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(3rd) Update on Arizona Abuse Case


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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Fair Dinkum said:

Does it sully your reputation on this board if I give you a "LIKE" on this post?

I genuinely love and am devoted to the Church.  I believe it is foundationally and broadly good and beautiful.  In its roots, trunk, branches and leaves.  It is not, however, perfect.  It needs to constantly check itself, and improve and grow, and correct errors and defects.

And sometimes the Church really messes up, as seems to be the case here.  For me, there is generally no "blood is thicker than water" or "I'm with you, right or wrong" sort of sentiment about the Church.  I wrote this back in 2020 (about a pretty dumb lawsuit against the Church filed in California) :

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I am not discounting all the litigation filed against the Church.  Sometimes the Church and/or its agents/representatives errs legally.  When and if that happens, and can be established through evidence and argument, the Church needs to take its legal lumps like anyone else.  So I don't begrudge anyone who has a legitimate (or at least colorable) grievance against the Church and avails himself to filing a lawsuit.

That said, there are a lot of frivolous lawsuits filed against the Church.  Those filed by Cook and Gaddy come immediately to mind.  And these are just the recent ones.  

Another participant chimed in, and I responded:

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I agree with this but am curious if you can point out an instance where the Church needed to take its legal lumps? 

McKenna Denson's suit was a possible one.  Respondeat superior and all that.  If liability had been established, and the statute of limitations was somehow tolled or deemed inapplicable...

Also, the Church lost in the Main Street Plaza case, as it should have.  The deal with SLC was clearly unconstitutional.

Also, the Church erred in its daily reporting requirements during Prop 8, and as a result paid a small fine (see here).

Late last year I said (regarding the story about the Church's financial stockpile): "I'm sure the IRS will sort out whether the Church has complied with the law.  If the Church has not complied with it, it needs to be held accountable."  

I'm sure there are more instances than these.
...
I am not discrediting all lawsuits against the Church.

While the news items I linked to were slanted, and while I would generally prefer news articles to be more Joe "Just-the-Facts-Ma'am" Friday than Upton "Muckraker" Sinclair, sometimes we (the Church) need an outsider's critique.

Here, the system promulgated by the Church did not work.  Two bishops apparently knew about, but did not disclose, ongoing child abuse.  The first one, Herrod, told law enforcement that he was specifically instructed by the attorneys on the helpline to not report the abuse ("'They said, "You absolutely can do nothing," Herrod said in a recorded interview with law enforcement'" and "church officials told him the state’s clergy-penitent privilege required him to keep Adams’s abuse confidential").  Regarding the second bishop, per the article: "Herrod later told a second bishop, who also kept the matter secret after consulting with church officials who maintain that the bishops were excused from reporting the abuse to police under the state’s so-called clergy-penitent privilege."

Some of this is hearsay, but either both bishops lied about what the helpline attorneys told them, or else the helpline attorneys materially screwed up.  Both reflect poorly on the Church, and both seem difficult to take at face value, but it seems like one of them must be substantively true, and at present, I'm inclined to think it's the latter.  

As for whether the Church should be held legally accountable, I'll leave that to the courts.  

As for whether the Church should be held morally accountable, that's an individual decision.

As for whether the Church has some sort of pervasive and systemic problem of failing to report abuse, I think . . . not.  I say this for at least four reasons:

  • First, the Church's published-to-the-world policies and procedures do not allow for such sweeping-under-the-rug sorts of things.  To the contrary, these policies and procedures, when followed, are very helpful in detecting and stopping abuse, and in reporting past abuse.
  • Second, the Church has no incentive to deviate from its established policies and procedures.  The narrative being peddled here is that the Church wants to "cover up" abuse so as to protect its image.  And yet not only is the Church's reputation/image not harmed by reporting instances of abuse, its reputation/image is harmed, and in far greater measure, when it fails to report instances of abuse.  This news item typifies that.  As the old saying goes: "It's not the crime, it's the cover-up." 
  • Third, that this story is in the news media is, I think, indicative of a general lack of a pervasive/systemic problem of bishops failing to report allegations of abuse.  This story is both horrific and out of the ordinary.  And it indicates a substantial breakdown as to applying the Church's policies.
  • Fourth, I have personal experience in working with the attorneys on the helpline, and in reporting allegations of abuse.  My experience was very different from the one described by Herrod.  I came away happy that the Church had this resource in place to help bishops navigate these complex legal waters.

