Diocese of Juneau taps panel to investigate claims of sexual misconduct

The Shrine of St. Therese chapel in summer 2013. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

The Roman Catholic Church’s historic archives in Southeast Alaska will be opened to an independent panel investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by church personnel, the Diocese of Juneau announced Wednesday.

A commission of two retired judges and a retired police lieutenant will have unfettered access to personnel files dating back to the diocese’s formation in 1951.

“We just want to bring everything to light and be transparent,” Diocese of Juneau spokesperson Dominique Johnson said. “That’s why we put the commission together to review these files so that they will know, as well as us, if there were any allegations against any ministers or people who have worked on behalf of the diocese.”

The three-person commission will be retired Superior Court Judges Patricia Collins and Thomas Schulz and former Juneau Police Department Lt. Kris Sell. According to the diocese’s press release, they’ll begin work on Jan. 7. The diocese estimates that the commission’s review will be completed by June 1, 2019.

After a full review is complete, the commission will submit a report that will include any credible claims of sexual misconduct, along with the names of those accused. That report will be forwarded to the bishop and the president of the diocese’s review board for the protection of children, young people, and vulnerable adults.

“From there we will publish that list of names for the public to see,” Johnson said.

Juneau Bishop Andrew Bellisario’s decree follows a similar move by the Archdiocese of Anchorage, which appointed its own independent panel in October.

The Diocese of Juneau counts about 10,600 Catholics within its geographic area, making it the smallest diocese in the U.S. by that measure. It oversees Catholic churches and shrines from Yakutat to Ketchikan.

Jacob Resneck, CoastAlaska

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director based in Juneau. CoastAlaska is our partner in Southeast Alaska. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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