An Arizona child is raped. The clergy stays silent. And then comes the truly shocking part

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A creeper confesses to his bishop. He’s raping his 5-year-old daughter.

For seven years, the bishop tells no one outside his church – remaining silent, as a church lawyer advises him to do – and the abuse continues. Then the creeper starts raping another daughter, just 6 weeks old.

Last week, a Cochise County judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by several of the creeper’s children against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It’s galling, though not surprising, that a judge would decline to hold the church responsible. While Arizona has a mandatory reporting law for teachers and doctors and such, members of the clergy are not required to report a confession that a child is being abused.

What is shocking – stunning, really – is that a key state legislator won’t even consider changing the law to carve out an exemption that might have protected that 5-year-old girl, her sister and God only knows how many other children.

Rapist’s rights trump those of his victim

“The seal of confession is a sacred, sacred part of the Catholic church,’’ Rep. Quang Nguyen, who is Catholic, recently told Capitol Media Services Howard Fischer.

Put another way, a rapist’s sacred religious rights trump a child’s sacred right to be protected from a sexual predator? Really, sir?

This horror story was brought to light last year, the result of an Associated Press investigation into the Mormon church’s handling of child sexual abuse cases.

Paul Adams, of Bisbee, a father of six, admitted during a counseling session with his bishop that he was raping his then-5-year-old daughter.

According to court records, Bishop John Herrod called the church’s helpline, which is used by bishops to report child sex abuse to church officials in Salt Lake City, and was advised by attorney not to call the police or alert anyone outside the church. According to the AP, which based its report on court records, attorney Merrill Nelson advised Herrod and his eventual replacement, Bishop  Robert “Kim” Mauzy, over a two-year span not to report Adams.

So they didn’t – instead trying to convince Adams to seek help – and the rest, as they say, is horrifying history.

Church’s silence let abuse to go on for years

The abuse went on for another seven years until finally in 2017 Adams was arrested. It seems he videoed his perverted attacks of his children and posted them on the internet. Authorities in New Zealand and the U.S. traced one of the videos to Adams, who later committed suicide in jail while awaiting trial.

Three of Adams’ six children sued the church, the bishops and other church officials in 2021, accusing them of negligence and conspiring to cover up child sex abuse to avoid “costly lawsuits” and protect the church’s reputation.

In a Nov. 3 ruling, Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson threw out the lawsuit, saying the church had no legal duty to report that a child was being raped.

“Church defendants were not required under the Mandatory Reporting Statute to report the abuse of Jane Doe 1 by her father because their knowledge of the abuse came from confidential communications which fall within the clergy-penitent exception,” Dickerson wrote.

Legislator thwarts bill for clergy to report abuse

Church officials, who apparently sleep quite well at night, pronounced themselves “pleased” with the decision.

“Contrary to some news reports and exaggerated allegations, the court found that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its clergy handled this matter consistent with Arizona law,” the church said in a prepared statement.

Which bring us back to Arizona law and the people who make it at the state Capitol.

Rep. Stacey Travers, D-Phoenix, introduced a bill this year to require a member of the clergy to report abuse learned about during a confession or confidential communication “if there is a reasonable suspicion to believe that the abuse is ongoing, will continue or may be a threat to other minors.”

It didn’t even rate a hearing. Didn’t even get assigned to a committee.

His rationale: Victims can turn to others for help

And, apparently, it won’t go anywhere next year either, as Rep. Quang Nguyen, the Prescott Republican who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, says he won’t give the bill a hearing. (He did say he would at least speak to Travers, so I guess there’s that.)

Nguyen, in his interview with Capitol Media Services, said he believes the bill “is an attack on the church” and he questioned why members of the clergy would need to call the police or state Department of Child Services.

“The victim has the parents, the victim has the teachers, the victim has friends, the victim has relatives that he or she is close to,’’ Nguyen said. “So, it doesn’t need a priest to be able to go to court and testify.’’

Tell that to the 5-year-old Bisbee girl who would endure seven years of assaults while devout daddy’s bishops stayed silent.

“They just let it keep happening,” the girl told the AP last year. “They just said, ‘Hey, let’s excommunicate her father.’ It didn’t stop. ‘Let’s have them do therapy.’ It didn’t stop. ‘Hey, let’s forgive and forget and all this will go away.’ It didn’t go away.”

For her, it likely never will.

Perhaps Rep. Nguyen can explain to her that her father’s rights were sacred.

“The seal of confession is never to be broken,’’ he said. “And priests will go to jail for it.’’

And children will live in hell because of it.

For shame, Rep. Nguyen.

Reach Roberts at [email protected]. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @LaurieRoberts or on Threads at @laurierobertsaz.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Child is raped. The clergy stays silent, then comes the shocking part

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