Fresno Diocese places priest who previously served in Bakersfield on paid administrative leave

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FRESNO, Calif. (KGET) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno has placed a priest who previously served in Bakersfield on paid administrative leave due to information related to a civil case dating back to 2009, according to a statement from the bishop.

Rev. Eric Swearingen, pastor of Good Shepherd Catholic Parish in Visalia, was placed on leave June 5, according to the statement from Bishop Joseph V. Brennan read over the weekend to churches in the parish.

“I understand that this is very difficult information for you to receive; especially at a time when Fr. Eric is very seriously ill,” Brennan wrote. “Please be assured that we will do all we can to support Fr. Eric and maintain his level of medical care without interruption. I am deeply concerned for his well-being.”

The Visalia Times-Delta has reported Swearingen has brain cancer. the paper said Swearingen was accused in 2006 of molesting a teen altar boy “many years earlier” but no criminal charges were filed.

The alleged abuse, according to a report by Los Angeles-based law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, occurred from 1989 to 1993 at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Bakersfield.

A civil jury found the priest likely abused the boy, the paper reported, but that the diocese had no prior knowledge of the abuse. A mistrial was declared.

The paper reported a second trial was scheduled but both sides agreed to binding arbitration.

The Anderson & Associates report lists several dozen former and current priests in the Diocese of Fresno who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

Among them is Msgr. Craig Harrison, placed on leave as pastor of St. Francis Church in Bakersfield earlier this year when allegations surfaced of misconduct at parishes where he previously worked. An investigation into the alleged misconduct is ongoing.

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