As for whether the Church can improve, the answer is obviously yes.  More training for bishops (and, it seems, maybe for the attorneys on the helpline too).  Yes, the priest/penitent privilege is important and should be preserved, but that can happen without allowing abuse of children to continue.  If the news reports are accurate, the bishops

  • had independent grounds to fall within the "mandatory" reporting provisions of the law (the statute does not exempt clergy from reporting where they have "personal observations ... of the minor"), and
  • knew (or should have known) that the mother in the family was failing in her obligations as well, and therefore should have intervened ("Herrod later told Homeland Security agent Robert Edwards he knew from the start that Leizza Adams was unlikely to stop her husband, after he called her into the counseling sessions"), and 
  • were given bad advice about the law because they did, in fact, seem to have the option of reporting (the statute states that "a member of the clergy ... may withhold reporting of the communication or confession if the member of the clergy ... determines that it is reasonable and necessary within the concepts of the religion").

As to that last point, it sort of veers out of "the law" because whether or not a bishop acting or not acting is "reasonable and necessary within the concepts of the religion" sounds like, well, a religious question more than a legal one (it just happens to be a religious question that can have significant legal import).  I consider myself fairly well-versed in the doctrines of the Church, and at present I don't see a point of doctrine that would be contravened by a bishop reporting suspected abuse.  The closest I can get to that is the Church's policies (which are, I think, derivative of "doctrine") regarding confidentiality.  See Section 32.4.4 of the Handbook:

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32.4.4

Confidentiality

Bishops, stake presidents, and their counselors have a sacred duty to protect all confidential information shared with them. This information may come in interviews, counseling, and confessions. The same duty of confidentiality applies to all who take part in membership councils. Confidentiality is essential because members may not confess sins or seek guidance if what they share will not be kept confidential. Breaching a confidence betrays members’ trust and causes them to lose confidence in their leaders.

However, this section goes on to enumerate instances in which a bishop "may share" confidential information:

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Consistent with their duty of confidentiality, a bishop, stake president, or their counselors may share such information only as follows:

  • They need to confer with the member’s stake president, mission president, or bishop about holding a membership council or related matters. The stake president may also confer with his assigned Area Seventy. If needed, the Area Seventy refers the stake president to the Area Presidency. Only the stake president decides if a council should be held or its outcome.

  • The person moves to a new ward (or the priesthood leader is released) while membership action or other serious concerns are pending. In these cases, the leader notifies the new bishop or stake president about the concerns or pending action (see 32.14.7). He also informs the leader if the member may pose a threat to others.

  • A bishop or stake president learns that a Church member who lives outside the ward or stake may have been involved in a serious sin. In that instance, he confidentially contacts that member’s bishop.

  • It is necessary to disclose information during a membership council. All information gathered and shared as part of a membership council is confidential.

  • A member chooses to give permission for the leader to share information with specific persons. These may include parents, Church leaders, or others who may provide support. The leader does not share information beyond the permission the member has given.

  • It may be necessary to share limited information about the decision of a membership council (see 32.12.2).

In all other situations, the leader should refer to 32.4.5. These cases include when the law may require that a crime, such as child abuse, be reported to government authorities.

To assist leaders in protecting others and complying with the law, the Church provides help from trained professionals. To receive this guidance, leaders promptly call the Church’s abuse help line where it is available (see 32.4.5 and 38.6.2.1). Where it is not available, the stake president contacts the area legal counsel at the area office.

So confidentiality is not an absolute, as compared to the stance taken by our Catholic friends:

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The seal of confession is so important and sacred that a priest would be automatically excommunicated under canon law for directly revealing the contents of a confession.

