Sexual misconduct: Seven Catholic clergy in Southeast accused - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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Sexual misconduct: Seven Catholic clergy in Southeast accused

Six religious leaders who served in the Catholic Diocese of Juneau have been determined by an independent commission to have probably committed sexual misconduct with minors and vulnerable adults. A seventh is accused of accessing pornographic images of children.
The investigation, ordered by Bishop Andrew Bellisario last December, says that some of the assaults took place as far back as the 1950s.
The names released were:
Francis A. Cowgill, who served in the Diocese of Juneau from 1952 and in the Archdiocese of Anchorage after 1966. He is deceased. Cowgill had been assigned to Pius X School in Skagway from 1952-1959, Sacred Heart Church in Haines from 1952-1959, and St. Mary Church in Kodiak from 1964-1966. The allegation(s) are sexual misconduct involving minors.
Javier Gutiérrez, who served in the Diocese of Juneau. He was dismissed from the clerical state in 2018. He had been assigned to the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau, 1982-1984, Holy Name Church in Ketchikan from 1984-1986, Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1986, St. Peter’s Church in Douglas in 1986, St Therese of the Child Jesus Church in Skagway and Sacred Heart Church in Haines from 1986-1988. He is accused of sexual misconduct involving minors and vulnerable adults in the 1980s.
Patrick Hurley, with the Order of St. Benedict. He has returned to his religious order. He served in at Holy Name Church in Ketchikan in 1983, Cathedral of the Nativity in Juneau from 1984-1985, St Therese in Skagway in 1984-1985.
Not to be confused with the the late Anchorage Archbishop Emeritus Francis Hurley, Patrick Hurley is accused of sexual misconduct involving minors. Several years ago, his name was in the news because during an inquiry into sexual misconduct by an Anchorage priest, Hurley seemed to discredit the accusers.

At that time, Hurley wrote that he regretted that he assumed  that Monsignor Francis Murphy, a problem drinker at the time, was “primarily driven by alcoholism” in his inappropriate sexual behavior.

“Today, I have a greater understanding of how devastating sexual abuse is on the young, especially when the perpetrator is a priest. For this grave mistake, I again apologize to the Podvin family and to the people of St. Patrick’s Parish for keeping Monsignor Murphy in the parish after Pat Podvin’s allegation was made to me.

“Had I known then what I know now about sexual abuse and alcoholism, I would not have left him on assignment,” Hurley wrote at the time.

Michael Nash, Diocese of Juneau. He was dismissed from the clergy in 2005 and died in 2019 in a plane crash near Ketchikan; he lived in Wrangell at the time of his passing. He was assigned Director of Vocations 1980-1995, St. Paul’s Church in Juneau, 1980-1982, Holy Name Church in Ketchikan from 1982-1983, St Johns Mission in Klawock from 1982-1988, St. Catherine in Petersburg from 1988-1996, Diocesan Administrator in Juneau from 1995-1996, The American College at Louvain, Belgium from 1997-1999, and Cathedral of the Nativity in Juneau from 1999-2002. He is accused of sexual misconduct involving minors from 1979-1982.
Edmond Penisian was assigned to the Diocese o fJueau. He was placed on administrative leave in 2019. He had served at Holy Name Church in Ketchikan in 2002, St. John By the Sea in Klawock in 2003, St Therese in Skagway and Sacred Heart in Haines fro 2004-2007, Holy Name Church in Ketchikan from 2007-2010, St. Gregory in Sitka in 2010, Northern Missions in Juneau from 2011-2014, and St. John by the Sea in Klawock in 2019. He is accused of viewing child pornography using a church computer.
Brother Frederick Raehsler, of the Brothers of the Holy Cross Order. He  returned to his order in 1993. He lived in Skagway from 1988-1993, had no official assignment from the Diocese of Juneau but served as a Eucharistic minister and on the parish council. He is accused of sexual misconduct involving a minor from 1988-1993.
Henry Leo Sweeney, assigned to the Diocese of Juneau. He died in 1959. He served at St. Gregory in Ketchikan in 1951, and at Holy Name Church in Ketchikan from 1953-1956. He was convicted of assault with intent to rape and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He served time in federal prison, and returned to active ministry.
The Diocese of Juneau asks those who have been sexually abused by a bishop, priest, deacon, or other representative of the Church, if they have not yet reported it, to consider doing so. Report it to local law enforcement or contact the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at and the coordinator will report it to law enforcement and help you.
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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • The Catholic Church has a VERY long history of sexual abuse with minors and others. When will any of them get prosecuted for this heinous crime? Child Sexual Abuse is the most heinous crime ever created. There was one case I remember happened to such a Priest in prison for this crime. The Cell door was blocked shut and his companion in the cell with him, tied him up and jumped on his chest until dead. A just sentence. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

