BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno has ordered Craig Harrison to close his counseling business and Reflections for Women nonprofit in what an attorney says appears to be a personal vendetta against the former priest.
“If (Harrison) does not comply, the bishop, acting in his capacity for the Diocese of Fresno, appears to be threatening to publicly defame Father Craig, a private citizen,” said attorney Kyle J. Humphrey, one of several lawyers representing Harrison.
The letter from Bishop Joseph V. Brennan, Humphrey said, appears to be a threat to “spew more lurid details” regarding allegations of sexual misconduct against Harrison, allegations the attorney said are false.
“To be clear, we have received confirmation from the church that Father Craig is not on the list of credibly accused priests,” Humphrey said. “The false accusations against him have been repeatedly investigated by multiple independent law enforcement agencies as well as the church itself, and Father Craig is not on the list of credibly accused priests within the church.”
Diocese officials will not be responding to Humphrey’s comments, spokeswoman Cheryl Sarkisian said. No information has been released regarding who is on the list of credibly accused priests, she said.
Humphrey, however, said a canon lawyer with knowledge of the list confirmed Harrison isn’t on it.
Harrison has made it clear he’s no longer a priest, and the only one confused about this appears to be the bishop, Humphrey said. He said Harrison has a right to counsel others as a private citizen.
He continues to refer to Harrison as “Father Craig” in news releases because that’s how most people know him, Humphrey added.
“Father Craig will not be threatened or bullied into secrecy and destitution by Bishop Brennan,” Humphrey said. “He will continue to pray openly with others, and to comfort and guide the community members who look to him for support.
Earlier this year, Harrison resigned from the priesthood after he said it became apparent the diocese had no interest in helping him fight the allegations and wouldn’t allow him to perform the functions of a priest.
Harrison in 2019 became the subject of criminal investigations in Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced. Authorities in each location declined to file criminal charges due to the statute of limitations having expired or insufficient evidence.
Last week, two lawsuits were filed against the diocese alleging Harrison sexually abused two teens in the early 1990s, and the diocese either knew or should have known about the abuse and did nothing about it.