Anchorage Archdiocese addressing possible sexual abuse with independent review

Archbishop-elect Paul Etienne addresses the public at the Archdiocese of Anchorage on Oct. 4, 2016. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Archbishop-elect Paul Etienne addresses the public at the Archdiocese of Anchorage on Oct. 4, 2016. (Stock photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

The Catholic Archdiocese in Anchorage announced Wednesday it will take a close look at possible sexual abuse within the church.

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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 filed for bankruptcy after paying out millions of dollars in settlements to victims stretching back decades.

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 archdioceses 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.