    • I remember being in Army basic training in 1967 where a fellow recruit told me he worked previously in a home for alcoholic priests. I don’t recall ever hearing of these pedophiles back then but you can bet plenty of folks knew.
      Looking like 90% of these priests are giving the other 10% a bad name.

  • Let’s hope that anyone who may have knowledge or may have been harmed by anyone in the Diocese of Juneau will find the courage to come forward and contact law enforcement no matter how long ago it happened. Keep in mind that silence only hurts but by speaking up there is a chance for healing and protecting others .
    Judy Jones, SNAP “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” 636-433-2511,

  • Thank you for taking on the role of prosecutor and executioner. The accused is innocent in this country until reasonably proven guilty in a court of law.The cell mate committing 1st degree murder on the priest didn’t help his cause any. It just proved that the legal system got it right the first time with him.

    • The point here was that the Church bent over backwards to keep these pedophile priests from any “court of law.”
      You are just attempting to make more excuses for these criminals IMO.

  • Yuck ….not surprised…

  • There’s an old joke that goes: Question-What was the Catholic Church going to do if they caught the late Michael Jackson with another young boy?
    Answer-They were going to give him his own Parish.

  • There are a lot of crimes to account for, but please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Bishop Etienne started that probe, released its findings for the statewide component earlier this year, in good faith and solidarity with lay Catholics who expect and demand accountability. We are not seeing movement from the Pope or the USCCB to take action, so its happening from the ground up. Catholics like me are pissed, and we are willing to fight, using the full power of our Sacramental weaponry to counteract the evil injected and nourished in the 20th century Church. The Catholic Church is the Bride of Christ. I’m certainly not going to abandon her

    • If you are saying it was the 20th century Church that is behind this cancer then you obviously don’t consider celibacy as a major cause of this “evil injected.” What do you attribute this to then, Dee Cee?

  • Bill Yankee, look at the stats for school teachers and Protestant clergy, neither of which are required to be celibate. Priests are no worse. The scandal is that they are not significantly better. “Being celibate made me do it” is not a credible excuse.

    • You state that but don’t produce anything to back it up. I suspect that there are few actual stats on numbers of pedophile priests because they’ve been kept from the surface by the church. Anybody’s guess as to just how many there are.
      Like I said above, it’s looking like these 90% of priests are giving the other 10% a bad name. Also, we aren’t talking about school teachers convicted of statutory rape either as the difference between those rapists and these pedophiles is huge IMO.
      Anyway, I don’t buy your argument for a second as the stats are nonexistent for priests. That said, I’m not saying this issue is caused by celibacy, either. My question above was in reference to the “evil injected into the 20th century Church” that obviously couldn’t have been celibacy.

    • EKDS, after reading some information on this subject I’ve seen that this is much more complicated than I first thought. In particular the statement from a psychologist saying that “being celibate clearly does not make someone a child abuser” goes along with what you say.
      Thanks for giving me your “heads up.”

      • You’re welcome, and thanks for actually listening. That doesn’t always happen in comment-box discussions…

  • However abominable this continuing institutional and individual betrayal may be, it will look a mere trifle compared to the perfect storm that appears to be on the way.
    The question has become this: could two millennia of scholastic exegesis, tradition and the faith of at least a billion people be wholly in error? No more than a theological counterfeit! And no longer just a rhetorical question for mud slinging between atheist and religious, re-examining the foundational claims of the ‘church’ is under way, and using ‘new’ scriptural discoveries, we are on the threshold of discovering that answer. And the ‘church’, theology and tradition as we know it could be facing extinction!

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