Alaska Law Enforcement Opens Investigation Into Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in Archdiocese of Anchorage

The Alaska Department of Law will assist in an investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct reported to the Archdiocese of Anchorage, ABC News has learned.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Paul Etienne announced the formation of an independent commission comprised of former law enforcement officials “to review all personnel files of clerics and religious men and women” who have served the archdiocese since its formation in 1966.

The commission is expected to deliver a report on its findings, identifying individuals who have either had credible allegations made against them or have failed to report credible allegations made against others.

“Archbishop Etienne apologizes to anyone who has been harmed by someone representing the Catholic Church and encourages those harmed to report their experience directly to their local law enforcement,” reads a statement released with the announcement. “With this review Archbishop Etienne seeks to open pathways of justice and healing for all who were abused and for the people of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.”

When reached for comment, the office of Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth issued a statement praising the formation of the commission and confirming that its office will participate in the investigation, joining a growing number of states engaged in what collectively amounts to a massive probe of the church and its policies governing sexual misconduct.

“The Alaska Department of Law is aware that the Archdiocese of Anchorage announced today the formation of an Independent Commission to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct by its lay volunteers and employees,” the statement reads. “The members of the commission are highly qualified and have extensive experience in law enforcement and the Alaska criminal justice system. The Department of Law has agreed to work with the Archdiocese of Anchorage and the commission during this process.”

Allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Alaska have made headlines several times since reporters from The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team first brought the issue the Catholic Church’s mishandling of sexual misconduct to national attention, first in 2003, when a parish priest was reportedly exposed for sexually abusing young men over several years in Anchorage, and again several years later, after nearly 300 abuse victims reportedly filed claims in bankruptcy court against the Diocese of Fairbanks.

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SOURCE: ABC News, Pete Madden