BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A network that speaks out against sexual abuse in the church has criticized Msgr. Craig Harrison’s latest written statement saying Harrison’s words would scare victims from coming forward.
Earlier this week, a Catholic monk, Br. Justin Gilligan accused Msgr. Harrison of misconduct.
On Thursday, Harrison and his attorney responded in a statement.
Harrison insisted he is innocent, while also saying Br. Justin came from a troubled background and struggled with alcohol in the past.
On Friday, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, aka SNAP, criticized the statement.
The group said in part: “Up to this point, Monsignor Harrison, like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, has used his lawyer mouthpiece to spread fear and intimidation in the diocese.”
The group goes on to demand Bishop Joseph V. Brennan with the Diocese of Fresno to denounce Harrison’s statement.
You can read SNAP’s full statement below:
Msgr. Craig Harrison has now joined his attorney Kyle Humphrey in using mean-spirited rhetoric against his accusers. Sadly, his words will intimidate all victims, witnesses and whistle blowers in the Diocese of Fresno, not just those who have made allegations against him.
While we have no firsthand knowledge about this case, we know from studies that false allegations of sexual abuse are extremely rare. We commend Brother Justin Gilligan, OSB, known in Bakersfield as Ryan Dixon, for coming forward and sharing what he knows. We hope that this brave monk is getting a lot of support and thanks for his courage.
It is particularly distressing that Msgr. Harrison has chosen to dwell on Brother Justin’s “difficult background and broken relationships,” as well as an alleged propensity to “drink excessively.” However, as research into the effects of child sex abuse has clearly shown and as SNAP points out in its guidelines on “What to do when your priest is accused of abuse,” victims often have troubled pasts. These behaviors can in fact support their credibility. When someone has been hurt, there are almost always clears signs of that harm.
Up to this point Msgr. Harrison, like Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, has used his lawyer mouthpiece to spread fear and intimidation in the Diocese. However, a person can defend himself without attacking others. That is what Christ would do. Unfortunately, that is the exact opposite of what Msgr. Harrison is doing.
We call on Bishop Joseph Vincent Brennan to promptly denounce and discipline Msgr. Harrison for his unnecessary verbal attacks. If the monsignor were publicly advocating abortion or insulting immigrants, the Bishop would not hesitate to punish him. If Bishop Brennan wants to convince survivors that he cares about their suffering and the safety of today’s children, he must act immediately.