The sacramental seal is absolutely inviolable and “admits no exceptions” — even if the intention was to prevent an imminent evil or serious crime, said Msgr. Krzysztof Nykiel, regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court dealing with matters of conscience.

Not even the death of the penitent can release the confessor from the obligation to maintain the seal, he added.

Compare the above sentiment with the next section of Section 32.4.4:

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In only one situation should a bishop or stake president disclose confidential information without first seeking such guidance. That is when disclosure is necessary to prevent life-threatening harm or serious injury and there is not time to seek guidance. In such cases, the duty to protect others is more important than the duty of confidentiality. Leaders should contact civil authorities immediately.

It is my understanding that this policy, or something very much like it, was in place when the abuse was happening in that family in Bisbee.  Ongoing sexual abuse of a child unequivocally constitutes "serious injury," such that the bishops should have "contact{ed} civil authorities immediately," should have taken immediate steps to have the father move out or the mother and children move out, and should have taken all other feasible steps to ensure the immediate cessation of abuse.  Instead, the bishops allowed the abuse to continue for years, apparently on the instruction of the Church's attorneys.  The incongruity between A) the Church's policies and my personal experiences with them, and B) what happened in Bisbee for years is very difficult for me to understand.

The Church is not a law enforcement agency, nor should it be.  It cannot be all things to all people.  But its agents apparently knew about ongoing abuse and did not stop it.  This happened for years, and in contravention of the Church's policies.  Why this happened needs to be evaluated, and changes should be made to ensure better compliance with the Church's policies.  I think the policy framework is presently quite sound, but we need to figure out why it went so terribly wrong in this instance.

My affection and respect for the Church is not diminished.  That a mother, two bishops, and the Church's attorneys all failed to properly address and stop years of ongoing abuse of children is a terrible wrong, but it does not retroactively negate the reality of the divinity of Jesus Christ, His Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, the theophanies and prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, the restoration of the priesthood, and so on.

Again: "Sometimes the Church and/or its agents/representatives errs legally.  When and if that happens, and can be established through evidence and argument, the Church needs to take its legal lumps like anyone else."  I think that has happened here.

Thanks

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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15 minutes ago, smac97 said:
  • had independent grounds to fall within the "mandatory" reporting provisions of the law (the statute does not exempt clergy from reporting where they have "personal observations ... of the minor"), and
  • knew (or should have known) that the mother in the family was failing in her obligations as well, and therefore should have intervened ("Herrod later told Homeland Security agent Robert Edwards he knew from the start that Leizza Adams was unlikely to stop her husband, after he called her into the counseling sessions"), and 

This is what confuses me about what happened.  If the bishop heard from the mother that the abuse was happening, then that becomes mandatory reporting.  If the excommunication later was about the abuse, then all of the people there are mandatory reporting.  In both situations, there is no "maybe".

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11 minutes ago, webbles said:

This is what confuses me about what happened.  If the bishop heard from the mother that the abuse was happening, then that becomes mandatory reporting. 

If preserving the priest/penitent privilege was a consideration, there seem to be a number of ways to address that and stopping the abuse.  Have the abuser move out.  Have the mother and kids move out.  Encourage the abuser to confess.

In the law, evidence that is obtained illegally can be "excluded" (not considered by the court or the jury).  This is done to ensure that law enforcement does not run roughshod over civil liberties and take a "the ends justify the means"-type of approach.  However, there are ways to address the admissibility of illegally obtained evidence:

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The exclusionary rule mandates that evidence seized as a product of unlawful police activity, absent some exception, is not admissible in court. Evidence subject to suppression as a result of fourth (search and seizure), fifth (self-incrimination), or sixth (right to assistance of counsel) amendment violations include not only what was seized or discovered in the course of the unlawful conduct, but anything that was subsequently obtained as a product of the illegal action. One exception to the exclusionary rule involves "attenuation of the taint." If there are intervening factors, such as a significant amount of time or actions by the defendant or third parties, a court must analyze those factors to determine whether the "taint" (illegal police activity) has become so far "attenuated" from the eventual discovery of evidence subject to being suppressed that it serves no legitimate purpose to suppress it. Another exception to the exclusionary rule involves an "independent source" for the evidence illegally obtained. This doctrine allows the admission of evidence that may have been obtained illegally by police if that same evidence was also obtained legally by another means. A third exception to the exclusionary rule concerns "inevitable discovery." This doctrine provides that evidence found due to a constitutional violation is admissible if it would have been inevitably discovered lawfully. This is a valid exception only if the inevitable discovery would have occurred through means other than the proper securing of a search warrant. 

