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  Church Details Emerge
Archdiocese of Anchorage: New Report on Sexual Misconduct Allegations Provides Some New Names, Information

By Nicole Tsong and Richard Mauer
Anchorage Daily News [Alaska]
February 14, 2004

A new report from the Archdiocese of Anchorage has revealed more details about sexual misconduct allegations against priests who served here, many of whom came to Anchorage during the tenure of retired Archbishop Francis Hurley.

Two priests, one in Alaska and one prior to his arrival, have fathered children. Another was involved with a 17-year-old girl and some accused priests were prevented from returning to the ministry even after lengthy treatment, according to the report.

The report names two priests whose abuse of children has been made public over the past year: Monsignor Francis Murphy, who left Alaska in 1985, and the Rev. Timothy Crowley, who abused a boy in Michigan for several years while serving the Diocese of Lansing.

The report also names Archbishop Robert Sanchez, who resigned as archbishop of Santa Fe after relationships with women became public, and Beno Oostermann , a priest who visited Alaska in 1979 and 1980. Sanchez still travels to Anchorage during Lent and Advent to serve the Hispanic community on a limited basis, said the Very Rev. Donald Bramble, vicar general for Anchorage. Brother John McMuldren, who belonged to The Brothers of the Holy Cross, was the only nonpriest identified in the report. McMuldren came to Alaska to run the archdiocese's Catholic camp in Soldotna, St. Theresa's, in 1979. In 1995, three brothers who attended the camp said they were sexually abused there 10 years earlier. McMuldren denied any wrongdoing, and in 1996, Hurley declared him innocent. McMuldren is now a high school counselor in Tyler, Texas.

Bramble refused to name the priests involved in the 11 remaining anonymous cases.

"In some cases, we were asked by victims not to," he said. "We've got to follow what the victims ask us."

The report was released in anticipation of a national study about child sexual abuse in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church set for release on Feb. 27. The study, which is being conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, is intended to be the first comprehensive report on accused priests, victims and financial cost to the church from 1950 to 2002.

According to the report, 301 priests have served in Anchorage. The archdiocese also said financial records prior to 1998 were not available because of a change in accounting systems. Since then, the archdiocese has provided $15,390 for counseling services linked to sexual abuse cases. No cash settlements have been made with any victims, the report says.

The archdiocese has reported three priests to the national study, although that number is contrary to a report done by an independent three-person commission and released in October.

Archbishop Roger Schwietz appointed the Erwin Commission in February 2003, headed by former Alaska Supreme Court justice Robert Erwin, and gave it the task of going through archdiocese files to re-examine past allegations of sexual abuse. The commission went through the files of 84 priests and concluded five likely abused minors in Alaska and two others abused children prior to coming to Alaska. The commission also said nine priests had sexual misconduct with adults.

Sister Charlotte Davenport, chancellor for the archdiocese, said the discrepancy is partly because the Erwin report included McMuldren. The national study only requires information about priests and does not include religious order brothers like McMuldren, she said.

The Rev. Steven Moore, the former vicar general who is on sabbatical but worked on the report, said when reached on his cell phone that allegations against Oosterman also arose after the archdiocese sent information to the national study. But Oosterman has been reported through his home diocese in Spokane, Wash., he said.

Moore said there were five or six victims of child sexual abuse reported to the study.

Archdiocesan officials went through more than 200 additional files since the Erwin report but did not discover additional abuse cases, Bramble said. But they decided to release the files for both adult and child sexual misconduct, Bramble said.

"We felt it was timely to give it in Alaska context so when people saw (the John Jay study), they would know the Alaska context," he said. "So people don't feel like we have a vault full of files ... that we're trying to hide. And so people understand how varied these cases are."

Sanchez and one other priest are the only ones on the list of 16 allowed to minister and they do so in a limited fashion, Bramble said.

Among the findings released Friday: * Two brothers Outside accused one unnamed priest around 1990 of abusing them when he served in their area, which the priest admitted to Anchorage archdiocesan officials. The priest was sent for treatment, and it was decided he could not return to ministry. Officials believe he has not been allowed to function as a priest since.

* A priest came forward in the mid-1980s and admitted a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. He was removed from the ministry for treatment but now serves in another region in a "structured setting."

* Complaints were made against one priest who hugged and touched women and made sexual comments. He was recalled by his jurisdiction and sent to treatment and counseling.

* In 1986, a woman told archdiocesan officials she had a sexual relationship with a priest and eventually had his child. The priest admitted it, and he made a cash settlement with the woman. He has no assignment in Anchorage and is retired.

It is unclear which of the cases listed in the report are the ones sent to the national study, with the exception of Murphy.

More is known about the McMuldren case, however.

According to Gerald and Robbie Cameron of Anchorage, the case against McMuldren surfaced in 1995, when their youngest brother turned 18 and told their mother he had been abused by a man at St. Theresa's in 1985, as an 8-year-old. Their mother, who had sent Gerald and Robbie to the camp the year before, asked them if anything had happened. With some reluctance, Gerald and Robbie said they had also been abused, they said in recent interviews.

The mother complained to Hurley, who directed vicar general Moore and the diocesan attorney, Jim Gorski, to investigate. They concluded the Cameron brothers' charges were baseless.

Erwin has been critical in interviews and the report of the archdiocese for the conflict of interest inherent in Moore's and Gorski's roles. Until Schwietz changed procedures, Gorski and Moore functioned as investigators, then ruled on investigations as members of the sexual misconduct committee.

Alaska State Troopers also investigated and turned in a report to the Kenai district attorney. In December, the state declined to make that report available to the Daily News under a public records request, citing privacy considerations. In the Department of Public Safety's summary of the case, the Department of Law declined to prosecute "because the statute of limitations had run."

In 1997, Gerald and the youngest brother filed suit against McMuldren, the archdiocese and the order, but they dropped the suit when they couldn't find corroborating witnesses.

Gerald Cameron, now 34, insists that McMuldren abused him 20 years ago, blowing on his belly and touching his genitals. In October, he picketed Holy Family Cathedral downtown at rush hour, demanding stern action against abusers in the church.

The Diocese of Fairbanks also has reported two priests to the national study and nine victims, while the Diocese of Juneau sent the cases of three priests and six victims to the John Jay study.

Dioceses are required to remove priests from the ministry once an allegation of child sexual abuse is made, which American bishops mandated in 2002 shortly after the sexual abuse scandal broke.

Bramble said priests having relationships with adult women, even when they were consensual like all the Anchorage cases appeared to be, are considered misconduct and violate celibacy requirements. A priest can be forbidden from ministering under those circumstances. If a priest fathers a child, he can lose all rights to practice as a priest, Bramble said.

Additional penalties are possible. Schwietz has initiated the process of removing Murphy from the priesthood, and Crowley, who is not allowed to minister, was taken off the archdiocese payroll at the end of January, Bramble said.

Deacon Ted Greene, of St. Anthony Catholic Church, said he thought Schwietz took a "courageous" step in releasing the details in Friday's report.

But the report doesn't say if the church has gone to the police, if the priests have been investigated, if there has been a peer review, Greene said. And not naming all the priests complicates the archdiocese's work, he said.

"In the long run, disclosure is the best policy," he said. "On the other hand, he has the obligation to protect the names of people who don't want it to be released. We have to find a balance."

 
 

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