SNAP Reacts to News that Central Valley District Attorneys will Audit Fresno Diocese

We are heartened to read that the district attorneys of at least seven counties will work together to ensure the audit of the Diocese of Fresno and its “secret archives” is complete and transparent. Civil oversight by secular professionals in law enforcement is the best way to protect children and get to the truth of institutional abuse scandals.

In order to ensure that this audit is as effective as possible, we urge this group of DAs to explore how they can use subpoena power to compel the full release of files and truthful testimony. Only through testimony under oath can prosecutors be sure that they are getting the full picture of the abuse crisis as it relates to the Diocese of Fresno. As we have seen in places like Buffalo and Illinois, we cannot count on church officials to be as forthcoming as they claim to be.

We also hope this intervention will apply to the accusations involving Monsignor Craig Harrison. Msgr. Harrison is a popular, charismatic priest who has also worked as a chaplain for two local police departments. Given these facts, we think that this coalition of district attorneys – or at the least, District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer of Kern County – should take over the investigation. Law enforcement should not be a popularity contest, and the coalition can ensure that is not the case with Msgr. Harrison by taking over the investigation.

Making matters worse in the Msgr. Harrison case are the repeated attacks by his lawyer, Kyle Humphrey, on survivors of sexual violence. Yet despite the frequent and inappropriate attacks made by this lawyer, there have now been at least three accusations made public, and in just the one week since Msgr. Harrison’s announced suspension, SNAP has heard from a half dozen victims associated with the Fresno Diocese.

SNAP is also calling on this coalition to establish a dedicated hotline – in both Spanish and English – where any victim of priest abuse can make a confidential report. This step already has been taken by the Oakland District Attorney in response to the arrest of a popular priest in that diocese. We also believe that it would be best if the DA coalition seeks to cooperate with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. AG Becerra has established a statewide reporting system and may have additional reports of abuse linked to the Fresno Diocese and perhaps even Msgr. Harrison.

Finally, we implore any witness or victim of sexual abuse, whether by Msgr. Harrison or another Fresno cleric, to come forward, make a report to law enforcement, and seek independent sources of help like therapists or support groups. Survivors can also reach out to SNAP and we will stand by victims to help them seek justice and healing.

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member (dmcnevin@aol.com, 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP California (caljoey1@aol.com, 925-262-3699) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator, (msakoda@snapnetwork.org, 925-708-6175), Esther Hatfield Miller, SNAP Los Angeles (562-673-9442, estherhatfield@yahoo.com), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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