The exclusionary rule is used to preserve civil liberties.  But because the exclusionary rule can, if inflexibly applied, lead to profound injustice, there are exceptions to it.

Similarly, the priest/penitent privilege also exists to preserve and protect civil liberties (as the Church puts it: "Confidentiality is essential because members may not confess sins or seek guidance if what they share will not be kept confidential").  However, this privilege can, if inflexibly applied, also lead to pronound injustice, so the Church has exceptions to it as well.

And in any event, the Church is an ecclesistical body and has very finite authority over its members.  As a result, I think the Church has more autonomy to deviate from its own policies where the circumstances warrant.  Such is the case when a bishop learns about ongoing abuse.  Let's do what we can to preserve the privilege, but not if it means that abuse continues unabated.  

The tragic thing here is that this is already addressed in the Church's policies:

  • "When abuse occurs, the first and immediate responsibility of Church leaders is to help those who have been abused and to protect vulnerable persons from future abuse. Members should never be encouraged to remain in a home or situation that is abusive or unsafe."
  • "In only one situation should a bishop or stake president disclose confidential information without first seeking such guidance. That is when disclosure is necessary to prevent life-threatening harm or serious injury and there is not time to seek guidance. In such cases, the duty to protect others is more important than the duty of confidentiality. Leaders should contact civil authorities immediately."

Thanks,

-Smac

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21 hours ago, smac97 said:

We previously had a discussion (also discussed here) about Paul Adams, a man in Arizona who abused his children, who was excommunicated for his abuse, and who later committed suicide.  And another discussion here in 2020: Update on AZ Abuse Case.  And yet another: (2nd) Update on Arizona Abuse Case.

Today the AP published an article by Michael Rezendes: Seven years of sex abuse: How Mormon officials let it happen

Also a second article, also by Rezendes: 4 takeaways from AP’s Mormon church sex abuse investigation

Also a YouTube video: How a Mormon church 'help line' hid child sex abuse

The first article above (published today) includes details not found in the links we had discussed previously.  Very disheartening stuff.  It also addresses whether the first bishop was aware of the ongoing abuse.  Apparently he was:

"What are we going to do to stop it."  That was a good question, except that they didn't do anything to stop the ongoing abuse.  For years.  And they could have.  That's the terrible part.  The bishop and the mother could have worked together to get the children into a safe situation.  

Also, it is terrible for the lawyer here to characterize the suit as a "money grab."  Gadzooks.

The article also disputes the interpretation of the reporting statute relied upon by the bishop:

From our Amulek: "If you look at the history of the state's mandatory reporting statute (e.g., here), you will see that they added clergy to the list of mandatory reporters back in 1990 only to remove them when they revised the statute again back in 2003."

Here is the text of the statute as it presently exists (emphases added) :

The decision to not report the abuse was . . . discretionary.  The bishop and the Church had the option of reporting ("may withold").  

The statute also does not exempt clergy from reporting requirements if the clergy "reasonably believes that a minor is or has been the victim of {abuse}" based on "personal observations ... of the minor."

In other words if the bishop (there were two involved) had a basis other than the father's confession to "reasonably believe" that abuse had happened or was happening, then he had the obligation to report to law enforcement ("shall immediately report or cause reports to be made of this information to a peace officer...").  Per Amulek, the statute has been structured this way since 2003.

I am at a loss to understand why the bishops did not report, and why the helpline did not instruct them to report.  In fact, per one of the bishops he was instructed by the helpline to not report.  From the article:

The "church officials" referenced here is probably a reference to attorneys at the helpline.  And they were partially correct in that the bishops were "excused from reporting."  The bishops were not legally obligated to report the abuse, but only as to confessions from the father.  

