Archdiocese of Anchorage Releases Report into Abusive Clergy
The Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, has released the names of 14 clergy who have been “credibly” accused of abuse. Of those names, four are new names that have not been previously disclosed. But like almost all lists released by Catholic officials, as opposed to secular law enforcement, it is still lacking in completeness and transparency.
To illustrate the lack of completeness, we know of at least two religious who were publicly accused of abuse while working in Alaska that are not on the list. One is a Dominican priest named Domenic de Domenico. The other is a brother from The Brothers of the Holy Cross, John McMuldren.
Fr. de Domenico had been accused of sexual abuse in 1987, but the allegations were not publicly disclosed by his order until 2005. According to Dominican officials, the cleric abused a fifteen year old while working in Alaska, but the allegations were not passed along to the archdiocese when the victim came forward to them in 1987. The priest was sent to therapy and apparently returned to ministry outside Alaska after the order concluded that they were “reasonably sure” he would not re-offend. When the accusations became public in 2005, Fr. de Domenico was reported to be retired and “no longer in contact with children.”
Br. McMuldren was accused of sexual abuse in 1995 when three boys came forward to say he had abused them when they attended the archdiocese’s summer camp in 1985. The case was not criminally prosecuted "because the statute of limitations had run." An internal church investigation found the allegations “not credible,” and in 2004 Br. McMuldren was working as a high school counselor in Texas. However, numerous cases have shown instances where outside law enforcement reaches different conclusions from internal reviews, and occasionally even dioceses reverse their conclusions.
We call on Archbishop Paul Dennis Etienne to explain these two omissions from his list, and to update accordingly.
As for transparency, this report should include more detail. There are no photos, and no information on when the allegations were received, descriptions of what was alleged, and what action the archdiocese took at the time. This type of information that can help survivors and families heal, and can also alert parishioners as to how allegations were handled in the past, and what needs to be done in the present and future to protect children.
To date, the best list that we have seen released is the one from the Diocese of Sacramento. We encourage church officials in Alaska to take immediate steps to make their own list fall in line with the one released by their colleagues in Sacramento.
It is important to note two elements of the Archdiocese of Anchorage's report. First, four new names have been added. Those hidden men presented a unknown danger to both Catholics and non-Catholics. Why were they hidden? Where have they been since they were identified, particularly those who were removed from ministry? The public needs to know.
Second, abuse occurred as recently as 2015 and there is evidence that the 2015 abuse was not reported to the police. Nothing perpetuates abuse like not reporting it to someone who can do something to stop it. Catholic bishops keep saying abuse is a problem of the past, but situations like this make it clear that it is not. We can only wonder what else has not been reported. The only way to know what has been hidden from parents and parishioners is for the Governor, Attorney General and all Alaska legislators to get involved; open an investigation, establish a hotline, and encourage victims to come forward. True transparency and accountability can only come from secular involvement, not voluntary disclosures.
We have observed that the Catholic Church in Alaska has a simply horrific amount of abuse. Out of the three dioceses in the state, a total of at least 68 priests and nuns are known to have abused and the ratio of parishioners to abusers — at 1,000 per 1 — is the worst in the United States. We do not know why the problem seems so extraordinary in Alaska, but we, alongside parishioners and the public, would like to know. We call on the Attorney General of Alaska, Kevin Clarkson, to open an investigation along the lines of what was done in Pennsylvania. That grand jury investigation made public information related to hundreds of abusers and generated thousands of additional reports of abuse. No doubt a secular investigation in Alaska would encourage natives and non-natives alike to report what happened to them, and those reports can be used to ensure Alaskan children are better protected in the future.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)