Archdiocese Abuse Report

By Heidi Loranger
KTVA [Anchorage AK]
October 29, 2003

As many as 16 priests serving in the Catholic Archdiocese of Anchorage have committed sexual misconduct. The results of a special commission report are released, detailing misconduct since the beginning of the Archdiocese in 1966. The Erwin Commission committee, made up of three people, completed the difficult task of reviewing all files of more than 80 priests who have served in the Archdiocese. The result of their nine month investigation was made public Wednesday.

The Erwin commission was created in February 2003 to review personnel files of the Anchorage Archdiocese.

"This review was meant to help me understand past cases of child sexual abuse or sexual abuse of a criminal nature by clergy and religious who have served in the Archdiocese," said Archbishop Roger Schwietz.

It's findings show 16 priests committed sexual misconduct served in the Archdiocese at some point. Seven priests committed those acts against minors and five of those cases occurred here in Alaska.

Archbishop Schwietz says when officials discovered something in the background of a particular priest that priest was removed. He adds the report validates the reporting process created in the 1990's.

"As the Erwin Commission report states, there has been no reported incident of clergy sexual abuse of youth taking place in the archdiocese in at least the past ten years. It is now time for us to look forward to the future," said the Archbishop.

The commission made a dozen recommendations including to involve authorities for criminal prosecution, to remove the church's attorney from the misconduct committee and to separate sections of the committee that the victim and accused use for reporting.

Justice Robert Erwin says some of the recommendations of the report are already being implemented by the church, "The contract with star is a great step forward, it's extremely difficult for people brought up their whole life to bring diffidence to the church to come to the archdiocese office and make a complaint to the bishop, I find the public would find that extremely hard to do."

Many of the commission's recommendations were already required changes coming from the Bishop's Conference.

The Archdiocese says it will continue to implement additional practices and provide it's first report to the commission in a few months. Archbishop Schwietz says to his knowledge, all five priests and victims who were abused as minors are no longer in Alaska.

He says some of the priests have since died and the remaining are no longer practicing. Archbishop Schwietz says he will continue to look into these allegations to make sure they are not a danger to youth or other members of the church. He added today that this is a time for the church to learn humility, and continue the healing process.


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