As noted above, if the bishops had a "reasonable belief" of abuse based on "personal observations ... of the minor," then the obligation to report kicked in.  It is difficult to comprehend how the bishops could not, for years, have formulated a "reasonable belief" about the possibility of abuse independent of the father's confessions.  A belief based on "observations" of the child.

Moreover, I am at a loss as to why the helpline did not instruct them to report the ongoing abuse based on the father's confession, as there was no legal constraint against that.  I appreciate that the priest/penitent privilege is very important, as is the doctor/patient privilege (the AZ statute likewise includes an identical "may withold" provision for physicians, psychologists and behavioral health professionals).  But where the law allows (as in does not prohibit) a clergy or doctor from reporting ongoing abuse, I think the welfare of the child supersedes all other considerations.  This comports with the Church's CHI in place at the time.  From the article:

If the Church's policy is that the first responsibility of the church in abuse cases is to help those who have been abused and protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse,” then why did the bishops not report?  Apparently because they were told as much by the helpline lawyers.  But why would the lawyers say that, since the statute allows (but does not require) clergy to report?

From the article:

I know Peter Schofield.  We went to high school together and I have crossed paths with him a few times in court.  I sure would like to better understand the legal reasoning behind what happened - and did not happen - in this case.

From from the article:

I think both of these practices are reasonable.  The attorney/client privilege is also very important.  

This all sounds good.  Still doesn't explain why the abuse in this case was not reported.

From the article:

Unequivocally terrible.  I don't know what else to say.

The article goes on to describe the adoptive parents of one of the abuse victims, who were members of the Church:

Yes, that seems to be the thing to do.

A fair question.

The YouTube video above is hard to watch.  Hard, but important.  

A few closing thoughts:

1. The priest/penitent privilege is important.  But stopping ongoing abuse is, I think, more important.  And if a bishop - and the Church - has the option to report, I think the policy of the Church should be that the bishop should report.  That is, where the bishop has clear grounds for "reasonably believing" that abuse is occurring, the circumstances for not reporting should be narrowly tailored.

2. I don't agree with the narrative that there is some sort of inherent conflict between a bishop A) calling and receiving legal advice from the helpline, and B) complying with reporting laws and/or dicretionary reporting (reporting when doing so is not legally prohibited).  

3. I also don't agree with this criticism and characterization of the helpline:

4. Craig Vernon is hardly an impartial observer, nor is the author of the lawsuit against the Church.  More to the point, they are simply wrong.  The purpose of the helpline is to A) facilitate compliance with the law (nobody should be faulted for seeking legal advice - ever), and B) furthering the Church's policies and interests in stated in the CHI previously: “{T}he first responsibility of the church in abuse cases is to help those who have been abused and protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse."

The Church now has this article on its website: Preventing and Responding to Abuse: Instruction Outline for Stake and Ward Council Meetings

The foregoing policies have largely been in place for years.  

5. I think the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church have created an atmosphere if suspicion and cynicism as to how religious groups generally respond in situations of suspected abuse.  That is, I think there is a presumption of nefariousness, of ulterior motives, of prioritizing "the church" over the welfare of the individual.  It's an unfair and inaccurate stereotype.  It even has some hints at being a "moral panic."  

Consider this (very brief) excerpt from the article:

This begrudging acknowledgment is minimized in the article because it contravenes the preferred narrative of the Church as being indifferent to, or even collusive in covering up, abuse.

The thing is, bishops - aided by the helpline - regularly facilitate the discovery of, and reparative measures against, abuse.  See, for example, this story:

"The alleged abuse occurred years ago and was reported in late September to police in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa by a lawyer for the Mormon church who said the alleged victim revealed the alleged abuse to her bishop."

This is how the process is supposed to work.  Bishop becomes aware of abuse (very often through interviews) --> Bishop calls helpline to ensure compliance with the law --> Helpline lawyer intervenes and makes a report to law enforcement --> Law enforcement does its thing.  

