An independent review has found evidence of sexual misconduct by 14 Catholic Church employees of the Anchorage Archdiocese, one of them a former lay employee at Kodiak’s St. Mary’s Church. 

According to Father Frank Reitter of the St. Mary’s Parish, an incident of sexual misconduct involving a vulnerable adult was reported to the parish soon after Reitter began his tenure in Kodiak in 2013.

Manuel Castro, 50, a maintenance worker, was put on administrative leave immediately after allegations were made. According to the recent report, Casto committed sexual misconduct involving a vulnerable adult in 2011. He also allegedly committed sexual misconduct involving minors outside of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

Reitter said an outside agency in Kodiak conducted an investigation of Castro after allegations were made, and found the allegations to be credible. Castro was dismissed soon thereafter. In total, he worked at St. Mary’s for three years, between 2010 and 2013. 

The incident was reported to the Kodiak Police Department, according to Reitter. However, no charges were filed in connection to the allegation. Court records show a civil protective order was issued against Castro in 2018 by the Kodiak court in connection with domestic violence. The protective order is unrelated to the 2011 case.

The independent commission that investigated the Anchorage Archdiocese was established by Archbishop Paul Etienne in October 2018. 

Other than Castro, all other alleged offenders served as priests in the Anchorage Archdiocese. Of the 13 priests named in the report, seven are deceased. Others are retired or have been dismissed. Most served in other locations throughout the Anchorage archdiocese, which covers 138,985 square miles and serves as estimated 32,170 Catholic people in the region, according to its website. Three priests named in the report preached at St Mary’s Parish in Kodiak during part of their tenure.

Francis Murphy, who resided in Kodiak in 1966, later serving in Palmer and Anchorage, is accused of sexual misconduct involving minors between 1966 and 1979. Murphy died in 2012.

Bernard Oosterman preached throughout the archdiocese between 1978 and 1980, including in Kodiak. He is accused of sexual misconduct involving a minor in 1978. He died in 2011.

Francis Cowgill was assigned to St. Mary’s in 1966, later serving in Eagle River and Anchorage. He is accused of sexual misconduct involving minors between 1956 and 1964. He died in 2002.

Reitter said he was not interviewed by the commission. However, the commission was given full access to any file the archdiocese has collected since it was established in 1966. 

“There was no need to interview because it was well documented,” Reitter said about the incident involving Castro.

According to an article by Alaska Public Media, Bishop Andrew Bellisario offered an apology during a news conference at the archdiocese in downtown Anchorage on Thursday.

“It’s with great shame that I stand here today, as a representative of the church, to offer this apology to you,” he said, according to the Alaska Public Media report.

 

 

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