Archdiocese of Anchorage reviewing sexual misconduct allegations over past 50 years

 The Archdiocese of Anchorage (KTUU)
The Archdiocese of Anchorage (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Oct. 24, 2018 at 10:39 AM AKDT
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An independent panel will look for allegations of sexual misconduct of both employees and volunteers of the Anchorage Archdiocese.

Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne requested an independent commission to review all personnel files of clerics and religious men and women who have served in the Archdiocese of Anchorage since its canonical establishment in 1966.

Etienne says he requested the review not because of any new allegations, but because of church scandals unfolding across the world.

"Honestly, I'm not expecting any significant revelations that are going to be a surprise to us," Etienne said.

The investigators, with backgrounds in law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial service, are Shirley Coté, a former Anchorage Police Department captain; Rachel Gernat, a former prosecutor of crimes against children and vulnerable adults; and Michael Spaan, who has practiced law since the 1970s and was also a U.S. Attorney from 1981-1989.

The team will give a report about its findings to Archbishop Etienne. The report will also include if people failed to report sexual misconduct.

The last time a similar report was requested was in 2003 by then-Archbishop Roger Schwietz.

The Erwin Commission, as it was called then, revealed as many as 16 priests in the Anchorage Archdiocese, both in Alaska and Outside, committed sexual misconduct since the beginning of the Archdiocese in 1966.

"It is probable that 10 priests committed sexual misconduct with adults, and seven of the clergy committed those acts against minors. Five of the cases involving minors occurred in Alaska. In one case in Alaska a priest was involved with both an adult and a minor," the report says.

Etienne says if anything is found he will name who is accused and at what church they served. He also asks for any potential victims to come forward.

"There is no room in the Church today for those that would harm children," Etienne said, "and there is no room in the Church today for bishops that will not take appropriate actions to remove such priests from active ministry."

The report will take nine months to complete.