And it does work.  A lot.  All the time, in fact.  Bishops are regularly instrumental in detecting and reporting abuse, and they are aided in that by the helpline.  Nevertheless, people who want to abolish the privilege and get rid of bishop interview (thanks, Sam Young).  Have these folks considered the ramifications of such demands being fulfilled?  Have they considered how many times abuse of a child will continue unabated because bishops were eliminated as a resource for helping stop or avert abuse or other forms of misconduct?  Bishops are not perfect, but in my view they are clearly a net benefit in terms of addressing allegations of abuse, in helping members cope with various other problems and questions and anxieties, and generally being someone that can be there to offer support and (some) guidance and (lots of) resources.  

6. Reporting abuse is not a panacea.  Abuse allegations are frequently left uninvestigated and/or uncharged and/or unprosecuted.  

7. Abuse allegations are generally not, in and of themselves, sufficient evidence of abuse.  For example, in the story above about the Arizona judge who was accused of abuse, no charges were ever filed against him (per this article, "The Pima County Attorney’s Office said it won’t file charges against Judge Steven Fuller because they don’t have the level of evidence needed to win a conviction"), the state Commission on Judicial Conduct also declined to take action against him (see here and here).  He is currently still a judge.  Is he guilty?  By the "innocent until proven guilty" standard, no.  See also this story:

8. Bishops are not the only ones who fail to report allegations of abuse.  From this article about the above story:

And here:

9. Returning to the original story, it is a terrible thing.  It is very distressing to hear that bishops knew about, but did not stop, ongoing abuse of children.  It is perplexing and troubling to think that the bishops were told by the helpline attorneys to not report the abuse.  I'm sure we don't have the full story, but what we do know is very difficult to bear.  

Thanks,

-Smac

 

I'm probably reading into it, but this one sentence seems to be a totally ambivalent response. 

c/p from your post: “They said, ‘You absolutely can do nothing,’” Herrod said in a recorded interview with law enforcement.

Me: Again the lawyer at the helpline said, "You absolutely can do nothing". But they didn't say you absolutely can't do something. Too bad the bishop didn't immediately right down or permeate it in their brain those words! He/they misunderstood that to mean they were not to report. But the wording can certainly leave it an option if looking at it closely. 

ETA: On second thought maybe it's just Herrod's translation of what the helpline attorney said. Not word for word exact.

Edited by Tacenda
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4 hours ago, Tacenda said:

ETA: On second thought maybe it's just Herrod's translation of what the helpline attorney said. Not word for word exact.

If you and I had a conversation I doubt that the next day I could quote, exactly, even one sentence you said, let alone years later.

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31 minutes ago, Fair Dinkum said:

The church public affairs department has now responded to the AP article.

Link?

31 minutes ago, Fair Dinkum said:

So who is telling the truth?  The Bishop or the Church. Their claims contradict with each other.

What, in your opinion, is contradictory in the various statements?

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29 minutes ago, Fair Dinkum said:

So who is telling the truth?  The Bishop or the Church. Their claims contradict with each other. 

I'm not sure I see a contradiction. The main purpose of the statement by the Church seems to be to counter the articles sentiment that the helpline is solely, or at least mainly, intended to protect the Church rather than victims of abuse.

Like how the article quotes an Idaho attorney saying:

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The help line is certainly there to help — to help the church keep its secrets and to cover up abuse.

The statement doesn't say that the helpline is failproof or that this particular situation was handled correctly.
 

 

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1 hour ago, ksfisher said:

Link?

What, in your opinion, is contradictory in the various statements?

https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/church-offers-statement-help-line-abuse

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5 August 2022 - Salt Lake City | Official Statement

Church Offers Statement on Help Line and Abuse

Church responds to recent Associated Press article about the Church's abuse help line

The abuse of a child or any other individual is inexcusable. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes this, teaches this, and dedicates tremendous resources and efforts to prevent, report and address abuse. Our hearts break for these children and all victims of abuse.

