If you are a member of the Mormon Church and you have a problem, you’re supposed to talk to your local bishop. And if the bishop has questions about how to handle an issue — say an accusation of sexual abuse — he can call a special 24-hour hotline.
That hotline doesn’t automatically tell bishops to report the abuse to local authorities. If anything, according to a new report from VICE News, it’s a way “to shield the Mormon Church from potential lawsuits that pose a financial threat to the Church.”
Part of the problem is that the calls go directly to the law firm, Kirton McConkie, that includes the LDS Church as a client. That’s a problem.
… several experts said they could not see any benefit for abuse victims in having defense lawyers screen calls about such incidents before authorities are alerted.
Catholic bishops have been instructed since 2002 to alert the police about suspected abuse before contacting church lawyers. “If you are just looking at it from the outside, you might say to yourself, ‘Are they trying to find a way not to report [incidents]’?” says Kathleen McChesney, a former top official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who consulted with the Catholic Church on its new reporting policies.
When the Catholic Church is handling abuse allegations better than you are, you have a problem.
The Mormon Church refuses to say how many calls come in to the “helpline” and how many are abuse-related. Because the calls go to lawyers, they’re shielded from any kind of public oversight.
Directing abuse-related calls to church lawyers, legal experts said, lets the Mormon Church classify them as “attorney-client” communications and so protect them from disclosure in lawsuits and other forums. The Church’s maintenance of secrecy is so absolute that staffers at LDS Family Service who take notes during helpline calls are required to shred them at the end of every day, said [Timothy] Kosnoff, the plaintiffs’ lawyer.
Last September, MormonLeaks released a document showing a spreadsheet kept by Kirton McConkie that included situations involving sexual abuse. It’s unclear what became of those cases, but it seemed clear that law enforcement authorities weren’t notified.
Once again, you have to ask why practicing Mormons are willing to remain in an organization that cares so little about abuse victims that leaders would rather keep cases hidden than allow law enforcement officials to weed out the alleged abusers. Mormons who refuse to walk away from the Church are allowing this broken system to persist.
Watch that video. Listen to the stories told by two women whose kids were allegedly abused by the same person. They told their bishop about it. Because of that, they didn’t get justice.
(Thanks to Marcus for the link)