On February 19, 200-3 Archbishop Schwietz the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Alaska, appointed the Erwin Committee consisting of Elaine Christian, President of Providence Alaska Foundation and former head of Covenant House Alaska, Robert C. Erwin, a practicing lawyer and retired Supreme Court Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court, and Mark C. Rowland, a retired Superior Court Judge of the Alaska Superior Court to constitute a review committee. The committee was formed because of acknowledged prior improper handling of incidents involving sexual misconduct towards a minor by a priest within the Archdiocese and the resulting need to restore trust in the integrity of the administration of the Archdiocese with regard to such matters. Mr. Erwin is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. Ms. Christian and Mr. Rowland are not.

The committee was charged to review the personnel files of the Archdiocese relating to allegations of sexual abuse by priests or other religious personnel committed against minors or members of the Church. Based on that review, the committee was to make findings with regard to "the number, nature, disposition and other pertinent facts regarding such allegations", the goal being to "to provide full disclosure of the facts" relating to the handling of such cases, consistent with confidentiality for the victims and reasonable protection of individual reputations from unwarranted destruction. The committee was further charged and empowered to make recommendations to the Archbishop "regarding improvements that can be made in the handling of such cases and other pertinent matters as it sees fit."


The committee met personally with the Archbishop on February 25, 2003 to receive the charge and to discuss the administrative matters necessary to the accomplishment of the tasks to which it had been assigned. Thereafter, the committee met on February 28, 2003, and on many subsequent days in the succeeding months for the purpose of reviewing the files that were provided to it, each member spending some 80 to 100 hours in this endeavor, Over this period each member of the committee reviewed every one of the approximately 80 personnel files relating to seminarians, deceased priests, priests presently serving in the Archdiocese, and other priests, not presently serving, but who in the past had served in the Archdiocese. The oldest files dated back to the reception of the Archdiocese in 1966, and the files- provided were represented to include all of the personnel files of priests of the Archdiocese to date. Although the files were poorly organized and in substantial disarray, we saw no evidence in our review of these files that they had been compromised or inappropriately manipulated in any way, or that any documents had been intentionally removed. There were, however, significant gap& in the information provided.

The committee also met with members of the Catholic laity and members of the priesthood who wanted to be heard on these matters although not many came forward to speak to the committee, those that did had thoughtful, considered and helpful comments to make. They included priests, interested members of the Church, and complainants.

After the file review and interviews were conducted, the committee spent several more hours in meetings in order to deliberate and to reach its conclusions, and, finally, many more hours were spent preparing this report.


In performing its functions this committee made certain assumptions about the role of the Church within the Roman Catholic community and the community at large, the role of the Archbishop within the institution of the Church, and the role of the priests serving under him. We have assumed that the Archbishop serves as the custodian, conservator and protector of Church property within the Archdiocese; that he is the chief and paramount priest responsible for defining to some degree the Church's role in Alaska and for carrying out the Church's pastoral mission within the Archdiocese; that he is the chief administrator responsible for the hiring, firing, and supervision of those priests and persons serving under him and assisting him in the performance of that pastoral mission. We have assumed that he must protect those priests serving under him from unfounded accusations when they act within the purview of their vows and responsibilities. We believe he is responsible for fostering and protecting the image of the church, its functions, priests and personnel so that a high level of trust can be maintained between the Church and the Roman Catholic community, and the Church and the community at large, without which the pastoral role may not be effectively performed. We have assumed that these various enumerated roles may be in conflict from time to time, but that it is the pastoral obligation which is always paramount, all other roles being subordinate and adjunctive to the church's pastoral obligation to its members.

We are mindful that many of the suggestions which we are providing herewith to the Archbishop relate to areas of concern already addressed in some measure by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 and the Policy Regarding Issues of Sexual Misconduct previously adopted by the Archdiocese of Anchorage in 1993. Our recommendations are largely consistent with these policies, and we heartily endorse them. Our recommendations are somewhat broader in some areas and more specific in others. Our suggestions also cover an area or two of concern that were not previously addressed by these efforts. We chose not to use these earlier papers as a starting point for our work, but rather to begin the task anew based on the information available here. We did not do so in order to disregard those thoughtful and excellent works, but so that we would not be unconsciously drawn to the same conclusions. You will, therefore, not find any effort on our part to integrate our thoughts and recommendations into those previous formats


I For purposes of this report, we have defined sexual misconduct as any sexual conduct by a priest that constitutes a crime, or any sexual relationship between a priest and a person within his pastoral care, regardless of age and regardless of consent.