The nature and the purpose of the Church’s help line was seriously mischaracterized in a recent Associated Press article. The help line is instrumental in ensuring that all legal requirements for reporting are met. It provides a place for local leaders, who serve voluntarily, to receive direction from experts to determine who should make a report and whether they (local leaders) should play a role in that reporting. When a leader calls the help line, the conversation is about how to stop the abuse, care for the victim and ensure compliance with reporting obligations, even in cases when the law provides clergy-penitent privilege or restricts what can be shared from private ecclesiastical conversations.

The help line is just one of many safeguards put in place by the Church. Any member serving in a role with children or youth is required to complete a training every few years about how to watch for, report and address abuse. Leaders and members are offered resources on how to prevent, address and report abuse of any kind. Church teachings and handbooks are clear and unequivocal about the evils of abuse. Members who violate those teachings are disciplined by the Church and may lose their privileges or membership. These are just a few examples.

The story presented in the AP article is oversimplified and incomplete and is a serious misrepresentation of the Church and its efforts. We will continue to teach and follow Jesus Christ’s admonition to care for one another, especially in our efforts related to abuse.

I think it is fair to say that the purposes, and the practical effects and benefits, of the helpline were materially misrepresented.  "Oversimplified and incomplete" and "a serious misrepresentation of the Church and its efforts" generally, yes.

I think this bit was the most significant: "When a leader calls the help line, the conversation is about how to stop the abuse, care for the victim and ensure compliance with reporting obligations, even in cases when the law provides clergy-penitent privilege or restricts what can be shared from private ecclesiastical conversations."

Significant, but still sort of nonresponsive.  The foregoing is a generalization of the Church's practices, policies, etc., of what usually goes on, what is supposed to happen. However, it seems pretty clear here that the Herrod did not have a "conversation {on the helpline} about how to stop the abuse," because the abuse continued for years.  Either that, or Herrod is materially misrepresenting what he was told by the helpline attorney.

As for the helpline attorney working with Herrod to "ensure compliance with reporting obligations," I still have questions about that.  Was there a discussion with Herrod reporting despite not being legally obligated to do so?  Was there a discussion with him about the possibility of a reporting obligaiton being triggered by "reasonable belief" about abuse based on A) him getting information from another source (statement from mother or victim) and/or B) his own "personal observations ... of the minor"?

In the end, I don't think it is essential that the Church publicly present a soup-to-nuts explanation as to what happened and why policies and procedures in this matter were not followed, how the breakdown occurred, etc.  Often litigation and sensationalized stories like this don't really culminate in a tied-up-with-a-bow ending or resolution.  Look at the McKenna Denson case.  All sorts of questions linger on about that dumpster fire of a situation, yet I doubt we'll ever definitively find out what happened.

The foregoing pubic statement does a good job of being expressly condemnatory of abuse.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, Fair Dinkum said:

The church public affairs department has now responded to the AP article.

So who is telling the truth?  The Bishop or the Church. Their claims contradict with each other. 

Well, no.  The published statement from the Church is speaking in abstracts, not particulars.

Thanks,

-Smac

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The AP journalist is saying more:

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An investigation by the Associated Press claims an abuse help line used by lay leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was used to cover up a case of sexual abuse.

“The Church says that it does not tolerate abuse and I quoted their official statement in my story, saying they don’t tolerate abuse. But in the Arizona case of Paul Adams and his two daughters, they clearly tolerated the abuse,” said Mike Rezendes, an investigative journalist with the Associated Press.

Rezendes reported on a family in Bisbee, Arizona, where a father confessed to his bishop that he had been sexually abusing his daughter.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they have a policy that if the church leader hears an allegation or gets any information about child sex abuse, or potential child sex abuse, their first move ought to be what they call 'the help line,'" Rezendes said. "And so this bishop abided by the church policy, he called the help line, and he says that attorneys who he talked through the help line advised him that he could not report the allegation that Paul Adams was sexually abusing his daughter."

Rezendes added that after the father spoke to the Bishop the first time, the abuse continued for 7 years and included another baby daughter.

Thanks,

-Smac

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An interesting article in the Deseret News: Perspective: I survived abuse. I worked for the church’s help line. The AP story broke my heart

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I felt a sick knot in my stomach.  

