Matt C. Abbott
Accused priest sues Catholic watchdog group
By Matt C. Abbott
August 23, 2019

Veteran Catholic activist Stephen Brady, founder and president of the Illinois-based Catholic watchdog group Roman Catholic Faithful, is being sued by an accused priest for defamation. But the priest doing the suing does not reside in an Illinois diocese; he resides in the Diocese of Fresno, Calif.

    Msgr. Craig Harrison, who has been under investigation by different agencies over alleged misconduct, has filed a defamation lawsuit against [RCF] over its 'false, malicious and reckless accusations,' according to a statement from the priest's attorney.
I've known Brady for a number of years. He has a pretty darn good track record of accurately exposing corruption in the Church. He was instrumental in the 1999 resignation of the late Bishop Daniel Ryan of Springfield, Ill., whose moral bankruptcy rivaled that of now-laicized Theodore McCarrick. (To my knowledge, Ryan was never laicized.)

Brady also exposed the widespread corruption in the Bernardin regime. It was in the first couple years of Brady's investigations when Father Alfred Kunz, an adviser to RCF, was brutally murdered at his parish in rural Dane, Wis. The 1998 murder remains unsolved.

Regarding the Harrison case, I have a difficult time believing someone who has multiple accusers is completely innocent, though I concede it's not out of the realm of possibility. Harrison is well connected and supported in the local community, including serving as chaplain for the Bakersfield Police Department.

Brady has hired attorney Paul Jonna of LiMandri and Jonna LLP, telling that "At the suggestion of some RCF members, I contacted the Thomas More Society and asked them for assistance and direction. They hooked me up with Paul Jonna, and I am very grateful to both law firms. They're both great, positive law firms."

Jonna sent the following statement to KBAK-CBS:
    This is a frivolous lawsuit designed to attack and chill protected First Amendment activity. My clients, Stephen Brady and Roman Catholic Faithful, Inc., pursued a legitimate news story involving credible allegations of sexual abuse by Msgr. Craig Harrison. There's overwhelming evidence that my clients' statements were true, which is a complete defense to the plaintiff's claim for defamation. We're confident that the lawsuit will be dismissed under California's Anti-SLAPP statute and that the plaintiff will ultimately be responsible for my clients' attorneys' fees and costs.
Click here to read the text of the lawsuit.

Stay tuned.

© Matt C. Abbott


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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 "Unsolved" podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wis., and has been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He is mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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