Our review of the personnel files disclosed that as many as sixteen priests who have served in this Archdiocese have committed sexual misconduct since the beginning of the Archdiocese in 1966. These acts were committed by these priests both here in the Anchorage Archdiocese and elsewhere where they served prior to coming to this archdiocese. It is probable that ten 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. We could discover no case of sexual misconduct involving children occurring in the last ten years in the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

In none of these cases were the congregations, either served by the offending priest at the time of the incident or served by him after the offense was committed, fully -informed of what had occurred.

At this point in the report, the Committee provided descriptions of the misconduct or abuse, and the disposition of these events. At the request of victims who wish to remain anonymous, this material is not being made public.

At this point in the report, the Committee provided descriptions of the misconduct or abuse, and the disposition of these events. At the request of victims who wish to remain anonymous, this material is not being made public.

At this point in the report, the Committee provided descriptions of the misconduct or abuse, and the disposition of these events. At the request of victims who wish to remain anonymous, this material is not being made public.



Before 1993 and the creation of the Sexual Abuse Advisory Committee by Archbishop Hurley, matters involving sexual abuse were handled by the Archbishop as his sole responsibility. The determination of the veracity of any accusations that were brought to his attention and the appropriate response with regard to the priest, the victim and the congregation were entirely within his discretion.

The manner in which the church handled these matters in that time frame is reflective, we believe, of the overall culture of the Church, and how it sees its place within the framework of the community in which it operates. We remember that the culture of this successful institution has evolved over 2000 years. It regards itself as catholic, maintains its own nation state, and exercises a degree of sovereignty over its affairs more like a nation than a private institution. We realize this culture is hierarchal in nature and confident in its ability to define and carry out the mission of the Church without significant input or interference from outside its own priestly ranks. These ranks are composed of highly educated men committed to spiritual excellence and the performance of good works on this earth, generally viewing each other's company as fraternal and in harmony. Throughout the world, the Church is largely unaccustomed to earthly accountability to anybody but its own clergy, and accustomed to a level of secrecy in the conduct of its affairs which sometimes, but not always, legitimately serves legitimate ends.

In this Archdiocese this culture has had the effect, on occasion, of allowing concerns for the preservation of Church property and reputation, and concerns for the protection and redemption of an offending priest to predominate over the Church's pastoral obligation to its membership, which latter obligation should be paramount, The improper balancing of these competing interests, we believe, has on at least one occasion resulted in not just danger, but injury, to the Church's members in this Archdiocese. The thoughts and concerns of the Church's membership about particular incidents of sexual offense by their priests, or about the presence in their midst of a priest who has a demonstrated capacity for such offense, have simply not been solicited, much less taken into account. Generally the membership has been kept in the dark about the specific nature of the offenses committed of which they might have had only the vaguest knowledge, about the steps taken to deal with the problems created thereby, and about the risks to which they would be subjected by the offending priest's continued presence in their midst. In fact, the business of the Church has simply been carried on as it always has been. We believe it unlikely, however, in this society at this time, that many Catholics, or the society at large in which the Church must carry on, will be any longer willing to submit the solution of these problems to an unseen and unaccountable autocratic hand, however well meaning.

Because of the highly publicized incidents involving Monsignor Murphy, we think it should be emphasized that the bad results in that case did not come about because evil men were trying to do evil things. The motives of the Church authorities were not personal gain, or malice, or any other like purpose. To the contrary, those bad results came about, in our opinion, because, good men were trying to accomplish laudable ends by questionable means, and the ends they sought to accomplish were in hopeless conflict. These men deluded themselves that their goals could be reconciled without compromise of their responsibilities. The delusion was the product of the unreasonable optimism they felt about the reformation and redemption of the offender, a friend and colleague that led them to take risks with the welfare of others that persons having their responsibilities should not have taken. They were aided, even compelled, to this delusion by the culture of the institution that they served. For those who find pleasure in casual iconoclasm when persons of great stature and high profile are involved, the evidence will surely be construed by them to satisfy that need. We, however, see steadfast, but misplaced, loyalty to the Church and a brother priest, in other situations a virtue, and misjudgment, a capacity for which is allotted in various quantities to all men regardless of station, as the underlying causes of their errors.

We have found that, when aid and support was offered in the beginning to persons injured by priestly sexual misconduct, it often continued until the interests of the respective parties appeared to diverge and become adverse to some degree. That adversity has, on occasion, defined the relationship thereafter. Continued counseling, previously provided freely, becomes a negotiating point. We think aid and assistance, if warranted, ought to continue, regardless of adversity, as part of the pastoral obligation. If unwarranted, it ought not to be provided at all. The parishioner ought never to feel cast out, or in danger of being cast out, by the Church that they believe to be their earthly link to their God because their injury has resulted in a degree of adversity at the secular level.

Because of specific cases that have come to our attention, we believe that payments for counseling ought to be paid directly to the counselor, rather than in the form of reimbursement to the injured party. We also think the injured person ought to have a choice of counselors from a list established by the Archdiocese of acceptable credentialed professionals. At no time should a person receiving such counseling be forced to submit records or information about that counseling to the Archdiocese or its representatives in order to justify and secure further payments. The Archdiocese should initially rely on the assessment and judgment of the professional that it has endorsed and approved as to the amount and nature of the counseling needed.

On January 1, 1994 the policy relating to sexual misconduct by priests promulgated by Archbishop Hurley became effective by its own terms. It was a tentative beginning and opened the door to limited participation by the laity in those important decisions that the Church would have to make in those areas with which the policy concerned itself. Whether it was an acknowledgment that the lay membership had a right to participate in such matters, or that the Church thought individual members had something to offer in these areas, we cannot say. It may be that information abroad in this community, as well as in many others, simply forced the door to open a crack for credibility's sake. Whatever the reason, if fostering trust in the manner in which the Church was handling matters of sexual abuse by the clergy is important, it was a great step forward.

The policy in its broadest terms affirmed that sexual contact between ""pastoral ministers", be they clergy or laity, and "those in their care" was never permissible. It established a "team of competent persons to advise and assist the Archbishop in assessing and addressing individual cases" (hereinafter referred to as the "Committee"). The policy set forth ambitious goals for the Archdiocese and the Committee for preventing and dealing with sexual misconduct and the problems caused to the victims, the affected congregations, and the offending priest. Among many other things, it called for the screening of all priests and laity serving in a pastoral ministry. The policy set forth procedures for the processing by the Committee and the Archdiocese of all complaints of sexual misconduct covered by the policy. For those complaints brought to its attention, it provided for the investigation of such complaints by the Committee and for findings to be made by the Committee as to their truth. The policy, although allowing input from the Committee, continued wide discretion in the office of the Archbishop as to the disposition of any case of sexual misconduct within the purview of the policy with regard to the priest, the victim and the affected congregation. We recognize that there may be issues of canonical law that preclude the surrender of Church sovereignty to a lay committee when it concerns the rights of a priest to the prerogatives of his priestly status.

The Committee has not had much opportunity to process cases under the procedures provided in the nine years the policy has been in force and effect. There is no significant track record by which the overall operation of the Committee can be judged. So far the Committee seems in each incident to have acted ad hoc-, delegating one member to conduct an interview with the accused priest that has, in all but one instance, produced an admission of the allegation. Thereafter, it has been turned over to the Archbishop for disposition. There has not been an opportunity for the Committee to deal with a highly contested matter about which there is also substantial disagreement about an appropriate disposition.

The Committee is presently composed entirely of Catholic members. One of those members is an attorney who is also charged with the professional responsibility of advising and defending the Church from any civil liability that might arise from any incident the committee might consider. There is, in our opinion, a clear conflict between the duty the attorney owes the Church as a member of the Committee and the duty he owes the Church as its lawyer.


                         A. First Duty

We believe any information concerning sexual misconduct by a priest brought to the attention of the Church through its representatives that would cause a reasonable person unaffiliated with the Church to bring such information to the attention of the public authorities for investigation and possible criminal prosecution should immediately be reported to the police. Thereafter the Church should cooperate fully with the authorities in its investigation consistent, of course, with the priest-penitent privilege and any other privileges that might apply. This is the present stated policy under the Policy Regarding Issues of Sexual Misconduct.

                          B. Pedophilia.

This committee believes there is no reliable data demonstrating that pedophilia can be cured or arrested. Pedophiles or persons who have engaged in any pedophile sexual act should not be allowed entry or retention in the priesthood. While there may be canonical obstacles to immediate discharge 'in some cases, we believe that as a practical matter this can be accomplished de facto through the exercise of the administrative discretion granted to the Archbishop.

                          C. Constitution of the Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee.

We believe the make-up of the Committee is flawed in a number of respects. First, we think the Committee should include respected persons from the community not associated with the Roman Catholic Church. While the Church's responsibilities are primarily to its members, it must function in the community at large, and, therefore, must satisfy not only the Church membership, but also the public at large, as to the integrity of its processes. Reliable and trustworthy persons present on the Committee who have no allegiance to the Church or perceived reason to fear its displeasure would advance this end.

At no time should any attorney, having the responsibility to represent, advise or protect the Church from claims made by persons who allege they have been injured by sexual misconduct on the part of priests, consult or communicate with the Committee or its members on any subject touching upon the merits or substance of any subject or incident which has been, Dr could be, brought to the Committee's attention for action. The conflict of interest in the absence of such a prohibition is clear, and, if allowed, would compromise both the real and apparent integrity of the Committee.

                         D. Processes of the Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee

Because of the experiences of two of the members of this committee, we believe that the adjudicative and accusatory functions of the Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee, which are presently combined, should be separated in the interest of fairness to the accused priest as well as the person making complaint. The Committee should have a screener/presenter who reviews all such complaints to see if they meet a minimum standard of credibility and substance. All complaints made to any priest employee of the Archdiocese, volunteer or representative of the Church or its administration should be immediately referred to the screener/presenter. If, after investigation by the screener, they do meet that minimum standard, notice should be given to the priest, the complainant and the Committee in writing. If the allegation is contested by the priest, the screener/presenter should, at a confidential hearing noticed to the priest and the complainant, present all the evidence bearing on the complaint to the Committee, giving the priest and complainant an opportunity to be heard and to present evidence if they wish. At no time should the screener/presenter communicate with the Committee ex parte on the merits or substance of any matter that has been brought to the Committee's attention for action. A record should be made of all such proceedings before the Committee, which record should be kept confidential to all but the Archbishop or his designees, unless and until it may be ordered opened by the Archbishop or some other competent authority. If, after hearing, the Committee finds an allegation sustained, the record should be immediately forwarded to the Archbishop with the Committee's findings and recommendations, if any, for disposition. A commitment by the episcopal authority to honor these findings and recommendations unless they are inconsistent with canon law or conscience would strengthen the Committee's credentials as a reasonably independent body. We believe these changes would give interested and concerned persons confidence in the fairness and regularity of the processes of the Committee and the outcome of any matter brought before it.

                          E. Dispositions.

It is our opinion that dispositions of such matters should first focus on some measure of justice for the injured person and security of the Church membership from further offense before rehabilitation of the priest involved is considered. If a priest, who has admitted such conduct or who has otherwise been found responsible, is immediately wrapped in the protective arms of the Church, shielded from personal embarrassment, sent for treatment to a facility which, by its nature, suggests that the cause of the conduct was illness, rather than simple moral transgression, the victim may feel isolated and rejected by the Church, and may even feel accused and responsible for the conduct involved. Such a result, we feel, would be a failure of the Church's pastoral responsibility. Any disposition should by its nature and terms express condemnation, not condonation, which, as a matter of common sense, has to precede forgiveness. We believe that, at a minimum, justice requires that the essence of the Committee's findings, when accepted by the Archbishop, be published among the Church membership in the diocese where the priest serves with due protection for the identity and interests of the injured person. This would not only serve the ends of justice, but also allow an informed membership and public to decide for themselves what measures are necessary for their own protection and the protection of those for whom they are responsible. Reaffirmation of the standards of acceptable priestly conduct in this manner would', we think, serve to reassure the Catholic community as a whole that the Church is guarding its flock, and would protect their trust in its integrity as an institution.

We think Your Excellency should undertake to review all previous cases of sexual misconduct to determine if the disposition of those cases with regard to both the priest and the injured person is appropriate, and, if not, take appropriate action to rectify any mistakes previously made.

                          F. Litigation

We have noted that, when civil litigation has ensued as a result of sexual misconduct on the part of a priest, the attorneys handling the matter have felt unconstrained as to the defenses that may be raised to the complaint. We believe that the Church is not only a unique institution, but, when confronted with a civil complaint for sexual abuse by a priest, is a unique litigant as well. We think the church should be loath to raise any defense that deprives the complainant of a trial on the merits. If, for example, the statute of limitations would allow dismissal of a particular complaint and deprive the complainant of his day in court, we feel it should not be raised. It may serve as a complete defense, but it leaves the underlying issue unresolved. If the priest is innocent, it invites the observer to conclude that no defense on the merits existed. If he is not, it deprives the claimant of any justice to which he or she might be entitled.

                         G. Periodic Review and Support.

This committee feels that priestly sexual misconduct often occurs in an atmosphere in which there is little or no oversight of the priest's daily life or regular evaluation of the performance of his priestly activity. This, we believe, can result in a priest feeling that he is largely on his own without support and with increasingly blurred boundaries.

We feel this problem could be alleviated to a significant degree if there were a mentoring program or frequent periodic personal contact with a superior at the priest's place of assignment for the purpose of conducting a regular review of his performance. We note that this is, apparently, not part of the current personnel procedure in this Archdiocese. This would provide an opportunity for the priest to talk frequently to a superior about any problems, personal or professional, which he is having. If properly documented, it might well make it possible to recognize developing trends and facilitate early intervention.

Alcohol abuse is not something that can be overlooked as a potential precursor to sexual misconduct. In some instances it may even be the sine qua non. Early recognition of alcohol abuse patterns and appropriate treatment might forestall ensuing sexual misconduct.

In short, we believe the day has come and gone when the church can avoid squarely facing the subject of sexuality and sexual misconduct on the part of its priests. It can no longer only react after the fact, and then, relying on the Churchís religious authority to carry the day, and acting solely to protect the priest involved and the reputation and property of the Church, ignore to some extent the obligation owed the victim. Instead, the Church must accept the fact that a priestís sexuality is often difficult to perfectly re-channel or suppress. It must recognize that the potential for misconduct is always present together with its concomitant injury to the Church and the person against whom any offense is committed. The Church should have in place a program of action, rather than reaction, to support its priests in meeting the difficulties of functioning in a celibate environment, and to identify and interdict sexual problems as they develop and before they cause injury.

                         H. Screening.

We recognize that there are screening processes employed in the selection of persons for the priesthood which seek to uncover in advance any sexual problems an applicant might have which would disqualify him from priestly service. We have neither the expertise nor the information necessary to form a useful opinion on the appropriateness of the processes presently employed. In fact, we have little information on what they are. Common sense only suffices us to say that their effective use is vital to the protection of the membership. While the Policy Regarding Issues of Sexual Misconduct speaks to such screening procedures being instituted by this Archdiocese, we have not seen evidence in the materials we have reviewed that such processes are in force in this Archdiocese. Too often in the past, the solution to a particular priest's sexual problem was to ship him to another diocese without full disclosure of his situation, rather than face those problems squarely at the place of discovery.

                        H. Personnel Files.

For the protection of the Church itself, as well as the priests and members of the Church, personnel files should be assembled in some standard order and with some regularity as to content.

In addition to the usual and normal personnel matters, the personnel files should include anything related to sexual misconduct. All the screening processes relating to sexuality employed in a particular priest's selection for the priesthood and the post he occupies should be documented and included in his file. His attendance at any education or training programs relating to the prevention of sexual misconduct should be included. Of course, anything pertaining to particular transgressions and the disposition of those matters, including testing and treatment, should be included in detail.

A copy of the personnel file should follow the priest wherever he goes, so that those who will necessarily work with him and be responsible for him can anticipate and deal with any precipitate problems. Original documents should be retained in the Archdiocese where they were generated.

                           I. Disclosure.

When a priest is assigned to a parish or position within the Church in which it is likely or necessary that he will come into contact with members of a parish or the Church, and he has a history of sexual misconduct, other than pedophilia, that misconduct should be disclosed to those with whom he will come in contact so that they may decide for themselves how to regard his priestly status, and what, if any, steps they should take to protect themselves or those for whom they are responsible from further offense.

                           J. Outreach to Injured Persons

We believe that any sexual misconduct by a priest and a member of the Church, criminal or not, results in injury to the person against whom the misconduct is directed. Whether the offense is committed against a minor or an adult, whether the offense is apparently consensual or not, whether the act is criminal or not, injury results because of the priest's status, without which status in many cases the offense would not have occurred. It is probably more difficult for a layperson to resist a priest who comes to the relationship with a degree of moral and spiritual authority over them than it would be to resist another layperson. The knowledge on the part of the layperson that they have participated in something they must believe has been a serious offense against God and his Church on earth, and not merely a sexual indiscretion, makes the injury certain. We believe that the priest, who exists in part to save people from spiritual compromise and who is able to exercise his spiritual authority is such relationships, is primarily responsible for the offense and the injury that will certainly follow. That injury may be limited to the spiritual realm, or may progress to the emotional, economic and social regions of the victim's life. We believe that the Church has a continuing duty in its pastoral role to reach out to the victim to effect healing, reconciliation and restoration of the victim to the status quo ante in any area of the victim's life where injury has occurred in so far as that may be possible. We believe that responsibility is paramount and cannot be superseded by any other, and that it never ends. Whether the victim has voluntarily ceased communication with the Church and its representatives, or whether litigation has begun, the Church has a continuing duty to be open to communication and to be willing to engage in whatever processes are necessary to carry out its pastoral responsibility.

We dealt previously in this report with counseling for the victim, and what, we feet, is the appropriate manner in which it should be handled.

                        K. Financial Accountability

It is apparent to this committee that, if the financial irregularities associated with Monsignor Murphy's misconduct had been timely known by the Archbishop and the parish membership, the inquiry which would have surely followed would have made early and effective intervention in the sexual problems likely as well.

There is a widespread belief by responsible Catholics in this Archdiocese that the financial affairs of their particular parish and the Archdiocese, in so far as they depend on the contribution of money by the membership, should be more transparent. They want to know for what purposes their wealth is being used, and they want the assurance that it is being used responsibly.

The commission believes that the business of the Church, although different from other businesses, would benefit from the application of some simple and ordinary business accounting practices. If the membership had access to understandable information on a regular basis from which they could reasonably insure themselves that the money they had earned and contributed, both to the parish and the Archdiocese, were property applied, it would immeasurably improve the trust which they ought rightly to feet in the exercise of the priestly discretion that directs its expenditure. In particular, any loans of church monies ought to be approved in advance by the Archbishop or the appropriate finance committee, and fully disclosed in the appropriate financial statement. Such measures might also serve to protect the Church -from problems which m facilitated by access to monies by individual priests for which there is virtually no oversight.


We recognize that the changes we have suggested - opening up the processes of the Church to greater scrutiny, delegation of a greater measure of episcopal authority and responsibility to the laity, and exposing the priesthood to greater accountability outside its own ranks - would require changing some of the anciently entrenched culture of the Church. We understand from our own personal experience that effecting change in any established institution, even minor change, is a daunting and sometimes impossible task. With all of this in mind, we are, nevertheless, of the sincere opinion that no less will be required if a great many Catholics, now shaken by the events and the publicity that those events have generated here and across the country, are to have their trust restored and maintained in the Church, in its priesthood, and in the Church's commitment to its pastoral responsibility as the center of its earthly mission.

Respectfully submitted to Your Excellency at Anchorage, Alaska this 14th day of October 2003.







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