New civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse filed against Monsignor Craig Harrison

Attorneys say the lawsuits name the parishes where the abuse happened, the Bishops and the Fresno Diocese too.

Jessica Harrington Image
Thursday, June 10, 2021
New lawsuits filed against Msgr. Craig Harrison
Two new civil lawsuits have been filed claiming a former Central Valley Priest, Craig Harrison, sexually abused two teenage boys in the '90s.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Two new civil lawsuits have been filed claiming a former Central Valley Priest, Craig Harrison, sexually abused two teenage boys in the '90s.

It also claims the Diocese of Fresno helped create an environment that gave Harrison access to children.

Both alleged victims named as "Joseph Doe" in court filings.

"They are identified anonymously as victims of Harrison because the law protects their privacy," said Attorney Jeff Anderson, who is representing the plaintiffs.

The first lawsuit claims a 15-year-old boy was a parishioner at Saint Joseph's Catholic Church in Firebaugh when he was sexually abused by Harrison.

Anderson said it happened for two years between 1993 and 1995.

"Harrison violated that child," said Jeff Anderson.

The second lawsuit claims a boy who was 13 or 14 at the time was sexually assaulted at Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Bakersfield.

Attorneys said it happened on several occasions in 1990.

Anderson said these cases involve victims who only recently reported to police, however, local law enforcement has yet to confirm they are investigating any new allegations.

Along with Harrison, the lawsuits also names the parishes, the bishops and the Diocese of Fresno, saying they all created an environment that gave Harrison secluded access to minor children.

"As prominent as he has been as a pastor, and as a monsignor assigned by the bishops, he's also a predator." Anderson said.

The Diocese of Fresno said, per policy, it does not comment on pending litigation.

Harrison announced his resignation from the priesthood in February of this year.

Harrison's attorney, Kyle J. Humphrey, released a statement in response to the new lawsuits:

"From the second we heard the false claims against Monsignor Craig three years ago, we suspected they were leading up to a lawsuit. We even identified this particular lawyer as someone who would likely be involved. So, while it is devastating for Monsignor Craig to have to continue to give his time and emotional energy to false claims; we now have proof that our suspicions were correct. We said from the very beginning that this was always, ultimately about money. It is shameful, but not surprising, and it's just another opportunity for us to once again demonstrate Monsignor Craig's innocence."

The Bakersfield Police Department and Merced Police Department both launched investigations into allegations of sexual assault against Harrison.

No charges were filed in either county.

Last year, the Fresno County District Attorney's Office announced allegations against Harrison seemed credible, but would not file charges because the statute of limitations had expired.

Both lawsuits are asking for damages for past and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

Anderson also asked for the Diocese of Fresno to release a list of credibly accused clerics, saying Bishop Joseph Brennan promised to do so more than two years ago.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Fresno said they do intend to release the list as soon as it is finalized. "It is our hope that it will be soon."