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Fresno Diocese bishop responds to ‘ugly, mean-spirited’ comments made in sex abuse case

Watch as The Most Reverend Joseph V. Brennan, D.D. is installed as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fresno

Watch as The Most Reverend Joseph V. Brennan, D.D. is installed as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fresno at Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fresno Thursday, May 2, 2019.
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Watch as The Most Reverend Joseph V. Brennan, D.D. is installed as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fresno at Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fresno Thursday, May 2, 2019.

The Diocese of Fresno’s new bishop has denounced comments made by a priest’s defense attorney targeting alleged victims of sexual abuse, calling the statements “unacceptable.”

Rev. Joseph V. Brennan’s statement came Friday afternoon, three days after an advocacy group demanded he make a public apology over comments made by Bakersfield attorney Kyle Humphrey.

Humphrey is representing Monsignor Craig Francis Harrison after allegations of sexual abuse against the priest emerged in Firebaugh and Merced.

In late April, Humphrey told the Bakersfield Californian the diocese’s request asking anyone with information about alleged abuse to come forward was like “inviting the pigs to line up the trough for whatever their needs are.”

SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) on Wednesday said such comments were not only offensive, but also discouraged other alleged victims from coming forward.

In Friday’s statement, Brennan said, public comments made about people with stories of abuse should be supportive. “It is most disturbing to me that public statements are made that sometime contain vile and filthy language in regards to child sex abuse victims,” the statement read. “That kind of language is ugly, mean spirited, dismissive and unacceptable.”

Brennan said he will do his best to listen and act in a way that is mindful of victims and survivors, as well as to help others do the same.

He also expressed his sorrow about those who have been abused “at the hands of clergy or at the hands of anyone for that matter.”

SNAP earlier this month had also asked Brennan to cancel a vigil in support for Harrison that took place at St. Francis in Bakersfield earlier this month. The diocese sent an internal email to staff informing them to be careful in the way they choose to show their support, but the vigil still carried on.

As part of an ongoing investigation, the diocese is reviewing its records going back to 1922. After such review, it will release a list of priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

Harrison is the fifth priest in the Diocese of Fresno to be placed on administrative leave, pending outcomes of ongoing investigations into allegations of misconduct.

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