were credible, and according to Brennan, the church was gearing up for its own disciplinary action when Harrison decided to leave the church on his own accord.
 For the record, Harrison and his attorneys flatly deny that Harrison was ever sexually inappropriate with anyone, with defense counsel Kyle Humphrey even going so far to suggest that the men now suing Harrison were akin to pigs at a trough in search of monetary payouts.
 The video of a deacon reading Brennan’s letter was posted on the St. Francis Assisi Facebook page and drew a range of comments, many from the faithful rallying around Harrison.
 “Shame on you Bishop Brennan,” one woman wrote. “Not one dime to the Diocese.”
 Yet another shamed Brennan for “making the deacons of our parish read your untrue, spiteful and egotistical letter.”
 Now that Harrison is no longer a priest, Brennan reminded Harrison that he can no longer perform priestly duties (giving a homily for example, or presiding over a function in the church) and that parishioners should stop referring to him as either “father” or “Monisgnor.”
 Finally, Brennan wrote that he had heard Harrison was positioning himself as a consultant or life coach but seemed to wonder openly whether Harrison was qualified for certain pursuits.


 On the Sunday before Labor Day, Harrison released this statement on his Instagram account: