ANCHORAGE - He’s not supposed to perform the sacraments, wear a collar or even refer to himself as a priest.
But J. Michael Hornick, accused of inappropriate physical contact with five women or girls, is still technically a priest -- something the Archdiocese of Anchorage is seeking to change.
The Catholic Church is likely to defrock the former pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church.
Hornick was forced to resign as pastor of St. Nicholas of Myra in 2009, following allegations by two women that he tried to kiss them, a violation of church protocol.
But since then, the allegations have gotten more serious.
Father Thomas Brundage, a canon lawyer in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, said he personally interviewed two women who say that Hornick touched them inappropriately when they were girls, one when she was just six.
"What we mean by that is unwanted attempts at kissing on the lips, embraces that were just too much, too long, sometimes touching things like the leg and things that are just inappropriate between an adult and a child, and especially inappropriate for a person who is in a position of authority."
The incidents with the girls allegedly happened 20 and 30 years ago, beyond the criminal statute of limitations.
They came forward in 2011 after the archdiocese chose to publicize allegations that Hornick had inappropriate physical relationships with three adult women while a pastor.
The alleged former child victims have asked the church to strip Hornick of his priesthood, a process now under way.
"I think it's a fair request,” Brundage said. “And both these women are very wonderful, beautiful people, and we want them to continue the healing process. This, I think, would be an enormous help to them."
And this is about more than justice for the victims. The church is trying to send a message that things have changed.
"We've learned lessons because over the years we've done just about everything wrong with regards to how cases were handled 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago,” Brundage said.
The archdiocese is having three canon lawyers from the Lower 48 review documents, including depositions, going back to 1997.
"The punishment usually for matters of this is layization or defrocking. And what would happen then is they would send the recommendation over to Rome and Rome then would confirm it,” Brundage said. “And actually, it goes over to the pope's desk."
By the end of the year, Hornick could be just a regular Catholic.
Hornick did not return a phone call today.
His lawyer, Wayne Anthony Ross, said it was poor form for the church to put out a news release on the defrocking process without providing Hornick details of the allegations. (To read Ross's response to the news release, click here.)
But Brundage says Hornick has known for a long time what the allegations are, and has maintained his innocence. Brundage says he does not know whether Hornick attends mass, or really what he does at all. He still receives a pension from the church, which Brundage said cannot be taken away, because of federal law.
The church also is paying for Hornick's canon lawyer. And it's also picking up the tab for counseling for the two women who allege they were victimized as girls.