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Abuse Study Shows 12 Alaska Priests Accused

At least 13 victims from Juneau and Fairbanks dioceses, report says

Feb 6, 2004 | AP

At least 12 Catholic priests assigned to Alaska have been accused of sexual misconduct involving children over the past five decades, according to a national survey and an independent study in Anchorage.

Between the Juneau and Fairbanks dioceses, at least 13 victims were counted in the national survey, which examined cases from 1950 to 2002. More than 300 priests served in Alaska during that time period.

The findings from all 195 U.S. dioceses will be formally released Feb. 27, but many dioceses already are releasing their numbers.

The confidential study, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was conducted by New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice to determine the scope of abuse nationwide.

In Alaska, only the Archdiocese of Anchorage refused to release any survey information. The archdiocese is among 20 in the nation that fell short of meeting reforms adopted in June 2002, according to a nationwide church audit released last month.

Archbishop Roger Schwietz did not return numerous calls, but said through archdiocese staff that the only information available was a report by an independent committee he commissioned last year.

That review, which did not include a count of victims, examined about 80 personnel files and found that five priests including Monsignor Francis Murphy have been accused of sexually abusing minors since the 160,000-square-mile Anchorage Archdiocese was established in 1966. Archdiocese officials have said at least five people claimed they were abused by Murphy, who left Alaska in 1985 for alcohol treatment.

The Erwin Committee also counted two other priests - including the Rev. Timothy Crowley - who were accused of abusing children before they were assigned to Alaska.

Neither the Anchorage report nor the national survey names the priests or victims, although Alaska church leaders acknowledge they include priests whose cases have gone public. None of the accused priests is still serving in Alaska.

In the Diocese of Juneau, three priests including the Revs. Michael Nash and Javier Gutierrez have been accused of sexually abusing a total of six children, the survey found. A third unidentified priest was from a religious order outside of Southeast Alaska, said Juneau Bishop Michael Warfel.

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