ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) — Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage has appointed an independent commission to review all personnel files of clerics and religious men and women who have served in the Archdiocese of Anchorage since its canonical establishment in 1966.

The commission was formed following consultation with lay leadership, the archdiocese said.

The independent body also will review allegations of sexual misconduct of lay volunteers and employees reported to the archdiocese.


Members of the commission have more than 50 years of combined experience in law enforcement, prosecutorial and judicial service.

Shirley Cote has 30 years of experience with the Anchorage Police Department and after retiring as a captain, she served as chief of the Soldotna Police Department. Rachel Gernat has more than a decade of experience as a former prosecutor of crimes against children and vulnerable adults. Michael Spaan has practiced law since the 1970s, served as U.S. attorney from 1981 to 1989 and as a judicial officer for over a decade.

The commission’s review is expected to begin Oct. 31 and may take up to nine months to complete.

The archdiocese said the commission will deliver directly to Archbishop Etienne a written report that is to include a list of all individuals determined to have credible allegations of sexual misconduct. This report also may include any individuals, who through gross negligence, failed to adequately respond to such misconduct.

The commission is asked to make recommendations on improvements regarding archdiocesan governance, policies and procedures concerning sexual misconduct.

“The goal of the independent review is, after consultation with the Archdiocesan Review Board, for the archbishop to publish the findings of the review including the names of church personnel with credible allegations of sexual misconduct committed against minors and vulnerable adults as defined in both civil and/or canon law,” the archdiocese said.

It added: “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. 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.”