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Update on Bisbee Case

Since I last posted on this, 1) Mormonr published the testimonies of the two bishops involved in the Bisbee case, and 2) the Church came out with their follow-up statement.

For point # 1,  contrary to the testimony of the law enforcement agent, both bishops indicate that they only knew about a one-off case of abuse. Given that we now have the two bishops (plus the Church, although their information might be based on the bishop testimony) vs the agent who was relaying second-hand information, I think the evidence weighs more heavily away from the scenario implied in the AP article, which is that they were aware of ongoing rape, recording, and broadcasting across seven years but didn’t report it because of some pharisaical adherence to a no-report rule. (Incidentally, the journalists had access to the bishop’s testimonies, so with the curious omission of their side of the story the AP article does start to look more sensationalist).

However, it does appear that they were at least aware of one one-off case (and it goes without saying that any case of sexual abuse is egregious, even if it was a one-off) and did not report that. While a “no-report” order is still highly arguable in that case, it is much less clear cut than in the scenario promoted by the AP article where the bishops were aware of the ongoing sexual assaults for seven years and allowed them to continue without reporting.

So in regards to # 2, we’re still left with some of the issues we were before. I appreciated that the Church’s follow-up response was much thicker on specifics than the first one, which was quite vague. While the Church didn’t come out and directly say it, my interpretation is that the preponderance of evidence suggests that the bishops were told not to report. While not reporting an ongoing seven year rape and child pornography production is in a different universe than not reporting a past one-off incident that, as far as they knew, remained a one-off incident, the question remains about the legal complexities of clergy/penitent confessions and whether the Church in practice is too cautious about potential liability or damaging the confessional process relative to potential harm to victims. While there have been a lot of off-the-cuff remarks, frankly I have yet to see an expert legal take on these issues that satisfies me (which doesn’t surprise me; this appears to be a specialized, esoteric area of law; however, this Deseret News article, agree with it or not, has addressed the issue more thoroughly than anything else I’ve seen). Whatever the case, it does appear that the Church’s legal arm is doubling down on their own legal interpretations (for example, with their statement that in some cases the confessor “owns” the confession), which may or may not be warranted.

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