Archdiocese in Alaska orders independent review to address possible sexual abuse

Catholic Archbishop Paul Etienne, seen here on Wednesday at his office, said the Anchorage Archdiocese has ordered an independent review of sexual abuse claims by reviewing the files of priests and others associated with the archdiocese since it was established in 1966. (Rachel D’Oro/AP Photo)
The Catholic Archdiocese in Anchorage, southern Alaska announced Wednesday it will take a close look at possible sexual abuse within the church.

The church is appointing an independent commission to review files from the last 50 years. Archbishop Paul Etienne says the investigation will take into account personnel files, and look into how sexual abuse accusations have been handled. It will encompass both clergy and lay people.

“We need to be clear with our people that when accusations of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults come to our desks that we are taking care of business,” Etienne said, “and that we are taking care of victims.”

The three commission members have broad backgrounds in law enforcement and criminal prosecutions.

Ten years ago, the catholic diocese of Fairbanks, central Alaska filed for bankruptcy after paying out millions of dollars in settlements to victims stretching back decades.

Prompting victims to come forward

Etienne says the current review was not prompted by new allegations in Alaska, but instead the climate throughout the country, and recent revelations in other states.

“One of my greatest hopes in making this report is that other victims that have not yet come forward to tell us their story will do so,” Etienne said. “I want this report to give confidence, not just to people of the church and to the broader public, that this archbishop and this archdiocese is appropriately handling these cases.”

The review will begin October 31st, and could take up to nine months to complete.

The commission will deliver a report to Etienne and members will help determine next steps.

Etienne says the church intends to make public the names of those credibly accused of misconduct.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Ex-priest Eric Dejaeger loses conviction appeal in sex offences case in Canada’s Arctic, CBC News

Finland: Swedish-speaking Finnish women launch their own #metoo campaign, Yle News

United States: Governor Walker apologizes for historical trauma at Alaska Federation of Natives convention, Alaska Public Media

Abbey Collins, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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