October 4, 2022

  • An AP investigation has revealed how the Mormon Church has facilitated the silence on sexual abuse.
  • A father has revealed to a bishop that he sexually abused his five-year-old daughter.
  • The bishop called the church’s “hotline” and was told to keep the report secret.

A “hotline” established by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was used to bury a report of sexual abuse that lasted at least seven years, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The report detailed how the Mormon Abuse Helpline could deflect serious abuse charges from law enforcement and church attorneys based at a Salt Lake City law firm. As the case unfolds this month, she has questioned what information shared with a member of the clergy is protected.

An Arizona-based bishop, John Herrod, called the line after learning that a 5-year-old girl had been sexually assaulted by her father, Paul Douglas Adams. Lawyers would tell Bishop he was legally bound to keep the abuse a secret because he learned of the actions during a “spiritual confession,” according to the AP.

“They said, ‘There’s absolutely nothing you can do,'” Herrod said in a taped interview with law enforcement reviewed by the AP.

Church officials have also claimed that Arizona’s penitent clergy privilege requires bishops to keep abuse confidential, even though the state’s sexual abuse reporting law requires clergy to report it to authorities.

The exception to the rule is if the clergy learned of the abuse during confession. They can choose to “withhold” information if they determine it is “reasonable and necessary” according to church doctrine, the AP reported.

The girl, who is only referred to as MJ in The AP, has been abused for at least seven years. And Adams continued to abuse her second granddaughter. He also frequently posted abuse videos online.

The AP report relied on about 12,000 pages of sealed files in an unrelated child sex abuse lawsuit against the West Virginia Mormon Church to detail how the secretive system works.

Employees had a list of questions to follow to determine if a report was serious enough to go to a Salt Lake City law firm, Kirton McConkie.

An instruction stated that employees should tell bishops to encourage the victim, perpetrator or witnesses to report the abuse. But another said “never advise a priesthood leader to report abuse. Advice of this nature should only come from an attorney,” the AP reported, citing a sample of the protocol instructions.

The recordings and notes of the calls were also destroyed at the end of the day, a manager who works in the church’s Family Services Department told the publication.

Three of Adams’ children have filed a lawsuit against two Arizona bishops and church leaders in Salt Lake City for negligence in failing to report the abuse.

“The Mormon Church operates the hotline not for the protection and spiritual counseling of victims of sexual abuse…but for (church) attorneys to quell complaints and protect the Church Mormon against potentially costly lawsuits,” the lawsuit filed by Adams’ children said. alleged, according to the AP.

An Arizona judge ruled Aug. 8 that the church will have to cooperate with the lawsuit after initially refusing to hand over Adams’ records, and after a church official cited penitent clergy privilege for avoid answering questions during pretrial testimony, The AP reported.

Judge Laura Cardinal ruled Adams waived the privilege of keeping his confession secret by posting photos of the abuse online and when he confessed to Homeland Security agents in 2017. Adams was arrested after that New Zealand authorities found one of the videos online. The father committed suicide while in custody.

Lawyers defending the bishops and the church told the AP they acted according to the law and “religious principles.”

The Mormon Church also said the AP story “seriously misrepresented” the purpose of the church helpline.

“The hotline is key to ensuring that all legal reporting requirements are met. It provides a venue for local leaders, who serve voluntarily, to receive expert instruction on who should report and if they (local leaders) should play a role in this reporting,” the church wrote.

The hotline was established in the mid-1990s, at a time when reports of sexual abuse cases were increasing and lawsuit results often awarded victims millions of dollars in damages, according to the AP. .

The church did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.