Two Alaskan Dioceses Merge, SNAP Calls for Renewed Focus on Abuse Prevention
Pope Francis today combined two dioceses in Alaska into one, appointing the current head of the Diocese of Juneau to lead this newly formed archdiocese. This merger presents an opportunity for Catholic officials to demonstrate renewed commitment to the prevention of abuse, and we hope that parishioners and the public will demand openness and transparency from their new leaders.
The Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau will be led by Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, the current bishop of Juneau. With his elevation to Archbishop, we hope he will immediately turn his attention to the issue of abuse in his archdiocese. There is much room for improvement for Catholic leaders in Alaska.
When the Archdiocese of Anchorage previously released their list of those "credibly accused" of abuse, we were happy to see that it included not only those who abused children, but also those who hurt vulnerable adults, and that it was not just limited to clergy. However, the list did not include some details that are important to help survivors identify their abusers, such as photos, and also failed to contain the names of certain publicly accused religious.
In order to demonstrate his commitment to the prevention of abuse and to fulfill the promise of transparency that the bishops in this country made in 2002, we call on Archbishop Bellisario to take several steps to support survivors and help prevent abuse.
First, he should immediately re-evaluate the list that was released by Anchorage officials earlier this year and include the missing names – such as Br. Domenic de Domenico and Br. John McMuldren – of those that have been accused of abusing children but were omitted from the current list.
Next, he should turn all files of this combined archdiocese over to state police so they can investigate whether any cover-ups occurred and ensure that there are no abusers hidden quietly within Alaskan communities.
Finally, he should personally visit each parish in his new archdiocese, urging victims, witnesses, and whistle-blowers to come forward and make a report to law enforcement.
By taking these steps, Archbishop Bellisario can show that he is taking the issue of abuse seriously within his new jurisdiction. We hope he will make these moves as soon as possible.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
(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)