Accused Priest Sues Monk Over Abuse Claims

News: US News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  September 16, 2019   

Br. Justin Gilligan: I'm a victim of Msgr. Harrison's inappropriate touching, lies and manipulation

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. ( - After suing a Catholic watchdog group for defamation, a California priest facing multiple allegations of homosexual abuse is now suing his first public accuser — a Benedictine monk.

Following last month's lawsuit against Stephen Brady and his decades-old Roman Catholic Faithful (RCF), Msgr. Craig Harrison is launching a lawsuit against Br. Justin Gilligan. The case was filed on Wednesday in the Superior Court of California in Bakersfield.

Harrison's diocese of Fresno reached out to Gilligan in April asking him questions about Harrison's alleged misconduct. It did so shortly after Fresno's Bp. Armando Ochoa, who had a reputation of covering up clerical corruption, retired in March.

In a statement to the Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) in May, Gilligan related to police instances of Harrison's alleged inappropriate activity, including:

  • Touching of genitals
  • Pornography
  • Telling of homosexual jokes
  • Blackmailing him to keep silent by threatening to reveal sins he confessed

According to the police report, Gilligan recalls that Harrison's alleged victim told him how "Harrison had touched his genitals."

Teresa Dominguez, current chancellor of Fresno, which is now led by Bp. Joseph Brennan, was present for Gilligan's police testimony at Gilligan's request. Dominguez informed police, according to the report, that the alleged incident involving the touching of the alleged victim's genitals was already being investigated by the Firebaugh Police Department and the diocese of Fresno.

Gilligan says Harrison was often "very touchy." He tells how Harrison would often "tickle" him and other young adults and minors on "their stomach area." He further recounts how Harrison would "pinch their upper thighs and give them long hugs," which he believed was inappropriate.

According to his testimony to police, Harrison invited Gilligan and another young man on a trip, but only obtained one room with one bed. While Gilligan lay next to Harrison in bed, he says Harrison reached over in the dark and rubbed his chest for several minutes in a manner that made him feel uncomfortable.

During his testimony, Gilligan recounts that a seminarian "found gay pornographic material" on Harrison's iPad. He further relates that Harrison had saved a picture of his friend "eating a sausage" and would "make homosexual jokes about the picture." He also attests that Harrison "asked him what kind of pornography he watched" and suggested to him that "we are all bisexual."

Harrison suggested to him that 'we are all bisexual.'

Gilligan further affirms that Harrison blackmailed him into keeping silent by threatening to break the seal of confession in order to reveal his sins. Gilligan says this happened around 2015 when he told Harrison that "he was going to notify another Priest" about Harrison's inappropriate behavior.

Harrison first responded to Gilligan that "nobody would believe him," according to the report. Harrison next "threatened to break the seal of confession" by revealing Gilligan's sins. This fear kept him from speaking out.

When he was contacted by the diocese in April, Gilligan presented a list of 30 direct and indirect witnesses with information pertaining to Harrison's misconduct. These 30 names got handed over to BPD. Out of these 30, BPD interviewed only one. The BPD's 114-page investigative file made public on July 25 shows the scandal-ridden department ignored 95% of witnesses presented to them by Gilligan and another monk.

During his statement to the press in May, Gilligan said, "I was in Fr. Craig's inner circle from 2011 to 2016 and am a victim of his inappropriate touching, lies, manipulation, and abuse of power."

He further attested, "I witnessed him being inappropriate with children, giving gifts/money, saying sexual jokes, touching, and being alone with them."

After suing RCF, Harrison objected when the Fresno diocese was subpoenaed for documents pertaining to Harrison's alleged "sexual abuse, drug use, therapy, gambling, addictive disorders, use of pornography, homosexual behavior, and misuse of parish funds."

In a statement to Church Militant, the attorney representing RCF says Harrison shouldn't object to the subpoena if he has nothing to hide:

Harrison sued our clients for defamation in a frivolous case that seeks to intimidate and silence both Harrison's potential abuse victims and any journalist or citizen that dares to report on the subject. We served the diocese with a subpoena seeking Harrison's personnel file and documents regarding the subjects that Harrison claims are false. The subpoena seeks documents that are discoverable in this case and narrowly tailored to the allegations at issue. If Harrison's innocent of the charges, as he contends, then he should have no problem allowing the diocese to turn the documents over.


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