A friend texted me an article from The Associated Press titled, “Seven years of sex abuse: How Mormon officials let it happen.” As I read the disturbing details, my eyes filled with tears and my heart absolutely shattered.  

No child should have to ever suffer through what the sisters described in the article suffered through. It’s devastating every time I hear the stories of sex abuse survivors.

Even as I type and edit this article, I can’t help but pause and weep. 

You see, I’m not just a mother of young children and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, much like that described in the article. 

And what’s more, I am an attorney, and I worked as part of the small group of lawyers tasked with assisting victims of abuse — on the very same church help line discussed in the AP article. 

This is a worthwhile perspective, in that she A) has personal experience with abuse, B) is an attorney specializing in child abuse, and C) he 

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Because of my background, I read the article with a careful eye. I read from the perspective of an abuse survivor. And I also read from the perspective of this specialized group of attorneys and mental health professionals — my friends and former colleagues — who oversee the church’s help line.   

I can’t speak to the specifics of the case discussed in The Associated Press article. I only know what was reported. But I can speak to my work and my experience. 

I can speak to what I know.

And I know my former colleagues are diligent, competent, compassionate and deeply committed to the work of protecting kids from abuse. We were a small team so I know each attorney personally. We often reflected on how lucky we felt that we got to use our law degrees to rescue children and help victims.

To suggest that any attorney on the helpline is “hiding” abuse from law enforcement seems disingenuous or inaccurate. From my experience, it just wouldn’t happen.  Not only is it illegal, it is immoral.  The very fact that criminal charges have not been brought against anyone from the church is the first indication that the AP article may not have the complete story.

Relative to the helpline, the most (and only) damning evidence is . . . Herrod's recollection.

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It’s critically important to stand up for survivors of sex abuse, and so I also know how important it is for each of us to strongly condemn the unspeakable horrors inflicted on too many children, especially the two sisters who were the subjects of The Associated Press’s reporting. What the girls suffered can never be justified.

Child abuse in any form is a tragedy. It is an especially depraved form of torture.  

Sadly, I know this too well. 

I experienced sexual abuse as a small child at the hands of trusted adult family members. Much like the sisters described in the AP article, a significant part of my childhood involved sexual contact of some sort. I was repeatedly raped, beaten, burned and forced to consume my own human waste. And I was not even in kindergarten yet.  

The abuse continued for many years.

I had bones broken that were never medically treated. Burns from cigarettes and stoves that festered and became so infected that I have permanently lost feeling in those parts of my body. A wooden cutting board was broken over my head, shattering part of my skull. Eventually I was also raped by men outside of my family in order to support a family member’s drug addiction.

Though faded, my adult body still bears the physical scars of what I went through.  

My heart will always carry scars. 

Terrible.

Quote

I entered the foster care system at age 12. I bounced in and out of the system for the next couple of years until I was permanently removed at the age of 15. I lived with loving foster families until I graduated from high school. Because I was able to escape my violent childhood, I knew what a gift it was to escape. 

I vowed that I would always do everything I could to protect vulnerable populations from exploitation and harm.

When I was 18, I read an account of Joseph Smith’s first vision. I felt what I describe as a spiritual shockwave from heaven. A confirmation that what I was reading had actually taken place. That was the beginning of my love for the church into which I was baptized, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Moreover, my testimony in Jesus Christ’s atonement helped me begin to heal. I started to understand that while the atonement covers all of my sins, it also covers all of the sins committed against me. This healing knowledge acted as a balm to my deep wounds and helped me understand that those who harmed me would be held accountable in the eternities.

My suffering was not forgotten. My pain was no longer irreconcilable. Through the atonement, I could let go.

Hope and healing.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 minutes ago, Fether said:

@smac97

you seem to be following this well. What information has been fully verified?

Do we have proof that the bishop called the helpline? Do we have recordings of what the helpline said?

There are no recordings or records. 

3 hours ago, jerryp48 said:

What happened to these girls is truly horrible.  As for the rest of the story I think I’ll hold judgement until the entire picture comes into focus.  We really haven’t heard from the other side.

We probably won’t either.

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