A damning story in today’s Arizona Republic by Mary Jo Pitzl talks about how the Mormon Church has routinely downplayed or ignored the seriousness of child sexual abuse, preferring to handle issues in-house rather than involve law enforcement. That negligence allowed the abuse to continue.
In one case, a man named Paul Adams confessed to Mormon Bishop John Herrod that he was molesting his five-year-old daughter. Instead of reporting him to the police, the bishop spoke with the man’s wife, Leizza Adams, and… nothing. That’s pretty much it.
You can guess what happened next:
The bishop’s counseling sessions apparently had little effect. The man continued to molest his daughter, and later, after her birth in 2015, his infant daughter. He made videos of the encounters and posted them on pornographic websites, which were eventually discovered by Interpol, reported to his employer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and led to criminal charges.
Both girls and their three other siblings have thankfully been adopted, albeit by (separate) families. The wife was later “indicted on 12 criminal counts.” Adams himself was indicted on 11 counts of child sexual abuse, but hanged himself in prison in 2017 while awaiting trial.
The point of retelling this story is to show that the Mormon Church has a history of covering up this sort of abuse, something we’ve written about before. If there’s any way for the LDS Church to deal with a problem internally before it makes its way to the outside world, that’s the preference. But time and time again, they’ve failed to take care of the problems and abuse has thrived.
The reason this is allowed is because Arizona, like many other states, doesn’t require religious leaders to report instances of abuse to law enforcement if they learned about it through an act of confession. That’s not true everywhere. If a public school teacher learned that a student was being abused at home, that teacher has a legal obligation to tell the student’s counselor (who can take appropriate action). But not pastors. Not bishops. Not priests. If someone tells them a secret, believing it will remain a secret, then the law allows those leaders to keep it a secret, even if people are getting hurt.
It will take legislation to remove that exemption from the law.
But, naturally, the Mormon Church and its minions are fighting that.
To force a clergy member to report a confidential communication “changes the whole nature of the confessional,” said state Sen. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, and a member of the Mormon Church. Earlier this year, he declined to give a hearing to a bill that sought to further narrow the clergy exemption.
The bill, well-intentioned as it might have been, would disrupt centuries of church dogma, said Farnsworth, who as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee has the authority to decide which bills to consider.
However, the victims of Paul Adams are still fighting to change that rule.
“Why would any cleric refuse to report the rape of a child?” [attorney Lynne Cadigan] asked. “If a pedophile knows the cleric will not report his crimes, the cleric is enabling this monster to continue raping children.”
She’s right. The reason the religious institutions don’t want the exemption taken off the books is because they value their secrecy more than others’ safety. Their religious dogma is more important than another child getting sexually abused. Put more simply, they just don’t care. And anyone who belongs to the Catholic Church or LDS Church or any other institution fighting to keep this secrecy in place is enabling the abusers.
Read the whole story. It’s infuriating.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Karla for the link)