Juneau Bishop Andrew Bellisario established an independent lay commission to review diocesan files of all ordained ministers and religious men and women who have acted on behalf of the Diocese of Juneau since its establishment in 1951.
Anchorage Archbishop Paul Etienne issued a similar decree in October for the Anchorage Archdiocese.
Like Anchorage, the Juneau commission will also review all other representatives of the diocese, including lay employees and volunteers, against whom allegations of sexual misconduct have been made.
The Dec. 11 decree by Bishop Bellisario named three people to carry out the investigation, all with extensive law enforcement experience. The members are: Patricia Collins, retired Juneau Superior Court judge; Thomas Schulz, retired Ketchikan Superior Court judge; and Kris Sell, retired Juneau Police lieutenant.
The commission will evaluate all allegations of sexual misconduct to determine whether there is credible evidence that anyone personally engaged in sexual misconduct or improperly handled any sexual abuse cases.
Sexual misconduct is defined as “any sexually related conduct that is unlawful under the laws of the State of Alaska or of the United States of America, or the canon law of the Catholic Church, including the particular law of this diocese,” the decree states.
If the commission discovers allegations of sexual misconduct that were not previously reported to law enforcement, “it must immediately inform the bishop so that the allegation can be reported to law enforcement,” the decree notes.
The members of the commission will have free access to all records in the possession of the Diocese of Juneau, including its parishes and other subordinate entities.
Bishop Bellisario said he will ensure that the commission has “the benefit of any expertise on the policies and procedures of the diocese, canon law, or any other matter reasonably deemed necessary by the commission for the performance of its duties.”
In making its report, each member of the commission will have an equal vote in determining whether an allegation of sexual misconduct is supported by credible evidence.
“To the extent possible, members of the commission should strive to reach consensus in making such decisions,” Bishop Bellisario’s decree reads. “The commission may conclude that it is unable to determine whether or not a particular allegation of sexual misconduct is supported by credible evidence.”
Upon completing its review, the commission will deliver a written report of its findings simultaneously to Bishop Bellisario and to the president of the Juneau Diocesan Review Board for the Protection of Children, Young People, and Vulnerable Adults. The report will include a list of the names of all ministers and others, including lay employees and volunteers, who have acted on behalf of the diocese and against whom allegations of sexual misconduct have been supported by credible evidence. Bishop Bellisario said he will publish the names.