BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The man accusing Father Craig Harrison of sexual misconduct was an altar boy and 16 or 17 years old when the alleged abuse occurred, according to police.
The alleged abuse happened on three separate occasions when the boy was alone with Harrison, according to a news release Friday from the Firebaugh Police Department. Harrison was a priest at St. Joseph Church in Firebaugh at the time.
No charges have been filed and an investigation is ongoing.
Monsignor Stephen Frost of Christ the King Church told KGET he was aware of an accusation made against Harrison at least 20 years ago, but no evidence was found then, and the charges were dropped, per Frost.
Frost said priests “do not have any recourse” when accused because they are not told “what the accusation is or who has made it.” He advised the public “not to have a kneejerk reaction,” noting allegations made without proof can ruin the reputation of the accused.
Harrison has long been pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Bakersfield, and also has been pastor of St. Joseph Church in Mojave.
Police said they first became aware of the allegations April 15 when Catholic Diocese of Fresno personnel came to the department to make a report. The personnel said they had conducted an internal investigation and discovered information they were mandated to report, according to police.
An officer then contacted and interviewed the alleged victim.
Diocese officials said Harrison was called in for a meeting Wednesday with Bishop Xavier Ochoa and informed of the accusations.
On Thursday, when the allegations were first made public, Harrison posted on Facebook denying any wrongdoing.
“I do not know the motives of my accusers, any names, or the contents of any allegations against me,” he wrote.
“I will vigorously defend my honor from these allegations and look forward to my good name being cleared. Please keep me in your prayers during this trying time.”
Harrison’s attorney, Kyle J. Humphrey, has shared a copy of a letter he sent to the diocese requesting the complaint, identity of the complainant, allegations and “any other pertinent information to allow me to clear my client’s name by conducting an open and honest investigation.”
Anyone with information relevant to this investigation is asked to call Firebaugh police at 559-659-3051.