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Accused California Priests: Monsignor Michael Harris

Once a prominent Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Orange County, California, Michael Harris’s incredible fall from grace has been a hot topic of conversation for years. “Father Hollywood,” as those close to him affectionately called him, Monsignor Michael Harris wore many hats in his many years of service.

In 1994, Michael Harris hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The popular priest vacated his post as the principal of Santa Margarita High School after allegations that he had sexually abused a former student. Albeit astonishing, that revelation soon paved the way for similar disclosures, a trail of events that left a permanent dent on his legacy and that of the church.

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Assignments

1972 – 1975

Immaculate Conception Catholic Church (Monrovia, CA)
1972 – 1975

1975– 1976

St. Philip Neri Catholic Church (Lynwood, CA)
1975– 1976

1976 – 1977

St. Polycarp Church (Stanton, CA)
1976 – 1977

1978 – 1987

Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, CA)
1978 – 1987

1988 – 1994

Santa Margarita High School (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA)
1988 – 1994

1995 – 2001

Inactive Leave
1995 – 2001
St. Paul of the Cross Catholic Church, La Mirada, CA
St. Bernard, Los Angeles, CA
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Life and Charges

Before he was publicly accused of child molestation, Monsignor Harris was a respected clergyman of great renown. He dazzled masses with his astounding grasp of the word and delighted students with his charisma and good looks.

Monsignor Harris worked for over two decades in the Diocese of Orange and Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He was the founding principal of Santa Margarita High School, where he served until accused of sexual abuse in 1994.

The allegations claimed that Michael Harris had molested one of his former male students. The former student said his encounter with “Father Hollywood” happened in the 1980s at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.

A few months after his much-publicized exit from Santa Margarita High School, another student came forward to accuse Monsignor Harris of molestation. This second accusation spurred a series of sex-related allegations from former students. One alleged victim said Monsignor Harris repeatedly abused him sexually for the entirety of his schooling at Mater Dei High School. So bad was another alleged victim’s trauma that he nearly committed suicide.

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Punishment

No criminal charges have since been filed against the former priest. However, the Diocese of Orange has had to pay dearly for Harris’s sins. Harris has cost the church an estimated $50 million in unknown settlements.

In conjunction with the Diocese of Orange, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay one of Harris’s alleged victims $5.2 million in 2001, marking the beginning of a series of lawsuits filed against the alleged perpetrator.

Soon after, in November 2001, Michael Harris was laicized and permanently stripped of his priestly duties. However, it was not until December 2004 that the Diocese of Orange officially listed Harris as a priest accused and eliminated him from the clergy. By the end of 2005, the Diocese of Orange had paid more than $17 million to settle lawsuits from Harris’s trail of alleged abuse.

How We Can Help

If a member of the Catholic clergy has abused you or someone you love, please contact us. The team at Herman Law is standing by to assist you.