SNAP Stands with Monk who Reported Abuse by Msgr. Craig Harrison

According to media reports, a monk who reported witnessing and experiencing abuse at the hands of a popular Bakersfield priest is being sued for defamation. Aggressive perpetrators of sexual abuse sometimes resort to defamation lawsuits and other legal tactics to silence victims and intimidate witnesses. We fear that is what is happening in this situation.

Br. Justin Gilligan made eyewitness reports of observing questionable behavior involving minors by Msgr. Craig Harrison as well as a report of his own first-hand experience of being sexually harassed by Harrison. The Merced County District Attorney is still considering whether to file criminal charges against Harrison in relation to these and other allegations that he sexually abused minors. As we understand it, the Firebaugh police department also still is investigations allegations in that city.

Reporting abuse takes real courage. It takes even more courage if you’re a Catholic cleric reporting abuse by another and more powerful cleric. By his bravery, Br. Gilligan has likely made his career in the church tougher for himself. But more importantly, he has made the church a safer place for all, especially kids. We both admire him and feel grateful to him. And we stand in support of Br. Gilligan and hope the defamation case filed by Harrison is swiftly dismissed.

Brother Gilligan did not get Harrison placed on leave. The previous bishop of the Diocese of Fresno, Armando Ochoa, made that decision using the knowledge he and his staff accumulated from its own files and interviews. That information, according to media reports, spanned decades of alleged abuse and included interviews with alleged victims who are altogether unknown to Brother Gilligan. The only reason that Br. Gilligan is being sued is because he had the courage and strength to come forward publicly. 

We encourage all those who made allegations against Harrison to the Diocese of Fresno, along with any other witnesses, to continue to speak the truth in the face of these scorched earth tactics being employed by Harrison and his attorneys.

We also call on California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to step into this case to ensure the investigations in Bakersfield, Merced and Firebaugh remain untainted by intimidation tactics or the close personal relationship they have with the accused. Victims of sexual abuse are a wounded and weakened cohort in our society. These attacks on them must stop.

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP California ([email protected], 925-262-3699) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator, ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 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


SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant