Mormon Church liable for sexual abuse by “priests”

Today’s Seattle Times reported on the recent verdict:

In a decision that could reverberate through clergy sexual-abuse cases everywhere, a King County Superior Court jury has awarded $4.2 million to two sisters who were sexually abused for years by their stepfather, a Mormon priest.

Gordon Congor, spokesman for the Church and former Stake President, noted that the abuse occurred in the home of the perpetrator and that his calling in the church had no bearing on the abuse. The media’s use of the term “priest” is, in the opinion of this blogger, highly disingenuous. As I see it, the case has nothing to do with his status as a lay minister. This, however, does not at all mitigate the Church’s responsibility to protect the flock.

The case hinged on the confidentiality of confessions. When the perpetrator confessed the abuse, the information was kept confidential and authorities were not notified. This verdict would seem to be in contradiction with a relatively recent Washington State Court of Appeals Opinion Information Sheet (you can’t link directly to it, so go here and search for the docket number (52452-6-I) under advanced search). This overturned a lower court decision that found a High Council Court to be non-confidential. It is a sad case of child abuse and I’ll let the great legal minds of the bloggernacle analyze it if they so desire. My take on it is that the Church likes confidentiality because it shields them from litigation.

I hope that cases like these are relics of a naive past, though abuse will persist as it does throughout society. Current church policy is to have Judges in Israel call a hotline immediately on confession of abuse. Perpetrators are urged to confess to the authorities, but as I understand it are not compelled. Church hierarchy is to take direct action when victims remain in danger. Moreover, child abuse of any sort is one of a few actions that requires amendment of church membership records.

Confidentiality is a difficult concept in the church. Historically, the church was much more open to public confessions. Perhaps it is time we reevaluate our current policy.

UPDATE 11/23/05: The Church has a recent press release that covers their position on child abuse, and other matters related to this thread available here.


  1. It just dawned on me that the Court of Appeals case that I site is likely the criminal proceding for this stories civil case. Again, I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know what sort of ramifications that has.

  2. There’s a thread on this at the FAIR boards. Apparently, there was testimony by the girl’s friends that she told them she had lied to the Bishop. It seems that there was a legitimate doubt in his mind about whether the (to him) claimed abuse was factual or not.

    The church also disputes Kosnoff’s version of events. Keetch said Hatch maintained on the witness stand he never had any confirmation that abuse was occurring.

    Keetch also points to testimony from several of Jessica’s friends.

    One in particular, they said, testified that Jessica had told her she lied to Hatch, denying the abuse when confronted.

    It also seems that this is the attorney’s third such case against the church. He had a website with the message

    You Are Not Alone.
    For years the Mormon Church has been a safe haven for child molesters. It is time for the Mormon Church to take responsibility for the injuries to scores of children that it’s clergy has perpetrated. Attorneys Jeffrey Anderson, Timothy Kosnoff, and David Slader organized the Victims of Mormon Sexual Abuse Project to help those victims.

    Now certainly, any and all abuse is intolerable and evil. But in this case, I don’t see the bishop as trying to cover anything up.

    The FAIR boards thread

  3. His website soliciting victims has been taken down, but is cached here

  4. Nate would know better, but wasn’t the original change from public announcements of sin largely due to lawsuits in the 50’s and 60’s?

  5. If the victim was seeing a professional at LDS Social Services, it is almost a certainty that the Bishop made the referal and was aware of the basis for anyone from his congregation using LDS Social Services.

  6. The Church is always right.

    The Church is never wrong.

    It’s always the members’ fault.

    Long live the Church!

  7. Tonia, in the future, it would be helpful and beneficial if you made your jingles rhyme.

    May I suggest this:

    The Church is always right.

    The Church can never blight.

    Members do sin but shouldn’t search.

    Long live the Church!

  8. I don’t think that’s quite right Tonia. But neither is it always the Church’s fault, as many sometimes assert.

    I think that with a lay leadership things are a tad more complex than one finds in the Catholic church.

  9. On a more serious note here. I agree with you Clark that the it is erroneous to claim the Church is always/never right, or the victims are always/never right or that the lawyers are always/never right. And there is plenty of evidence that juries have come down in whackoworld from time to time.

    However, it seems that there is a blanket defense that the church has installed all that is necessary and any errors are those of the lay workers/clergy/members. This is a fragile subject and very personal issues. In this area the Church is not perfect, in my opinion.

  10. chris goble says:

    I prefer this little ditty

    The church is always right
    As long as my values it doesn’t slight

    The church is never wrong
    But when it is I break out in song

    It’s always the members’ fault
    Institutions are wrong by default

    Long live the Church
    Inflexibility just makes things worse

    I don’t buy the institutions are responsible for everything argument, especially when coupled with an extreme distaste of control that would enable such responsibility. Obviously there is a line where individual freedom is balanced with institutional responsibility. What the line was in this case? Like most things, it seems to depend upon the specifics, not stereotypes for one side or another.

  11. Timburriaquito says:

    The article from the Salt Lake Tribune focuses more on the Church’s lawyers take on the decision. They allege the bishop didn’t have enough to be sure the abuse was happening, and that’s why he didn’t report it. But it seems to me like there was enough smoke there to suspect something. Here in California our laws are much stricter about reporting abuse, and it sounds like it would have been required to report it here. But apparently in Washington there was enough ambiguity for the Church to decide not to report it, and then not cooperate when called on by investigators.

    It seems to me like it should have been reported, and the Church should be responsible. However, I don’t know if $2.5 or $4.2 million should be the punishment.

  12. chris goble says:

    That seems like a reasonable take. The people to whom it was reported erred on the side of doubt instead of reporting it. While it had tragic consequences, I don’t think it seemed to be done out of vindictiveness, malice or cover up. Plus, from the story it seems like this could have happened about 10+ years ago, when the reporting of abuse wasn’t as ingrained in culture as it is now.

    On the other hand, it just seems odd that individuals are free to use most any defense they want while institutions aren’t.

  13. The moral of the message to me is that if there are indications of abuse and you are the bishop you must report it to the Civil Authorities. Failure to do so can lead to you as the Bishop being liable. It does not seem to matter what the state law is. What matters is what can happen in civil court

    Of course a false accusation of abuse can destroy a family with the state interfering so much but the message I get from the jury award is that you must report.

    I have seen with my own eyes Bishops drive CM after a confession of this type of crime to the local Police department for booking.

  14. What matters is what can happen in civil court

    I dont think you meant this as they way it reads. I hope not. In fact, after reading the rest of your note im sure you would include other things beside civil suits.

    What matters is the abuse! Convictions, liabilities, verdicts and prosecution are all incidental. Regardless of what this Bishop thinks or what the jury thinks, one thing is indisputable: the Bishop in question, along with the mother, failed to protect two girls from abuse, despite many, many, many signals. They failed. The girls were the victims.

    The real questions going forward should be more about what to do to protect victims, and less about avoiding litigation.

  15. I am actually taking it as a Bishop. If there are any indications at all of any abuse even if the evidence is sketchy you must report it. IF you do not it can come back and haunt you years later. I had this conversation with my Bishop father a couple of years ago and he was aware of a case in another ward where a teenage brother was exposing himself to his sister. The bishop in this case did not report it to the civil authorities and referred the family to LDS social services. I told him and still believe that based on the civil judgements coming down against the church in courts across the country that the bishop had just opened up a potential liability for himself personally and for the church down the road.

    Of Course the real victims are the abused kids. But the ultimate wrong doer here is the abuser. Not the Bishop who had a to make a judgment call and not the church INMHO

  16. The bottom line?

    It sucks to be a Bishop.

    These amazing men to do what they do from their own pockets and in their own time. Now they have to worry about law-suits.

  17. Even though it goes against my gut instinct, if the verdict against the Church makes it more responsible (I’m not saying it’s been ‘irresponsible,’ though) towards these types of situations, couldn’t it be worth it? I’ve always thought of punitive damages and monetary awards for things like ’emotional distress’ as ways to hinder future action of the same sort or to encourage reform.

    I do share the concern that this could open up the church to future litigation, but it could also encourage the church to develop better training for its leaders and a better plan as to how to handle child-abuse.

    And I don’t know that it’s a bad thing for bishop’s to up their level of concern here. I mean, what’s wrong with a bishop worrying about whether or not what he’s doing is right and honorable before the law in a situation involving child abuse?

    Additionally, it seems that this case was based on more than a bishop not alerting authorities; the articles linked above indicate a lack of cooperation by some LDS authorities after the police were made aware of the situation. I don’t know all the details, though.

  18. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    My name is Jessica Cavalieri and I am one of the plaintiffs in this case. I did tell the first bishop and another bishop (and stake president and LDS Social Services). No one reported it, not in 1994 and not in 1998. What is not reported in the Tribune is the Church called a witness who testified that in 1996 I told her I had gone to see the bishop. The Church loves to bring up the witness who testifies that I denied telling the bishop but they never mention the other witness who testified to the exact opposite. What is also neglected is the bishop’s own testimony where he said that he believed Peter Taylor WOULD abuse me. So, even if you believe the bishop, he still thought I would be abused. Is that not enough to report? However, I did tell the bishop everything, and I remember exactly what I told him and what he told me. He told me that if I were to go to a school counselor or the police, CPS would come into our house and our family would be torn apart, we would go bankrupt, and the entire ward would gossip about me. It was a frightening experience. That is why the Church was tagged with the intentional tort.

    Thank you.

  19. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    I also forgot to mention that Von Keetch was lying when he said “several” of my friends said I never told the bishop. The Church only called one friend who testified to that. The only other two friends who testified said different things.

  20. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Sorry, forgot to add this. When the police were investigating Pete Taylor, the Church did refuse to cooperate. The prosecuting attorney did comment that she was very close to charging some Church leaders with obstruction of justice. I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

  21. Thanks for commenting.

    Jessica, all the best to you. Thanks for having guts and fortitude. I hope you find your own peace in whatever means you need. Same for your sister and mother.

    While I wish you were the last and only victim, I am certain there are many more and I hope your story stands as inspiration for them to fight back. All the best. May we all learn from this.

  22. If what Jessica Cavelieri says is true, then clearly it is an example of flagrant misbehavior by the leaders. (Enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if church action were taken against them)

    When you say “the Church did refuse to cooperate,” who do you mean by “the Church?” The Bishopric?

    It seems like we use “The Church” when as often as not it isn’t some real formal aspect of church decision. (Which isn’t to downplay things, but we’ve all known people who are in lower leadership who aren’t doing what they should)

  23. Indeed, thank you for your comments Jessica. They illustrate what a difficult situation we all face. I am also deeply sorry for your experience.

  24. Clark. I believe you mean that in the most positive way. I in no way intend to be personal by disagreeing.

    The Church cannot have it both ways. They cannot annoint “Judges in Israel” to make judgments of their flock and expect the members to have confidence that what they say is inspired and yet lack confidence in selective affairs or dismiss frailties. I know that may sound extreme, but along with the Holy mantle that is appointed to each Bishop and Stake President comes responsibility. It is unfortunate that it also comes with risk of liability too.

    The title of Bishop is from the Church and carries a lot of power. This cannot be easily dismissed. Or in this case, conveniently dismissed. It is not fair to judge a person for having that faith in all things related to the Bishop, we are taught to do so.

    Again, we can all learn from this. Including those who visit their Bishop and the General Authorities.

    These are just MY thoughts.

  25. I think as long as the courts and the law are consistent and fair, there is no problem. A bishop shouldn’t be worried about legitimate lawsuits against him. By that, I only mean that if a bishop is complying with his responsibility as bishop and complying with the law, then the only lawsuits to be worried about are illegitimate lawsuits, ones based on fraud.

    Of course, by paving the way for lawsuits, it may encourage fraudulant ones, but it seems worth the risk to protect children who need it. And it seems like bad policy in general to not create and enforce a law, simply because some people may take advantage of it dishonestly.

  26. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    When I said “the Church” I meant the second bishop who knew, the stake president and some legal Church people in SLC. The prosecuting attorney specifically mentioned “corporate counsel.”

    Thank you for the comments. I am getting beat up pretty hard over at, but I can’t say I wasn’t expecting people to misunderstand what my intentions were all along.

  27. The abuse you have been enduring over at FAIR is really disgusting. I am confident that you can expect much better treatment in the bloggernacle.

  28. I agree about FAIR being disgusting. Let me add evil to the description. Idiots.

  29. J. Stapley says:

    Now, now, let’s sepperate the actions of a few with the organization. FAIR is niether evil nor idiotic, though some posters on the boards may be. FAIR does alot of good. I hope no one labels the bloggernacle as evil or idiotic for the actions of some participants.

  30. Stapley, obviously Jessy was talking about the FAIR boards, not the organization as a whole. But the fact that they are allowing this doesn’t reflect well on them. It is vile.

  31. I was involved in a case in New Mexico fifteen years ago with precisely the same dynamics, except that the branch president was the accused. He, too, was only disfellowshipped (as opposed to excommunicated) until more children came forward and he was sent to prison. Institutions move instinctively to protect themselves, and the Church is certainly no exception; indeed, because it perceives that so much is at stake, it may do some really awful things in this regard. In particular, it may sacrifice individuals (attempt to discredit victims and intimidate their families) in a misguided (and generally unsuccessful) attempt to protect the larger institution. In the New Mexico case, the officials making decisions were the stake president, high council, area representative and a member of the twelve. Very disturbing stuff, and certainly a turning point in my feelings about and activity in the Church.

  32. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Thank you for the support. I knew that going public would bring some critcism, but I have a mission to change the practices and policies of the Church, and I believe in this mission so strongly, I will endure whatever is necessary. What is important is that I know the truth, and the jury heard all of the evidence and they believe in what I am saying-that is enough. I hope everyone who hears my story pleads with Church leaders to voice their concerns to those in SLC. The Church is true and the Church, right here and right now, has the incredible opportunity to stop what they are doing.

    Please, if the opportunity is there, read the entire court proceedings, and you will see that what I have said and am saying, are not just lies, half-truths or distortions, it is what happened and what happens all over the country.

  33. Jessica, to you, sincere sympathy both in what you endured then and in regard to what you endure now in setting it right. If it is any comfort to you, you can know that there are additional procedures in place for church leaders in regard to abuse, etc. There is a hotline, and it is SOP that it be called right away if something suspect arises. The church has taken a very strong stance against abuse even in just the last ten years that I have been a member. It is getting better.

    I fear that your attorney’s call for additional clients, and the size of your award may make the church vulnerable to trumped-up suits. Let us hope that that is not the case.

    Church leaders are fallible, like all of us. They do their best to heed the Spirit, and sometimes, unfortunately, they go wrong. In your case, they were very wrong. no one should have to endure what you did. We all serve as we can, I suppose. if we were all perfect already, we’d be translated and there’d be no one left to run the church. :D

    To everyone else: what bothers me here is the article’s use of the inflammatory title “priest.” As we all know, the office of priest simply means that the man is a member–either a member who has not been to church since he was 17 or so, or a newly baptized convert. It really was hollow inflammatory language, pulling off of the Catholics’ problems with pedophilia. I am frustrated, and as a citizen of the Seattle area, will be writing the times a letter stating so along with a brief explanation of our priesthood offices. Ugh! Like what happened to those girls wasn’t ugly enough, that they have to go and make sensationalist nast news out of it.

  34. Everyone who works in education and medicine MUST report suspected abuse, regardless of the cause of suspicion or denials. It is the law. I, as a teacher, do not need to hear other evidence or decide if it is true, I report it and someone who has the resources, time, and jurisdiction investigates.

    Is this not the case for clergy? I would have thought that it was.

    With our lay clergy, we do have a whole lot of ineptness. It just doesn’t seem that hard to tell newly called bishops or branch presidents that they MUST report suspected child abuse regardless.

    Jessica, it is very disturbing, though not particularly surprising that a bishop(?) warned you against reporting your abuser because it would cause state interference, etc. That is tragic. I wish you strength.

  35. I’m not familiar with the facts in this case, but Jessica, I’m certainly sorry for what you went through and applaud your courage for speaking up, so many people suffer in silence. I hope that the example of your case will end up protecting other people.

    As to the law, it’s a tricky situation. In theory, Mormon Bishops are subject to priest penitent privilege, meaning that under most circumstances, they are not allowed to reveal what is confessed to them by a ward member. This is very similar to doctor patient privilege, lawyer client privilege etc. The tricky part comes when reporting laws are added to the mix. Mandatory abuse reporting laws vary from state to state (they are not federal laws), as does the definition of what kind of “clergy” falls under the statute. So, for instance, something that would be required to be reported in one state (overriding the priest penitent privilege) is not required in another. I don’t know what the law is in Washington, and what is true for Washington is not necessarily true for another state–it depends on how the mandatory reporting law is written.

    The bottom line is, if faced with this horrible situation, the bishop should take it very very seriously, and be vigilant and tenacious about finding out exactly how he should protect the child.

    It’s so sad that in every population there are predators, and we aren’t immune from it in the church.

  36. JessY, I don’t think inspiration and responsibility is an all or nothing thing. I think your comments presuppose that it is.

    Even one of the apostles Jesus picked turned out evil…

    I think that we expect too much of leaders, especially with a lay ministry.

  37. How many times has President Hinkley said that anyone guilty of abuse isn’t worthy to hold the priesthood or be a member? At least half a dozen times in conference, scores of times otherwise.

    You would think that someone would note that there have been long standing efforts, from the top, attempting to counteract the natural tendency of any organization.

  38. Reading through the FAIR thread (almost done) I don’t quite see what was so horrible about it, beyond the rather silly misunderstanding between the Bishop taking the law into their own hands and simply reporting to the authorities. I tend to avoid most Forums as the signal to noise ratio is unfortunately rather bad. Unfortunately FAIR is no better. (And I say that as a member of FAIR – I just find the forums rather juvenile and silly. There’s rather little real dialog going on. Although one must credit FAIR for attempting to provide a place where people can raise questions.)

    As for the situation, the issue appears to be how well the Bishop knew and understood what was going on. Based upon what little I know here or from reading there, it’s hard for me to say much. It’s very possible, in my experience, for one person to believe that they were clear and clarified things whereas the other party wasn’t. Not know the context around things, it’s hard for me to say much.

    Certainly the stepfather is a horrible creature who ought be locked away for life. However I’m not entirely sure of what is going on, without reading the court documents themselves. It does seem possible that the Bishop misunderstood. I’d merely say that for crimes the proper person to go to is the law and not the Bishop.

    But I’d also say that the church has really made an effort the last 10 years in training to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. I just worry, on the basis of the case, that the church will be held responsible any time a Bishop misunderstands or misinterprets things. (Not speaking to the particulars of this case, which I don’t know enough about, but as a more reaching principle)

    I think some simply demand more than any busy Bishop can possible consistently provide.

  39. Just finished the final pages at the FAIR thread and added a few comments of my own there. I do agree that towards the end the heat got unacceptably high. (Moderators probably should have stepped in earlier) And certainly some of the rhetoric was inexcusable considering that one of the victims was reading. But I do think the worries are valid.

  40. I agree that the crux of the issue is what did the Bishop know. According to the victim, she told the Bishop of the abuse and he said that she shouldn’t tell the civil authorities or they would break up her family. If true, that is incredibly damning.

    I respectfully disagree with Clark about the FAIR boards, but you can read all about that in my latest post at VivaNedFlanders.

  41. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    I will try to answer questions as best as possible as obtaining the court records could be costly. There was testimony from one of my former friends who was the one who alerted the first bishop. She met with the bishop and told him I was alleging child abuse by my step-father. Both the bishop and the friend were very clear in their testimony that there was no misunderstanding of what was happening to me. The bishops story is that I went in and denied the abuse. I did NOT deny the abuse. However, I understand it is a credibility issue and people will believe who they want to believe. Nevertheless, even if you believe the bishop’s testimony (which contradicted many parts of his deposition) he stated that he thought I would be abused in the FUTURE. He testified that he talked to me about moving out of the house, placing a lock on my door, and mentioning Child Protection. He also testified to asking me very specific questions about the type of abuse. What is interesting is that the questions he testified to asking were specific to the abuse I was claiming to endure. How would he know to ask me if my step-dad was talking dirty to me, or propositioning me for sex? Wild guesses?

    The Church keeps claiming through the media that they excommunicate child molesters, but this perpetrator was NEVER excommunicated, simply disfellowshipped. He was also a high priest, good friends with the bishop, and the home teacher to the bishop. I think the relationship between the bishop and abuser was a good indicator of why the bishop covered up the abuse.

    As far as the steps taken by the Church in the last 10 years. Certainly there have been steps, but in my opinion they are not enough. The help line is a complete joke. The second bishop who found out even utilized the help line. The help line isn’t designed to help the bishop with the victim and perpetrator, it is there to help the Church’s risk management.

    Remember, I dealt with another bishop, stake president, and two offices of LDS Social Services in 1998, not in 1994 or 1995.

    Thank you all.

    And, I would worry less about the possibility of fraudulent lawsuits. The Church lawyers thrive off of drowning the plaintiffs and their lawyers in legal paperwork. This lawsuit took 4 years, the loss of friends, the interviews of many friends and acquitances, and family members (depositions too), the complete scrutiny of my entire life and many other things which I won’t go into. Anyone who doesn’t truly believe in what they are doing will not last until trial and through trial.

  42. Well here is a question for your Clark.

    Will the Church be able to better serve the members, including victims of abuse or crime, by changing the Bishops,


    will the Church be able to better serve the members, including victims of abuse or crime, by changing the members expectations of Bishops.

    And, should they pursue either or both? How?

  43. Excellent Jessica. Be strong. And dont you worry about those folks over at FAIR. They are idiots and I, for one, am on your side.

    As Flanders points out, I have never seen anything like what I am seeing at FAIR. Unfortunately, I think it is the mindset of more people than we all want to admit. As the Manfred Mann Earth Band would say, they are blinded by the light.

  44. This is a very difficult subject because of the deep and lasting injuries innocents receive. My heart breaks for Jessica C., her sister, their mother, and even the perpetrator.

    I’m surprised claimed lack of the Church’s follow-through here because in my case the bishop was who notified the police.

    It is contrary to what Pres. Hinckley discribed as the Church’s position in the closing section of his remarks in the 4/2002 GenCon Priesthood Session:

    “Now I wish to mention another form of abuse that has been much publicized in the media. It is the sordid and evil abuse of children by adults, usually men. Such abuse is not new. There is evidence to indicate that it goes back through the ages. It is a most despicable and tragic and terrible thing. I regret to say that there has been some very limited expression of this monstrous evil among us. It is something that cannot be countenanced or tolerated. The Lord Himself said, ‘But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea’ (Matt. 18:6).

    “That is very strong language from the Prince of Peace, the Son of God.

    “I quote from our Church Handbook of Instructions: ‘The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse . . . are subject to Church discipline. They should not be given Church callings and may not have a temple recommend. Even if a person who abused a child sexually or physically receives Church discipline and is later restored to full fellowship or readmitted by baptism, leaders should not call the person to any position working with children or youth unless the First Presidency authorizes removal of the annotation of the person’s membership record.

    ” ‘In instances of abuse, the first responsibility of the Church is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse’ (Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics [1998], 157–58).

    “For a long period now we have worked on this problem. We have urged bishops, stake presidents, and others to reach out to victims, to comfort them, to strengthen them, to let them know that what happened was wrong, that the experience was not their fault, and that it need never happen again.

    “We have issued publications, established a telephone line where Church officers may receive counsel in handling cases, and offered professional help through LDS Family Services.

    “These acts are often criminal in their nature. They are punishable under the law. Professional counselors, including lawyers and social workers, are available on this help line to advise bishops and stake presidents concerning their obligations in these circumstances. Those in other nations should call their respective Area Presidents.”

    He also explains that the Church’s role is to help heal souls — victims’ and abusers’. But the first priority is the healing and protection of victims.

  45. Bingo Manaen, I think you shed some great light here. This was from 2002. It was a reaction to years of incidents and known issues, we now know they even were aware of the case involving Jessica at that point.

    Maybe the Church is better equipped today. But clearly this is a reaction to a known problem. I hope it gets better.

  46. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    How about these suggestions….

    If the Church really wants a hotline, establish another hotline that reaches a Social Worker, or counselor, or some other professional equipped to handle a sex abuse victim. That way, the bishop can call and get info. on risk management issues, and then call to get information on how to talk to the victim. In my first meeting with the second bishop, most of the talk was not about the abuse, but about my personal morality.

    Another-how about the Church saying that if a bishop doesn’t report abuse, but had the legal (ethical also?) obligation to do so, the bishop is subject to Church discipline?

    And-the Church claims to excommunicate all child molesters, yet my step-father was never excommunicated. Why not put all those words into action? And why are we so quick to rebaptize child molesters?

    When bishops realize that there are many things that can’t be handled in-house, things will immediately get better.

  47. Jessica, in my ward where I grew up we had a guy get excommunicated for molesting dozens of kids. He was rebaptized and right back in the congregation in a few short years (less than 4 but it may be less than 3). He was rebaptized while I was on my mission.

  48. Not to be overly tangental, but Jessica brought up a point regarding the church and litigation. I don’t deny that there has likely been a mountain of paperwork, a ton of interviewing and other work. But this isn’t unique to the church. This is the litigation process in America. Don’t like it? Well thats another topic, but I don’t think its fair to smear the church with a brush that hits everyone. And honestly, if they didn’t defend, people would sue more, even though it is the church, because hey money is money.
    I am not commenting directly on Jessica’s motivation or lack theroeof, because at this point I haven’t reviewed her case.

  49. Bishops are counseled to report abuse as soon as they hear of it. Yes, they are first in contact with legal authorities from the Church because the abuser, or accused abuser, may have legal standing to sue the church if the accusations are handled wrong or if they are inaccurate. When I served as bishop I never had such a case, thankfully, but a fellow bishop did. The legal folks in Salt Lake guided him in contacting the local law enforcement immediately and the abuser was arrested and separated from his family and other youth in the ward.

    What happened to Jessica is a terrible and tragic thing and she has every right to take the actions she has taken. And those who have unrighteously protected anyone who commits such atrocities deserves legal punishment and church punishment. I beleive the Church, the leadership in SLC, feels exactly the same way and their actions bear that out.

  50. Seth Rogers says:

    I don’t know the facts of this case, so I cannot comment on them.

    However, assuming local level leaders have misbehaved, “the Church” itself, as an institution, should probably be held accountable.

    “But that’s not fair! That Bishop/Stake Pres./whatever was totally acting outside what our church teaches. He shouldn’t pull the LDS Church down with him!”

    Actually no. What isn’t fair is for the Church to hold out a Bishop or a Stake President as a representative of the Church, and then yank away the support the moment it starts to refelct negatively on Salt Lake headquarters.

    If a Wal Mart employee goofs around with a forklift and runs over a customer, K Mart is responsible for the medical bills. It doesn’t matter that K Mart made the reckless employee take safety lessons, checked his background, and even told him not to drive the forklift that day. People who shop at K Mart are entitled to rely on the shopping space, and employees being under the control of the company. If something goes wrong, they are entitled to rely on that company to take care of them.

    It is no different with our Church.

    Of course, “lay clergy” makes the issue a bit more murky. But you simply can’t put a person in a postition of such power, authority, visibility, and influence and then refuse to stand behind them.

    It’s not fair to the victims and it’s also not fair to the many faithful Bishops out there who most certainly DO think “the Church” will back them up if they get in a tight spot.

  51. Seth Rogers says:


    I’m not sure whether the Church would really get sued a ton if they failed to defend this case fully.

    I know that Wal Mart believes in this sort of self-defensive litigation. But the results aren’t really conclusive for me.

    To be honest, I think the statements about there being “hordes of opportunists just waiting to sue the Church” is a little overblown.

  52. I just want to point out that this case (from what I gather) was handled (or mishandled) by the bishop in the mid-1990’s. I would dare say (and hope) that the church’s policies and procedures have been updated and improved since then.

    So to imply that the church’s current policies are the same, that the church’s hotline for bishops is the same as they were at the time of this case, etc. is probably not entirely accurate.

  53. chris goble says:

    Thanks for all the extra information Jessica and the fortitude to stick things out. In media cases I think it is important to hear what really happens instead of filtered accounts. The complexity of reality does make significant differences (for both sides).

    As a teacher I am faced with situations of similar potential. I think one of the big problems is that people assume institutions may be too heavy handed to deal with the nuances and intricacies that their relationships allow them to see. I could see the Bishop in this case trying to reason this way (not that it was right of course). This is problematic in that it makes the individual responsible for all the consequences of that decision. Obviously they can’t be an expert, or even overly wise in every area. In this case, as in many abuse cases, the consequences associated with trying an individualize solution were tragic.

    I just wonder if part of this type of reasoning isn’t a natural consequence of society’s devaluing of institutions. We always hear complaints against institutions that they don’t tailor things to individual circumstances, and yet in some situtations when such tailoring is attempted it becomes clear how foolish this is.

  54. God bless you Jessica. I have a lot of stories to tell, but I will share one. I reported a man to my bishop who I knew to be a molester. He denied it . They not only did not believe me, they treated me like the bad guy. I had a rough time of it. Now, many years later, I’ve been proven right. No apology yet.

    If I was on that jury, I would have made the same determination, although of course we cannot blame the whole church, or its leaders, realistically. I’m positive President Hinckley did not approve what that bishop did. I think the church is doing what it can and in this case, they have to pay the piper for their choice in leaders.

  55. Is she going to pay tithing on all that money?

    (that is a joke, and it’s probably in poor taste but I just couldn’t resist)

  56. Jessica, as I said, if the Bishop really did engage in inappropriate behavior then certainly the case should stand as you say. I’d just urge those to realize that without those elements in the case it’s hard to make a conclusion. As I said it is very possible to misunderstand things. Is the Bishop lying? Once again I don’t know and that’s up to a court to decide, as it apparently has.

    What is unclear to me was what Jessica wanted the church to do different from what its done the last few years. As others have said it truly does appear that the church is trying to avoid such problems as best they can.

    It’s interesting that when I advocated stronger measures to defend against abusers over at BT I was frequently condemned by many. Yet now some apparently think I’m to easy on people. I suppose it is a no-win situation.

    I hope you are able to recover Jessica. I wish the best for you. I’d also not advocate getting into the fray at any Forum. As I mentioned at Ned Flanders’ site, Forums debate in general is more about heat than light which is why I never contribute.

  57. Your right, Andermom, it is in very poor taste.

  58. First, yes that’s a really inappropriate comment Andermom. Let’s keep in mind the trauma Jessica has faced. It’s our duty as followers of Christ to help her. And those sorts of comments do the opposite.

    I’d also suggest that we have to keep out issues of legality from justice. Perhaps that seems odd, but what is the “right thing” in an ideal world isn’t necessarily the way we do things in our legal system. Some I think are upset that Jessica sued the Church at all. A story from several years ago that I can’t quite find the source for seems appropriate.

    There was a janitor for the Church back in the 1950’s who fell and hurt his back very badly. He didn’t want to sue the Church over it for all the obvious reasons. Somehow he met the Prophet at the time who told him that he ought to sue, that this was the way things had to be done now due to the changes in our culture. Perhaps in an ideal world things would have been different, but with lawyers, accountants, insurance policies and the like, that’s how he’d best recoup his damanges.

    We can condemn the way the legal system has evolved the last 60 years. And I think there are very many valid reasons to criticize the way our culture deals with liability. But we live in this country and we have to work through the methods politicians and lawyers have set up. That entails an adversarial system in court that rarely brings out the best in people and can divide communities. But that’s how we ought due things.

    Reading through the FAIR thread one more time, it seemed to me that the big issue was perhaps conflating this particular case with bigger issues about liability. One would hope that personal complaints with liability law would be kept more abstract so as not to hurt further Jessica who has already been so wronged. Yet some sadly have been unable to do that.

    I’d just say Jessica that you don’t lose faith out of all this. My comments earlier probably fit. Even Jesus, the most innocent of all, was betrayed by a church leader to his death. There are leaders who sin. One need not read much early church history to find many who did. Even those who led Joseph Smith to the slaughter were tied to the church. And certainly the church makes mistakes and grows.

    Hopefully, as someone said earlier, we can use this to grow from and increase in love and spirituality. When, as I think happened at times at the FAIR forums, it brings out the opposite, then we’re merely adding sin to sin.

  59. J. Stapley says:

    As a quick note, I have added a link to the Church’s recent press release on child abuse to the original post.

  60. I think it would be vain of me to think that anything I could say would make Ms. Cavalieri feel better about anything that has happened to her. The only thing I can say is that I think she did the right thing, and hope that she recieves the comfort she deserves.

    Though my earlier comment (in poor taste as I admit and take full blame for) was meant to be lighthearted, I *am* curious. This is a fairly uncommon situation, and it involves an extremely large sum of money. Perhaps to take away some of the intense emotion associated with this particular case, pretend it was the case of the Janitor who fell and hurt his back. Would he have been advised to pay tithing on the settlement? Would the church take it?

  61. Aaron Brown says:

    Thanks for your participation here, Jessica. I wish you the best.

    Aaron B

  62. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Thought some of you would be interested in a comment I left on the Viva Ned Flanders blog:

    Of course my comment is in the post about the FAIR boards.

  63. One of the interesting things about this suit is that it reveals the way that the ecclesiastical structure of the church makes it incredibly vulnerable to lawsuits. My understanding of this case is that the verdict was against the Church not the bishop. The reason that the suit was braught quite independent of the motives of the plaintiffs is that the Church is worth suing because it has deep pockets. One of the reasons that you hear about court verdicts against the Catholic church or the Mormon church is that both are integrated institutions that hold property that would make suits worth while for attorneys. In contrast, if you want to sue a local baptist minister, chances are that the available assets will be limited to those that support the local congregation, in other words chump change in legal terms. I’ve thought about this, and I don’t think that the Church could seriously limit its liability by creating subsidiary corporations, etc.

    In the Tribune article, the plaintiff insisted that for her the suit was not about money. I am more than willing to credit her motives on this. However, at the end of the day any piece of litigation is going to be about money. The plaintiff’s ability to find an attorney to take this case (unless she paid her fees up front on an hourly basis, which would really shock me) has everything to do with the fact that the Church is worth suing.

    My understanding is that this claim was braught on a theory of intentional infliction of emotional distress, which is somewhat different than the notion that one has a duty to report abuse. For myself, I find the notion that religious institutions should be legally required to report incidents of abuse that they discover through pastoral activities more than a little troubling. I really don’t think that we want to turn churches into an arm of law enforcement. In the end, I think that there are situations where churches ought to be legally required to report abuse, e.g. where it is ongoing or their is a clear and present danger to someone. Still, I think that we ought to stop and think carefully before we turn churches into an extension of the police department.

  64. Jessica Cavalieri says:


    I understand some of your concerns.

    To address your comments about any lawsuit being about money. I respectfully have to disagree. Before the lawsuit, as well as during the last four years, my family and I have saved up enough money to pay for all legal expenses. Also, the Church was co-defendents with Peter Taylor-the pedophile. The case against Peter Taylor, was, as a jury member said in the paper, “easy” to decide. We always knew we would get money from him. We also knew that if needed, we could use whatever money from Peter, to pay off the lawyers. I understand that some people, despite what I may say, will always believe we only cared about money, or money was our prime motivation, but it was not.

    We sued the Church because the bishops, stake president, and LDS Family Services were acting as representatives of the Church, not because the Church had deep pockets. Also, I believed, and still do believe, that this was an issue that was not a rare occurance, but something that revealed a deeper problem. My goals were to create change, give a voice to the unheard, get accountability, and to possibly get an apology. I honestly believe that had I not sued the Church, I would have never had the opportunity to reach even one of my goals.

    What is really interesting is your concern that you don’t want the Church to become and arm of the police department. In my opinion, the Church is already acting like a police department. Albeit one that makes the New Orleans PD look like the most efficient and effective PD in the world. The Church, in my situation, had placed itself above the law, and wanted to treat this problem internally. There was in fact testimony from the leaders involved that this is how they believe the Church wants it-keep it inside the Church, inside the family. The problem is Church leaders don’t realize that handling victims and pedophiles is something that requires outside assistance-it cannot be handled internally. The Church needs to realize that they can only do so much, and when they have done that, pass it on to the PD. Does that make sense? I would be frightened if the Church keeps acting like they are some PD, because they are totally inadequate!

    No one involved in this case, including my lawyers, are requesting that clergy report abuse provided to them in a real and true confessional. We just want clergy to report it when a victim comes to him/her for help, which I had done.
    The Church tried to maintain that when I went to the bishop at 13 years of age, I was going there for “spiritual counseling.” I went there for HELP, I went there to get the abuse to stop, not to get help on how to keep the law of chastity or keep the word of wisdom.

    The jury agreed with us on the intentional tort because when I went and saw the bishop I wasn’t just discouraged from reporting it, I was frightened to death. They believed, as do I, that the bishop intentionally tried to scare me to a point where I was damaged (damage=abuse continuing). While the bishop maintained I denied the abuse, he still said he thought Peter would try to abuse me in the future. Scaring a victim into silence you believe will be abused in the future is clearly the intentional afflication of emotional distress. Needless to say, the bishop lied and the jury knew it. He couldn’t even keep his deposition and trial testimony the same, and his testimony was so different from what another witness said (my friend who told him I was being abused in the first place) the jury could smell the coverup.

    I will stop rambling on. I just want people to understand where I am coming from, and where I came from.

  65. Jessica: My claim is not that you were motivated by money. I didn’t mean to imply that and apologize if I did. Rather, my point was that attorneys are generally not interested in cases against judgment proof defendants. I have no idea what your fee arrangement was with your attorney, but most actions of this kind are braught on a contingency fee basis and most victims do not have the money to plough into attorneys fees. My point is that there is always an economic calculus at stake in these suits, even if the calculus is not happening inside the heads of the plaintiffs. I was simply pointing out that the combination of church’s centralized control of assets and the economics of litigation make it a particularlly good target for suits. This doesn’t necessarily go to the merits of your action; it is just an observation on the interaction between Mormon theology and ecclesiology and the law, which happens to be one of my obsessions.

    I disagree with you that the Church is already acting as a police department. It seems to me that a church’s internal handling of misconduct by members is fundamentally different than the state’s handling of crime by its citizens. Obviously, there are going to be crimes that are also ecclesiastical misconduct. In pursuing their ecclesiastical missions, churches will naturally come into possession of information that could be valuable to law enforcement. If we take the position that they have a legal duty to turn that information over to law enforcement (as they do, for example, in Nevada as I understand it) then it seems to me that we are essentially turning them into investigative arms of the police. It seems to me that it is a genuinely open question as to whether or not this is a good idea. Personally, I think that there are lots of situations where we ought to place ecclesiastical leaders under a legal duty to report information that they come into possession of as a result of their ecclesiastical functions, in particular in cases where there is some clear imminent danger. I am less convinced that they ought to be enlisted in support of the purely retirbutive goals of the criminal law.

    You write:

    “We sued the Church because the bishops, stake president, and LDS Family Services were acting as representatives of the Church, not because the Church had deep pockets. Also, I believed, and still do believe, that this was an issue that was not a rare occurance, but something that revealed a deeper problem. My goals were to create change, give a voice to the unheard, get accountability, and to possibly get an apology. I honestly believe that had I not sued the Church, I would have never had the opportunity to reach even one of my goals.”

    This is very interesting. As a matter of law under the doctrine of joint and several liability you can sue agents in their personal capacity and leave on them the onus of seeking recovery from their principals. Indeed, from the press accounts of your case, it sounds as though your attorneys argued that the Church was responsible for the negligence of its agents under the doctrine of respondat superior rather than because of systemic negligence on the Church’s part. In other words, in order to win you didn’t have to prove that the Church is systematically screwed up. You only had to show that your bishop etc. acted tortiously. Then the Church became liable for their actions regardless of any decisions or policies that it had in place. In other words, it seems that your legal theory in the case was at odds with your stated goals. Let me be clear: I am not accusing you of insincerity of any kind here. I am simply pointing out that the economics of litigation push toward legal theories that are not wholly consistent with the emtional and practical goals of litigants themselves. (Press accounts of litigation are notoriously inaccurate, so I freely confess that I may be entirely out to lunch here. Did you argue that the Church itself had been negligent in its procedures, practices, etc. or did you argue that the conduct of your bishop was intentionally outrageous?)

    On the merits of your case, I don’t have anything to say, really. I don’t know the facts. I have no doubt that on occasion church leaders do negligent, stupid, or cruel things. The only thing that I can say as to the truthfulness of your bishop’s testimony is that juries are probably as good a method as any in ferreting out deception in such cases. Not perfect, but we’re are unlikely to find something that is superior.

  66. Jessica: One final thought. Despite my logic chopping above, I am very sorry that you have had such a horrible and difficult experience with your ex-step father, your Church leaders, and the legal system. May God bless you and keep you.

  67. Jessica,

    I’m sorry about what your step-father did to you.


    I haven’t read about the case except for the Tribune article and some of the comments on this thread, but share your concern about requiring church leaders to double as police informants except in cases of clear-and-present danger. Precedents like this one will lead the church to require bishops, when counseling members like Jessica, to first inform them that anything they share with him may be communicated to the police. That creates an awful circumstance for many victims, many of whom want to speak with someone but do _not_ want to initiate a police investigation and public criminal trial. If they wanted the police to know they would have saved a few digits when calling the bishop and called 911 instead. I think we should work hard to preserve the system that allows the victim to decide who knows about her circumstance, and allows bishops to keep information confidential unless the victim asks his help in reporting it to police. Requiring those people a victim confides in to inform the police creates a world where victims have the binary choice of either bearing their awful pain alone, or broadcasting it to the whole world for newspaper readers and bloggers to write and talk about. They can choose no middle ground. Absent a high threshold such as clear-and-present danger, I see no reason to deny victims that right.

    Regarding Nevada’s law, do you happen to know if those confessions are admissable in court, or can they only be used to establish probable cause? Either way, it seems bishops there have a moral, if not a legal, duty to offer some kind of Miranda warnings before counseling their congregants, as many, if not most, Mormons believe that their conversations with priesthood leaders are confidential. It would be grossly immoral for a bishop *not* to tell his members that if they tell him about their or anothers’ possible involvement in particular activities, he must inform the police who will conduct their own investigation.

    (I agree that the church has an affirmative duty to inform the police of abuse done by someone in their official church capacity.)

  68. Eric Russell says:

    OK, so here’s the big question. Does one pay tithing on the winnings?

  69. #68- Eric, you’re confusing “the big question” with “the lame question.” See #55.

    Nate, I agree that forcing the Church to inform the authorities is fraught with legal headaches, but I see nothing wrong with making it a matter of policy to require bishops to inform the authorities of criminal behavior that poses an ongoing threat to a member of the congregation.
    If a bishop overlooks illegal behavior, as in the case of an illegal immigrant overstaying their visa, I doubt if that would merit a phone call to the authorities. A person like that is not necessary a wolf in the flock. But in situations involving abuse of any kind, I absolutely support what Jessica is suggesting. It should be mandatory that the authorities be informed immediately, and there should be an effort to get the individual out of harm’s way as soon as possible.

  70. Eric Russell says:

    Actually, I don’t think it’s lame at all. It’s a fascinating ethical question. Along with the question of whether it’s moral to take the money in the first place. But it appears that these are questions that the current company are not willing to either ask or contemplate. But perhaps this is not the place to ask them, because even the suggestion one of the answers would be drowned in violent ad hominems. I find it sad that people are so intolerant and judgmental of certain opinions that certain discussions can not even take place.

  71. Dan wrote, “I see nothing wrong with making it a matter of policy to require bishops to inform the authorities of criminal behavior that poses an ongoing threat to a member of the congregation.”

    First, I see no reason why this decision should turn on whether or not the potential victim is a member of the bishop’s congregation.

    More importantly, adopting this policy would seriously limit a bishop’s ability to minister to his flock. Some women who are abused by their husbands do not want the police to know, for example, and it would be a travesty to deny her the option of counseling with the bishop without triggering a police investigation. But making bishops police informants, as you propose, makes it impossible for her to receive any support or ministry without going full-bore and involving teh police and courts.

    Except for young children or other incompetent persons, victims should retain the right to speak confidentially with church leaders, psychologists, friends and family, and believe that their conversation won’t be shared with the police.

    Requiring church leaders, psychologists, friends or family to inform the police of criminal activity against persons will hurt more victims than it will help by forcing more of them to bear the burdens alone. Because the police power is such a blunt instrument, many victims don’t believe that it is as likely to hurt as to help them.

    People who are smart enough to call a bishop should be presumed sufficiently competent to call 911, should they *want* the police involved. Requiring bishops (or friends or therapists or anyone else) to betray the confidences of victims who confide in them, as rulings like the Washington state case mandate, is terribly unfair to victims. We must not demand that victims cry alone or in the arms of the state.

  72. I think some people might be expecting the bishop to be an advocate, someone to be with them when they report it. Which isn’t unreasonable.

  73. Interesting, respondeat superior on an intentional tort.

    Unusual twist to the law.

  74. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Nate, and others-

    I emailed my lawyer to find out the right answer for Nate’s question above: Did you argue that the Church itself had been negligent in its procedures, practices, etc. or did you argue that the conduct of your bishop was intentionally outrageous?

    My lawyer email me back:

    No, he is not correct. But it is a mistake lawyers often make because the differences are subtle. The church probably could have been found liable under respondeat superior but we argued the direct negligence of the church in negligently failing to warn and in negligently training and supervising its bishops. That constitutes the direct neglience of the Church, not respondeat superior liability.

    Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, for purposes of this case, Hatch, Mitchell and Wade were not employees of the church – they were the Church. The court found not that they were employees but that they were the agents of the church. What I mean by that is that the Church is a corporation. A corporation cannot DO anything because it is not a living person. A corporation can only act through its agents. In this case, the three stooges, were agents acting on behalf of the corporation the same as if it had been Gordon B. Hinckley himself.. The church never disputed that as a legal fact in the case.

    Moreover, under respondeat superior, an employer could not be held liable for the intentional acts of its employees, only negligence. Here, the church was found directly liable for the intentional tort of outrage. That could not have happened under respondeat superior liability. It happened because the acts of Hatch were the acts of the corporate church.

    Finally, it was clear from the defense presented that what they were saying was that bishops cannot tell anyone about an abuse victim’s complaint because it is all “confidential” under the doctrines of the church. This position was reiterated by church headquarters when Maggie Sweeney attempted to investigate. It was clear to anyone who sat through the entire trial, and judging by the size of the jury’s verdict, that it was that policy and practice of the institutional church that was a major causal factor in Hatch’s negligence and a major source of the culpable conduct.

    Don’t let the TBM’s off the hook with this crap that it was “not the church’s fault” but the fault of a couple of men and isn’t that unfair, blah, blah, blah. Its baloney. By that reasoning, the Church could NEVER be responsible for anything, good or bad, because the church does not exist except through the acts of its agents. What happened here was not an accident. It happened for the same reason it happened to Jeremiah Scott and tens of thousands of other victims in the church….because its the de facto policy and practice of the Mormon church to suppress, deny and coverup child sexual abuse. When they start disciplining people like Hatch, Wade and Mitchell and when bishops start getting sent to jail for covering up CSA, then you may see a change in about a hundred years.

    Respondeat Superior is a doctrine of employer liability based on the negligent acts of its employees. The employer can under certain circumstance be held liable because the relationship between employer and employee gives rise to a limited duty, owed by an employer to foreseeable victims, to prevent the tasks, premises, or instrumentalities entrusted to an employee from endangering others. The typical situation is the employee delivery truck driver that injures another person while performing his duties on behalf of his employer.

  75. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    After reading the last few posts, I can’t help but think people are lumping all abuse (or even non-abuse allegations) with child abuse. Let me be clear: If a bishop gets told that a child is being sexually abused, I think they should report it. The difference between domestic violence and child abuse is so huge, I can’t see how anyone makes that connection (maybe the word “abuse” was enough???).

  76. is the other thread.

    He told me that if I were to go to a school counselor or the police, CPS would come into our house and our family would be torn apart, we would go bankrupt, and the entire ward would gossip about me.

    While that is usually true, it is also important to stress that such a price is well worth it. The alternative is too horrible.

    Which raises the question of whether or not truthful speech should be punished, if it fails to be complete. (Since I’ve been on the board of a rape crisis center and on the board of a child advocacy center, you would be right to guess that I favor manditory reporting. But I’m not unaware of the cost or of the fact that about half of the abuse reported is false. That other half is an incredibly large number of people who need our protection and help).

  77. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Actually Stephen, when the police did become aware of it, the entire ward didn’t gossip about it, the only family member who was separated from the family was the pedophile, and my family is doing as well financially, as it was doing with his income-even better.

    What is dangerous is bishops telling children and teenagers this in an attempt to stop them from reporting it.

  78. We always knew we would get money from him. We also knew that if needed, we could use whatever money from Peter, to pay off the lawyers. I understand that some people, despite what I may say, will always believe we only cared about money, or money was our prime motivation, but it was not

    Interesting, Pete Taylor is apparently solvent with significant assets (able to pay a couple million dollars in a judgment).

    Does the Church have an indemnification claim against him?

    How solvent is he? I’m curious.

  79. and my family is doing as well [financially], as it was doing with his income-even better,

    In my experience that would be true even if you were reduced to living on the street and eating from dumpsters.

    I’m glad that you are doing better in every way and that the ward responded as it did. I’m always pleased when people rise above gossip.

    What is dangerous is bishops telling children and teenagers this in an attempt to stop them from reporting it.

    I agree. I favor manditory reporting. In the one case I was involved in where there was a block to manditory reporting, I took care of the issue by paying, out of my own pocket, for a professional who specialized in treating victims of abuse, to provide care for the child. (and yes, I got an advisory opinion from the bar association approving what I did).

    Sure enough, there was an immediate change of custody and the child never returned to the abuser.

    I need to stop posting. I’m getting too angry thinking about past cases. I obviously think that jail alone is not enough for such people and I need to shift gears.

    Appreciate the clarifications on the legal doctrines and points.

  80. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Peter Taylor owns property in the Seattle area and has significant investments. Not to mention the large firefighter’s pension he collects, but which is off limits to us.

    Not sure if the Church has an indemnification claim against him.

  81. Too bad the judgment against him wasn’t wrapped up in one of the family law procedings that can reach otherwise exempt assets.

    Wish you well. May you reach recovery and joy.

  82. Fratello Giovanni says:

    All I can say is that the assertion on the plaintiffs’ part, that the bishop ought to be subject to the same standards as a social worker, and that the Church therefore is liable, is a real stretch.

    Shame on the judge and jury for going along with that ridiculous notion.

    Shame on the Salt Lake Tribune for yesterday congratulating the jury on stretching the letter of the law to meet what they saw as the spirit of the law. Those that use the Church as a punching bag now will answer for it later.

  83. Jessica: Thanks for getting the response from your attorney. You might want to tell him to tone it done a bit. Not everyone who asks a question is part of cabal to cover-up abuse, etc. etc.

    BTW, I actually think that the tithing question is interesting. Aside from this verdict, how should damage awards be treated? My answer would be that you shouldn’t pay tithing on the compensatory damages, as they are not income but simply put the plaintiff in the position that they should have been in had the legal wrong not occurred. On the other hand, I think that you ought to pay tithing on the punitive award, as it is essentially a windfall and therefore should be treated as income. The theory is that the compensatories should be sufficient to make the plaintiff completely whole. The punitives are essentially a fine that we impose on the defendant for misconduct, and which we happen to award to the plaintiff for whatever reason. By definition, however, they are not meant to compensate her for her damages.

  84. Stephen: If I am understanding correctly, Taylor was the abuser. I don’t see that the Church would have a claim against him for indemnification. It might have some sort of a claim against the bishop and stake presidents, however.

  85. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Washington state doesn’t allow for punitive damages. So then, what should I do?

    Fratello: Have you actually viewed the law regarding this case and how Hatch was found to have acted as a social services counselor when I saw him? Hatch would have only been exempt under the priest-penitent privilege had I gone to him for “spiritual counseling.” As a 13 year old being abused, I didn’t go to him for that, I went to him to have him stop the abuse.

    Nate-you will have to forgive Tim for thinking you are part of the “cabal.” I think he just went with that based on your question. Most, if not all, of the LDS lawyers Tim deals with are not friendly to our/his cause.

  86. Nate,
    The tithing issue is interesting. As a data point, from a taxation perspective, it is fairly clear that such an award is taxable income. The Internal Revenue Code exempts damage awards for physical injury, but otherwise, most damage recoveries are taxable.

    A very interesting question is, is a plaintiff liable for taxes on the contingent payment to the attorney? In at least one case that I’ve read, it appears that the taxes due on an award were greater than the money actually received by the plaintiff (I only glanced through, so I don’t remember exactly how this happened–presumable a 40% contingency fee plus plenty of expenses); the court held that, nonetheless, the plaintiff owed taxes on the full award, even though them money that went to his attorney was never his in any real, economic sense. I wonder how this idea of taxable income relates to a hypothetical sense of titheable income.

  87. Jessica: Don’t get me wrong. I doubt that I have much sympathy for your attorney. I am a defense attorney, so I think of all plaintiffs’ attorneys are blood-sucking leaches ;->.

  88. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Well then Nate, if we want to make broad generalizations, can I believe that all defense attorney’s are evil because they represent criminals who are undoubtedly guilty? ;)
    jk, of course! I am way too liberal to ever believe such a thing!

  89. I do mainly civil defense work: corporations accused of making defective drugs or polluting the enviroment or breaching their contracts. All of it nothing more than frivilous and specious allegations of course…

  90. Amen ;)

    At least sometimes.

    BTW seems to be gone.

  91. I have just stumbled on to this thread and am so pleased at the mature and amiable way this is being discussed–it’s rare to find such open mindedness.

    I have never commented here, but I simply have to today.

    I want to personally thank Jessica for doing this. I also want to tell her how amazing she must be to maintain her testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. Jessica, you seem to be wise beyond your years.

    Four years ago, my sister told me that my brother had raped someone and she knew it. My brother was currently serving a mission. Both she and I went to the Bishop. Nothing was done. Not only was nothing done, but when my sister (who went in to talk to the bishop without me), told the bishop that it was she who had been repeatedly raped and molested since the time she was 11, the Bishop did not do anything but ask for details of the abuse.

    I went to the Stake President, not knowing that it was my sister who had been raped, but knowing that something was majorly wrong. He said he would call the mission president. He never did.

    Three years ago, my sister, then 17, finally confessed to me that my brother had been sexually molesting her for years and that she had gone to the bishop in her old ward and he hadn’t done anything.

    Upon hearing this, I went to MY bishop to request LDS Social Services help for my sister. At that point, she was suffering from PTSD and suicidal depression. In order to get a list of LDS approved social workers/psychiatrists, one goes to the bishop. In order to get assistance in paying for counseling, one must go to the bishop. I walked in his office and said, “Bishop, there is abuse going on in–”


    He interrupted me and said, “If you tell me anything else I will have to report it to the police. I don’t know if you are ready for that. If you aren’t, what I would like you to do is to make an appointment with this psychiatrist immediately. If you can’t afford it, we’ll take care of it.” What a wonderful man!

    My father was violently abusive as well, and so we allowed my sister to come and stay with us. Here are some things that happened:

    The Bishop of my father’s ward, acting as “Bishop” in official capacity flew down from my parent’s home ward in a neighboring state to where my husband and I lived (and where my sister was staying), to try and convince her to come home because she had been “brainwashed”. He explained that he had talked my brother and he had confessed that he only touched my sister once. This is what the bishop chose to believe.

    The Bishop, acting as “Bishop” insisted on being present when my extended family (without myself or my sister) went to his favorite LDS Social Worker (who, by the way, was a marriage counselor and completely out of his league), attended a counseling session to see if the other children would agree that my father and brother had been abusive. He insisted on being in the room with them the whole time.

    The Bishop, acting as “Bishop” insisted on meeting with my other brother weekly (the other sibling to confess that there was abuse going on in the home), until he agreed to stop talking about the abuse.

    When my husband and I talked to the Stake President, he did nothing. He had been friends with my parents for a long time, you see.

    Two years ago, we went to the Area Authority to report what was going on. He made a call to the Stake President to make sure that my brother (who was then engaged and planning on getting married in the temple), would not be allowed to be sealed in the temple that year. That is all that has been done so far.

    It has been horrible to see my sister intimidated by this former bishop, to see him intimidate my brother, to see the abuse being allowed to continue, and my father, someone who is violent and also a pedophile, being called to positions like scout leader and nursery leader.

    It has been horrible to see my brother, who confessed to molesting my sister, still be in good standing in the church.

    For what it’s worth, the Area Authority we spoke with said he believed us and that he did see that there was room for improvement with how the church handled these kinds of situations. He even asked if we had any ideas.

    We, like Jessica, think that it would be very helpful if the church had a hotline for victims–if the victim could at least call a hotline to get information on where to go for help (ie, counseling), because most of the time, the first step is not the police. The first step is someone saying “Help! I don’t think this is right, but I don’t know what to do or what is going on and I don’t trust myself or my judgement.”

    I don’t know if that is feasible, but that would show real progress.

    Personally, I don’t care what happens to my brother and father at this point–I just want to make sure that others are protected from abuse.

    Thanks again, Jessica. Know that you have made a difference to us. And thank you for keeping your testimony. That is an awesome and incredible thing, and has been inspiring to my sister, who often struggles with this.

  92. Fratello Giovanni says:

    How hard would it have been to just dial 911 then? If you want to blame the Church for all your problems, fine, but don’t feel that you’re entitled to my tithing for them.

  93. Fratello, just so you know, your tithing money goes to pay for many pedophiles and abusers to get counseling. Apparently, pedophiles and abusers feel that they are entitled to your tithing money as well, only they don’t have to go to court to get it.

    Personally, I don’t worry about who gets tithing money. I am sure it will all work itself out in The End.

    It has been my experience that it is sometimes easier for the abusers to get help (financially or otherwise), from church leaders than the victims….Hopefully this is the exception rather than the rule.

  94. Fretello,

    You are delusional. I pity you. I am sorry to hear of so much abuse in this church. I too have seen instances of abuse in my wards and family. Fratellos comments do not represent me.

    The only amount of tithing money that could be considered “your tithing” money fratello, is the amount you have not yet paid. Those monies already paid belong to a larger organization and are used to satisfy the debts, expenses and obligations of that organization. In some cases you may not agree with those obligations. You should lean on the Church to come clean as to what those obligations may be, dont lean on victims of abuse. It is mean and unproductive.

  95. Fratello Giovanni says:

    My father the bishop might have abused me. Why don’t I just sue the Church too? But there’s no point in that. Besides, stealing money from the Church is grounds for excommunication.

    Oh wait – women are entitled to every last dime from patriarchy, right?

  96. Misty wrote, “We, like Jessica, think that it would be very helpful if the church had a hotline for victims–if the victim could at least call a hotline to get information on where to go for help (ie, counseling), because most of the time, the first step is not the police. The first step is someone saying ‘Help! I don’t think this is right, but I don’t know what to do or what is going on and I don’t trust myself or my judgement.'”

    Thanks for your comment, Misty. I agree with you that in many cases “the first step is not the police.” But if this case in Washington is upheld on appeal, it will be. Involving the bishop and initiating a police investigation will be the same thing — you won’t be able to do one without the other. I think that result would be terrible, so I’m glad the church is appealing the decision.

  97. It is their right to appeal. There is no doubt about that.

    Fratello, glad to know that you will stand blindly in defense of a patriarchy, victim be damned. Sometimes I worry that original thought like yours is lost. Whew. Thanks for showing up buddy.

  98. While his comments are rude, Fratello’s point of view does not necessarily qualify as “blind”. There is certainly more than one way to look at this case and the overall problems that it causes with regard to how clergy should act, and what they should and should not be responsible for (or obligated to do).

  99. Jessica Cavalieri says:


    Thank you for your candor and the compliments-they provide strength. And JessY, thank you.

    Matt, the only thing this case does is highlight the law the bishop broke in 1994.

    So, if a child goes into the bishop claiming they are being abused, what do you think the bishop should do? Because apparently you think the bishop calling Child Protection/Police is wrong…hmmm, had the bishop done that for me, I wouldn’t have been abused for another 5 years (not to mention the two victims who were abused after I told the first bishop). But hey, we can’t have the Church protecting victims from known pedophiles, can we?
    I fail to see how enforcing Washington state law makes the Church comparable to the police. Someone, fill me in, PLEASE!

  100. I find it ironic that the true church, led by the priesthood and headed by the Savior, relies on juries and legislators to determine its policies regarding victims of abuse. I think there is a higher law.

    There are many ways to look at it. Fratello is not looking, just defending.

    He claims the juries bought into “a stretch”. He implies that a victim that did not dial 911 may not be a victim. Then with sarcasm dismisses it as a gripe about patriarchy. If he is seeing anything, it is not with critical inspection.

    Face it, some people have more confidence in their leaders than others and will confide in them with serious issues. The church builds that confidence by teaching that these leaders are entitled to Holy inspiration on the part of ward and branch members. Maybe if the church taught that the bishop could recieve no inspiration on the part of members there wouldnt be any shared confidences, that may reduce lawsuits, but it may be a bigger hit to the tithing coffers than a lawsuit. I am j/k of course, while rude, it is another way to look at things.

  101. I’m not saying I agree or disagree with anything that has been said here by anyone. But what I do think is that it is in no way open and shut, and there are issues at play here.

    I fail to see how enforcing Washington state law makes the Church comparable to the police.

    Because thats the police’s job.

  102. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    So bishops should not be required to obey state laws? Children should be required to endure abuse because bishops like to keep it “in house?”

  103. I think you are getting a tad defensive. (as is your right after what you’ve been through)

    I am merely saying that people may disagree about some aspects of the case and the effects it can have on the Church. And when people raise these questions, it isn’t fair to label them as blind followers. Thats all. Just like people shouldn’t dismissively attack victims either.

  104. Seth Rogers says:

    I have no interest in the little Frattello drama going on right now. But I’d like to respond to Misty’s post in #91.

    A rather unfortunate story. I don’t think that situation was handled very well. But I’d just like to inject a bit of perspective from the Bishop’s end.

    It’s a very stressful and demanding job to be a Bishop. You spend upwards of 30 hours a week on the position with no compensation. The help you receive is only as good as your counselors and auxiliary leaders (which may or may not be lessening the Bishop’s burden. He sometimes spends hours each week dealing with individual and family crises. He alone has a bigger picture of what the tremendous needs of the ward are. He knows of troubled marriages, couples facing Alzheimer’s, young parents who can’t get community resources for their special needs child, and half a dozen teens teetering on the brink of a moral and spiritual collapse. In most of these cases, he’s not sure what he can do that will help and not hurt the situation.

    The only thing that weighs more heavily on him is the knowlege that he is undoubtedly not hearing about a LOT of the other problems in the ward and isn’t likely to get a lot of on-the-ground-intelligence from the Home Teachers (since, like in most wards, they aren’t visiting much). He MIGHT get help from the auxiliary leaders. But he might not.

    And on top of that, about $100 dollars has gone missing from the budget, tithing settlements are being scheduled, and one of the ward clerks hasn’t been showing up when he’s supposed to.

    Oh yeah, and he’s giving a major talk to the Relief Society next Sunday – a real field of potential land mines. Will he offend any of the sisters? Will he say what they need to hear?

    Not to mention that his real business hasn’t been having very good sales recently …

    Do you understand what I’m saying here?

    You are right in pointing out that things weren’t handled well here.

    But is it possible that you are expecting a level of perfection from our leaders that is a tad demanding?

    If you’re willing to give these guys a little sympathy, I’d be interested in hearing what you think the Church should do, as an institution, to help Bishops respond more appropriately to instances of sexual abuse.

    Anger toward these Bishops might be an understandable response. But I don’t really think it’s a helpful response.

  105. I would like to note that in my story, one bishop did do the right thing–and guess what? The right thing took far less time and involved him far less than any other option.

    The Area Authority we talked to gave us a copy of the current videotape used for training bishops. It is a good effort, but there are many things missing. My husband actually sat down with the Area Authority in SLC at the Church Office Building and they had a wonderfully frank discussion about how things could be improved.

    My husband actually talked to several LDS approved, LDS psychiatrists and counselors in order to prepare for his meeting with this Area Authority. All of them, without exception, said they were pleased that my husband was trying to do something, but they were doubtful anything would change. I will not go into details here about why they feel this way, suffice it to say, they have pretty good reasons.

    Anger is a helpful response, actually. Anger is a way for us to know that something is wrong. When held in check, it is a good sign for us to say, “hey, wait a minute…this is not right.” It can by a catalyst to move us to action. It is when anger goes out of control or takes over that it is not helpful.

    The Bishop who did not do the right thing was not acting out of ignorance or because he was “stressed out”, or because the calling was just so hard. In fact, his actions took far more time and caused more stress than the right actions would have taken. He did this because he wanted to dominate the situation. He did this because he crossed the line and practiced unrighteous dominion. In my experience and in talking with the LDS psychiatrists who have dealt with similar cases, that is generally what happens.

    Fortunately, most bishops are wonderful men who do their best in a very hard job.

    For some people, that is just too much, so they deny it. In the case of the bishop I mentioned, I believe that it was just too hard for him to believe that a man he respected and his son could be the monsters they are. So, in order to deal with it, he chose to deny it, and even tried to make it go away. Many, many people do this….that is one of the biggest tragedies of child sexual abuse. The child finally gets the courage to say something and they are ignored or told they are the ones with the problem.

    I wish everyone would stop making excuses for these men by saying the calling of bishop is just so hard. Many callings in life (not just “official”), are hard. If it’s too hard for these men, they should ask to be released. They have a choice.

    In the cases where bishops actually try to stop or scare the child from getting help, in the cases such as the one with my sister, where the bishop went out of his way to cause trouble, it would have been better if they had done NOTHING.

    I would like everyone to take a minute and think about the amount of stress and the pressure and worry and feelings of inadequacy and the feelings of not knowing what to do that a child who is being sexually abused endures. The calling of bishop, no matter how stressful, cannot even begin to compare, so I am not really buying that as a reason to excuse them.

    It is hard to believe that any man who is called as bishop would act purposely to keep a child in an abusive situation, but it happens. Not often, thankfully, but it happens.

  106. Seth Rogers, I submitted a similar question earlier, what would you do about these Bishops?

    Is it better to reduce the expectations members have of their bishops? Is it better to reduce the authority of Bishops? What is your solution.

    Its tough to know. After all, they are given an eternal calling as Judge in Isreal and told God will be the bridge after all they can do.

    I have my own answers. What are yours. I repeat my previous point. The Church cant have it both ways. They cant expect members to respond to a Bishop when he assigns them callings, asks for more donations, counsels them in repentence and forgiveness, counsels them in marriage and relationships, deems them worth or unworthy of ordinances and then have those same patrons dismiss the Bishop as just a Doctor/Lawyer/Dentist/Fireman when they need him in an hour of need.

    And the Church should not expect loyalty without offering training and resources. While they currently demand such loyalty to unqualified and uninspired men, there will be a heavy toll. It may be cha-ching cha-ching of the cash register, it may be an exodus or there may be other consequences. Maybe it will be harder to staff the wards. That too is a shame as less qualified people will be raising their hands saying “Pick Me!”

  107. Excellent, Misty. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    Best to you, Jessica.

  108. mormonfromoutsidetheusa says:

    Well i think it would be interesting to hear ur take on an incident that occurred in my ward where a boy was abused by his Young Mens leader at young mens in the chapel! He bottled it up and kept it inside probably too scared to say anything! Then he went on to serve a mission and told his mission president, the first person he’d told, after reading and article in the Ensign from Gordon B. Hinkley. His Mission President told him to ‘sort himself out, forget about it and move on with his life’. Didn’t tell him to inform the autorities or offer counselling or anything! He also told the Bishop, after completing his mission who called the hotline which informed him to tell the man to inform the police. Now the man that abused him is serving as a Bishop in another ward, he is also a doctor and has adopted a kid. To add another twist the abusers father was a General Authority! He was abused about 8yrs ago but told his mission pres only 2 years ago! Personally i think the Church has a long way to go! Its true, but not infallible. The abused man didnt recieve any help other than the fact he was told to inform the police!! The man who was abused as a child still has a strong testimony but has lost confidence and respect in some of his priesthood leaders because of the way they handled the situation! What do you make of that?

  109. What do I make? I am not surprised, not one bit surprised.

    I hope all those involved can sort it out, on their own terms, in their own ways using all the resources they need. God bless.

    Let me ask? Why did you feel compelled to inject the “Its true, but not infallible” line?

  110. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    One thing I have seen in a lot of these cases is the bishop’s (or some other leaders) insensitive response. From that, you can clearly see the lack of training manifesting itself and it ends up making the victim feel worse. “Get over it.” “Forgive him and move on.” “Just forget about it.” And on and on and on. The Church should just put out a booklet on what not to say to the victim!

  111. I personally know people that have been raped by a Priesthood holder, stayed silent for a period of time out of fear, later confided to another Priesthood holder and were told, “It is time for you to forgive.”

    Admittedly, some of the same people were offered similar advice by their LDS parents, so it shouldn’t be assumed that stupid and thoughtless responses are unique to the Priesthood. It may be unpleasant to learn that reality.

  112. Fratello Giovanni says:

    So all of us priesthood holders are abusers. Is that what you’re saying?

  113. C’mon now. That was neither said nor inferred. To imply that anyone here or otherwise has said all Priesthood holders are abusers is silly at best.

    Thanks for the laugh.

  114. While I recognize that Bishops and other leaders are called by revelation and have potential access to inspiration, I’m not comfortable with the commonly held notion that everything they say over the pulpit and across the desk is the infallible word and will of God.

    Fortunately I have not been in any abusive situations, but I have had bouts with depression and anxiety disorders, which are commonly misunderstood. Confused as to why I could not rid myself of a perpetual feelings of unworthiness (that had lasted for months, despite my best efforts to be close to God), I went to see my bishop. I had just moved into the ward. I let him know that, while I had made mistakes in the past, there were no unresolved sins in my life. Despite this, he concluded that if I felt that bad about myself, then it must be because I was still unworthy in some way. Even though I wasn’t confessing anything to him, he asked me to refrain from taking the sacrament and going to the temple for a period of time. He required me to continue meeting with him, and held conferences with my wife and him. He didn’t give me a calling for several months. He told me that I needed to more fully realize the weight of my sins, or I would not be forgiven. Now I deal with a form of OCD called Scrupulosity, which causes me to feel terribly, terribly guilty for even slight mistakes. I had been tormented for months and months over sins that I’d committed years before, and here my “inspired” Bishop was telling me that I did not recognize the weight of my sins. He also told me that if I did not accept forgiveness (“feel forgiven”), then I was insulting the Savior.

    Basically, this made my condition much, much worse. Even though I had properly repented and had been assured of my worthiness by previous priesthood leaders, this bishop disregarded their decisions, convinced that my depression was a sign of my unworthiness. This initiated a period of intense confusion, depression, and anxiety that lasted for several months. I began meeting with an LDS therapist, and the healing finally began to take place, after dealing with such self-condemning thoughts and feelings for nearly a year.

    I recognize that my bishop is not a trained psychologist. He was trying to help, and he did the best with his limited understanding of my condition. But I can’t deny that his ignorance made my condition far more severe, and certainly shook my faith, because I perceived that questioning one’s priesthood leader was totally unacceptable, yet I had received “inspired guidance” from different priesthood leaders that was totally contradictory.

    Bishops generally do a marvelous job. But I would agree that, due to their general inexperience with abusive situations, mental illness, and other circumstances, they sometimes do and say things that only make matters worse. I know that the Brethren do try to educate these leaders about such scenarios, but I don’t think we’re close to where we need to be.

  115. “It’s time to forgive” is hardly a stupid thing to say. It’s sad what has happened to these people, but even millions of dollars isn’t going to make it all better. It has shocked me that people giving sympathy add on the hope that this money will help take away the pain, because it certainly won’t. Yes, forgiveness is the only way. Forgiveness does not entail not pressing charges or enforcing the law. But people seem to be making the case of “telling you to forgive someone is a really dumb thing to say.” No, it’s not. It’s the only thing that brings peace. My family has never had problems with molestation by leaders, but we’ve had our own share of troubles, once that came from a Bishop and his father-in-law, the Stake President. The events that took place damaged my family for years and they left the Church. But guess what? Nothing we did helped ease the pain until we realized that we had to forgive the men who wronged us. It’s not easy, but if you want to get better, you have to learn how to let it go.

    I honestly don’t understand how taking millions of dollars away from the Church and dragging its name through the mud and taking faith away from ecclesiatical leaders is going to improve things. How about going on a campaign to get the church to change? Write a book? Something that doesn’t seem quite so selfish. Yes, I believe it’s possible for the victim to be selfish and do wrong. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Sorry about all the stories of members of the Church who do wrong and get away with it. But what do you expect? I can’t walk up to my Bishop and accuse person X of wrong doing and expect them to just take my word on it. “Oh, you said it, so we better cast him out of the Church all based on your accusation.” There has to been some sort of process. What if someone falsely accused one of you of molesting children? Wouldn’t you want some proof to back up what was said before everyone cast you out of the Church?

    I do agree something needs to change in the Church for the better. I hope we can find ways to make it better and safer for all. However, I doubt giving the Church a blackeye with a lawyer who obviously hates the Church is going to make things right. But at least you’ll have your money to comfort you in the end.

  116. Fratello Giovanni says:

    To imply that anyone here or otherwise has said all Priesthood holders are abusers is silly at best.

    But it’s about as close to what you’ve said, as what you’re saying about what I’ve said has been to what I’ve actually said.

  117. Hi Jessica (Comment 99),

    I do believe bishops should obey the law, but I don’t know which law your bishop violated in 1994. According to this story in the Deseret News (which I admit may not be correct), clergy in Washington are not required to report abuse, and your case against the church succeeded only because your lawyer convinced the jury that your bishop was acting as a social worker. If this account is correct, I think the claims against the church will likely be overturned on appeal when it is considered by a judge instead of a jury, as Washington probably defines “social worker” narrowly; specifically, as those who have been granted social work licenses by the state. State licensing laws make it a crime to work in specific capacities without the proper licensure, and by your lawyers logic all Washington bishops are guilty of practicing social work without a license. I doubt the appeals court will agree with that. There are also particular acts that only social workers can do, like perform home studies prior to adoption placement, and if your bishop were to perform one of those acts, such as submitting a home study for an adoption, the state would reject it because the state would insist your bishop is *not* a social worker, no matter your lawyer says. For this reason I think it very unlikely an appellate judge will agree that your bishop is covered by laws governing social workers.

    As for what I think bishop’s should do, I think they should minister to their congregations, not work as arms of the state, for the reasons I’ve outlined above. The police are good at some things, bishops are good at another, and it is a mistake to confuse their jobs by making bishops police informants. I don’t favor Good Samaritan laws generally, laws that hold someone legally culpable for failure to do something morally helpful, and believe the only people with affirmative duties to help another are those with special statutory designations, such as lifeguards and social workers, or those with familial obligations to you, like parents. For that reason I don’t think we can hold a friends or stranger legally liable for failing to help, and can only say Thank You Very Much when they do. If someone wants to _legally_ obligate someone to help them (give them grounds to sue them if they fail to provide help), they must bring their problem to someone who is legally obligated to help them once they know of the problem (parents, social workers, police officers, etc.).

    I believe victims should retain the right to speak to their bishop (or friends etc.) without initiating a police investigation, but by the standard you’re advocating, speaking to the bishop is the same thing as launching a police investigation. This means that victims either have to suffer alone or go all the way and submit to police interrogations and the other traumas associated with formal investigations triggered by child abuse allegations. Some victims just want to talk to someone and I see no reason to deny those victims that right.

    If you asked your bishop to help you report the crime, I think he is morally (but not legally, due to my general opposition to Good Samaritan laws) obligated to help you do so, just as a good friend would be.

    I’m unable to apply my general view to your specific facts because I don’t know them. I don’t know what your stepdad did to you, and that would matter. I don’t know what you told your bishop your stepdad did to you, and I don’t know what you told your mom or others, and both of those facts matter too. I don’t know what you told your bishop about what you’d told your mom. (His meeting with you and your mom afterwards leads me to believe he thought your mom knew more than he did, and his saying that it should be resolved by the family was his way of saying your mom would know better than he did what course of action should be pursued.)

    Finally, let me stress that I am terribly sorry for what you went through, and want to assure you that my disagreeing that the church was responsible for any of your abuse in no way changes my revolsion at your being abused by your stepdad.

  118. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    No, we never asked for the bishop to be considered a social worker.

    You need to read the definition of a “social service counselor” and the Motherwell case in order to see how it was found that the bishop violated the law.

    Who said millions of dollars would fix the problem or heal a victim? Not me.

    I don’t have a problem with bishops counseling victims to try to forgive the perpetrator. However, there needs to be some healing before one is able to forgive anyone. That healing doesn’t just magically happen. The bishops need to just hold off on the forgiveness lecture until the victim is at a point in their healing where they feel ready to jump that hurdle. Sometimes the abuse is just too fresh in their minds, or the perpetrator still in their lives, and they are unable to even forsee being able to forgive. Many times the bishops jumps all the steps and goes right to the forgiving part and then doesn’t counsel with the victim afterwards. Forgiveness isn’t the first step in healing and it isn’t the last. But that is just my opinion and what I gather from taking many social work classes and working in the social services field.
    Let me also add that I think forgiviness is one of the most important steps a victim can take.

  119. I think one of the biggest problems here is that we are making the Bishop culpable for what happened. Let’s face it, Elder Ballard said that PARENTS need to know what is happening in the child’s life. PARENTS have greater responsibility to know if their children are worthy to serve missions. PARENTS should know their children’s needs and wants. Children should know to go to their parents before they go to their Bishop. I’m sorry that you were taught false doctrine, but the Church should have the right to turn around and sue your mother for not following Church policy: Teach your children that they go to their parents before their Bishop. Always. Some things you may want to tell your Bishop in dealing with personal worthiness, as his major duty is to help you repent (because youre parents can’t help you there). But I have never heard anywhere to tell your Bishop about cases of abuse or social problems.

    Perhaps the only thing you will accomplish is Bishops putting more responsibility back on parents. That’d be a good thing, in my book. And it will prevent future lawsuits.

  120. Seth Rogers says:


    Christ did indeed teach that it is always time to forgive.

    But perhaps it is not always the right time for us to tell someone else to forgive?

  121. But it’s always the right time to condemn. Right? Even 7 years later, let’s not forgive. But we’ll work at condemning with every fiber of our being for that whole period. Sounds like a good plan to me.

  122. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    Perhaps we should stop being taught a bishop is a “father to the ward.”

    I guess my experiences in primary and YW’s (or YM’s) were different from yours. I was told to go to the bishop whenever I had a problem, no matter what the problem is. The two bishops and stake president all testified to the exact same thing. Bishops can stop being told they are acting like social service counselors when they stop placing themselves in positions where they act as such.

  123. CJR, Whoa there. Since when is it condemnation to pursue ones rights within the law? Hang on there hardcharger.

    Seth Rogers, thanks for your point on forgiveness, I should have been more clear. Yours is a greater and meaningful clarification on the point I meant to make.

    CJR, Seven years may not be enough lapsed time. 70 may not. 700 may not. Who are you and who am I to put a statute of limitations on grief, anger and betrayal?

    I will give you a standing ovation on the comments you made about parents versus the bishop. In fact, you are the first as far as I can tell to address my previous challenge, and though I may disagree with your other suggestions I appreciate these comments very much. I agree with you, it is a duty as a parent to parent, not pawn parenting off on anyone else or any institution. I will not stand in judgment of Jessicas family or situation, I dont find that to be in conflict with my agreement with your suggestions.

    I think it is essential as a parent, and a memeber of the church, to reduce the confidence my kids have in adults based on titles, including that of bishop, stake president or any other authority. Let them judge others on their proven merit, rather than their title or other status. I think any other approach, especially in light of these circumstances we have seen of late, is irresponsible.

  124. CJR said – “Perhaps the only thing you will accomplish is Bishops putting more responsibility back on parents. That’d be a good thing, in my book. And it will prevent future lawsuits.”

    I say – Stop the abuse and the lawsuits will stop.

  125. CJR said – “But it’s always the right time to condemn. Right? Even 7 years later, let’s not forgive. But we’ll work at condemning with every fiber of our being for that whole period. Sounds like a good plan to me.”

    I say – Stop the abuse and the condemnation will stop.

  126. Ms. Michelle-L says:

    I have been watching these comments unfold about this subject closely.

    First of all, the only people who I’ve ever known to immediately claim that the victim must be lying in every case possible has ended up being a pedophile, a rapist, or just a plain abusive person in one or more ways. Probably just a coincidence, of course.

    Anyway, I think it is interesting to note that some people (CJR, Mr. Fratello, among others) think that it is their place to tell people whom they should forgive.

    Now, I know these types of people like to “Bible Bash”, and it’s no real use trying to reason with mentally unstable people, but, what does Jesus say about the people who abuse children?

    “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

    As they say, strong words coming from the Prince of Peace.

    Oh, and, has anyone ever read “The Miracle of Forgiveness”? Someone who has done such a thing must first go to prison and pay the price before they can be truly repentant.

    Here are some interesting facts about child molestors (From the National Victims Center):

    “Perpetrators of sexual abuse are compulsive and repetitive in their offending behavior. The average pedophile will have an average of 244 victims in his lifetime…

    An article published 3/18/92 in the Atlanta journal stated that “national research shows that an adolescent sex offender will sexually abuse an average of 7 victims, but if left untreated will have about 380 victims in a lifetime.”

    Before you think of forgiveness, perhaps you should think about future children. Sure, forgive the jerk who’s already assured his place in hell. Fine by me. However, should we “Forgive and Forget”? I don’t think so. To do so would be foolish!

    I find it frustrating that some people are so quick to shun the victim, tell them to “forgive and move on”…blah, blah, blah. I think it’s just because they are so dang uncomfortable about the situation, and they don’t want to deal with it.

    Sorry, no matter how uncomfortable you are, no matter how stressed you are, it does not even begin to compare to a child who is being sexually abused—let alone having it happen in their own home.

    It’s time for the priesthood leadership to take the challenge against the adversary, to truly become a soldier for the right side, instead of sitting on the fence, or worse, hiding in the nearest latrine rather than defend truth and righteousness and shun evil.

    I know I really shouldn’t be writing this right now, I’m slightly agitated at some things that have been said by mere simpletons, and I know I’m not going to take the time to proofread what I’ve written, so please ‘FORGIVE’ me for any grammatical errors or harsh language.

    However, people who automatically assume a victim is lying, and readily take the side of the abuser, shame on them. What disgusting vile betrayers of the worst sort. Ugh!

    Okay, I think I’m done. Thanks for reading.

  127. Ms. Michelle-L,

    I will read your comments anytime. Thanks. Thank You. Bless You. Cheers to you.

  128. CJR: In an ideal situation, parents should be the ones to be involved in their children’s lives. However, in a sexual abuse situation where one or both parents is involved, it is a pretty ridiculous thing to think the child should go to his/her parents.

    Also, from the For The Strength of Youth Manual:

    Victims of rape, incest, or other sexual abuse are not guilty of sin. If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, know that you are innocent and that God loves you. Seek your bishop’s counsel immediately so he can help guide you through the process of emotional healing.

    Here is a perfect example where the Church has a policy that puts the bishop into the role of counselor.

    In my opinion, most bishops are not trained to help anyone who has been sexually abused go through “the process of emotional healing.” This also puts the bishop in the position, where, if someone tells him they are being abused, most of the time, he is obligated to go to the police, regardless of whether or not the victim is ready for that.

    That is why I admire my bishop so much. Instead of even hearing about it, he told me that if I said anything to him he would have to report it to the police, but if I wasn’t ready for that, I could talk to a counselor. He immediately referred me to a wonderful psychiatrist and then followed up to make sure I got a chance to talk to her and that steps were being taken. This kept the Church clear of any liability.

    In my opinion, it would be better if the For The Strength of Youth manual could say, “If you have been a victim of any of these crimes, call this hotline number to report it to an LDS social worker.” Wouldn’t that prevent many of these problems? From that point, the victim would be free to choose when and if he or she wanted to contact the police or talk to their bishop about any kind of emotional healing.

  129. Yes, in an ideal world, we would stop the abuse. My problem isn’t with the abuse. It’s the abused lashing out at anyone they believe to be responsible besides the pedophile. Notice in my first post I specifically said that “forgive” does not mean ignore or not pursue legal issues. I have no problem with you holding the pedophile accountable.

    You do have to forgive him. If not now, when? And you do have to forgive your Bishop. I think it’s interesting that we are sitting here talking about the Bishop and how bad he was and how bad the church is, but when we get around to forgiveness, it only applies to the pedophile, and we’re not supposed to forgive him anyway. Christ condemned pedophiles, as does the Church. But it says that anyone can be forgiven by Christ. Who are we not to forgive, when Christ, who suffered more than anyone, commands us that we MUST forgive? And I would say that the Church has not been forgiven, nor the Bishop. I haven’t heard about the Pedo in this case at all, but I’ve heard the Bishop and the Church condemned plenty.

    And, honestly, the only way to heal is to forgive. You can hold on to your hate as long as you want, it’s your business. And it doesn’t hurt me one bit. But if you want any real cure, it’s through forgiveness.

    “Since when is it condemnation to pursue ones rights within the law?” I didn’t know suing someone who tried to help was a right? We have lots of new rights in this country that revolve around suing people. I don’t see it anywhere in the constitution. Pressing charges against a pedo=right. Crusading against the Church because you didn’t notify the proper authorities does not equal a right.

    I agree to stop the abuse. That cures all the ills. But that’s only going to happen in this ideal world we all keep hoping for. As long as we turn to the Bishop for some magic cure, it’s not going to happen. Bishop’s can’t take the role of a parent, the only one who can really stop it. The idea that stopping the abuse will stop lawsuits against the church is kinda odd, considering the Church does not create abuse. Turn to your parents. I don’t think it’s illogical at all to say that your mom should be the first person a child goes to. Of course you may not discuss your calling with your mom, because the Bishop may know more. But your parents are first priority. If the church is liable in this case, your mom is more liable, or you are for not telling her. She should’ve been closer to you than your bishop ever was or ever will be. If you’ve been taught otherwise, someone lied to you. Maybe you should sue them too.

  130. Jessica Cavalieri says:

    I am having a hard time finding what CJR says I am saying, or what others are saying, in this discussion. I guess some people read what they want to read.

  131. From Ms. Michelle-L:

    I have been watching these comments unfold about this subject closely.

    However, people who automatically assume a victim is lying, and readily take the side of the abuser, shame on them.

    Obviously you haven’t been watching that closely at all. Nobody has denied the abuse happened or took the side of the abuser.

    Also, from JessY:

    The Church cant have it both ways. They cant expect members to respond to a Bishop when he assigns them callings, asks for more donations, counsels them in repentence and forgiveness, counsels them in marriage and relationships, deems them worth or unworthy of ordinances and then have those same patrons dismiss the Bishop as just a Doctor/Lawyer/Dentist/Fireman when they need him in an hour of need.

    I would argue the opposite. The Church MUST have it both ways. People who are called to positions of power on this earth are human beings. They are imperfect. They do the best job they can. But if the Church is to guarantee that a Bishop will never make a mistake every second of everyday of his life during his calling (with Christ perfectly pulling the puppet strings), then that adds up to be a neutralization of his free agency.

  132. Hi Jessica,

    I read the Motherwell case (it’s online here, but it actually supports my and the church’s position by specifically exempting clergy from the reporting requirement for the reasons I’ve argued above.

    There were three defendants in the case, each of whom worked for a Christian church and had been told about situations of child abuse while counseling their parishioners. The court held that the two defendants who were *not* clergy had to inform the police as though they were social services counselors (these defendants wrongly failed to argue that the jury’s determination that they were social services counselors was erroneous, so the appeals court didn’t address that point, and more specifically to Mormon bishops, the definition of social services worker limits it to those “engaged in a professional capacity,” which would exempt our volunteer bishops), but the court held that the defendant who was a pastor was exempted from the reporting statute specifically because he was a member of the clergy, “Status as a member of the clergy is conferred by license or ordination within one’s church or religious denomination. Thus, we hold as a matter of statutory interpretation that members of the clergy counseling their parishioners in the religious context are not subject to the reporting requirement under former RCW 26.44.030. Because defendants Motherwell and Mensonides were not ordained ministers when they first learned of the suspected child abuse, they do not fall within the exemption. Their convictions are affirmed. Because he was an ordained minister at all relevant times, Hartley does fall within the exemption. His conviction is reversed.”

    The relevant definition of clergy clearly includes Mormon bishops, “‘Clergy’ shall mean any regularly licensed or ordained minister, priest or rabbi of any church or religious denomination.”

    To use this case for his benefit, your lawyer would have had to argue that your bishop was a social services counselor “in a professional capacity” AND that he was not clergy. This is undoubtedly why the church’s lawyer said the jury who applied the reporting statute to your bishop was out to lunch, and why the appellate court is sure to reverse the decision.

    I also want to point out that the court justified the rule exempting clergy with the same rationale I was arguing above, “Announcing a rule that requires clergy to report under all circumstances could serve to dissuade parishioners from acknowledging in consultation with their ministers the existence of abuse and seeking a solution to it.”

  133. The Church MUST have it both ways. People who are called to positions of power on this earth are human beings. They are imperfect. They do the best job they can. But if the Church is to guarantee that a Bishop will never make a mistake every second of everyday of his life during his calling (with Christ perfectly pulling the puppet strings), then that adds up to be a neutralization of his free agency.

    What you are suggesting, having Christ as puppetteer is pur fantasy. As fantastical as the Chronicles of Narnia. That is not at all what I am suggesting, and anyone who does so is enjoying a busy imagination.

    Of course Bishops make mistakes. They are no more or less prone to mistakes in their personal lives as they are while serving in the capacity of Bishop. They are men. They are only able to accomplish that which they have been prepared and trained to do. The same is true of anyone else on the Planet.

    You return the burden of knowing when the Bishop is acting in the name of God and when he is acting as a dentist to the individual member. That is fair. I simply contend that members dont know how to split that hair and it is safer to assume the Bishop is just a man, and trust him only in that in which he is trained. Especially for youth, where discernment may not be so clear.

    Yours is a common approach in the church and is the charge given to all members for all prophets or leaders since the restoration. I think there is a time for change, it appears to be a broken formula for some people.

  134. mormonoutsideusa says:

    Hey heres one for you to think over! A man in my ward was abused as a child, by his young mens leader at young mens in the chapel! He didnt tell anyone for years for reasons that only someone who has been through abuse can fully explain questioning whether he was to blame or was responsible! questioning what it made him? questioning everything! He left for his mission and about a year and a half into his mission after reading the article in the Ensign from President Hinckley that these sort of things should be sorted out to protect those at risk and that victims wernt to blame! So he went to his Mission pres who told him to forget about it and carry on with his life! No Counseling no help no nothing! When he got home from his mission he told his Bishop who called the hotline which told him to give the advice to call the police! And that was it! He got counselling for himself because he felt it was a good idea! In the meantime since he told the mission pres the paedophile is a doctor, has adopted a child and has become a Bishop ironically! He always kept a strong testimony of the church but because of the way some of the Priesthood leadership has handled it he doesnt have much respect for those people! Oh and to add another twist to the story the paedophiles the son of a General Authority! So what do u make of that?

    P.s. I wrote this once already but i gave an old email address so maybe thats why it still isnt on! you dont censor these do u??

  135. Hey mormonoutside,

    your post is still up (#108). Thanks for your comments. Again, I dont find any of this to be a surprise. I hope you and your friend can find some peace with this.

  136. mormonoutsideusa says:

    I found where i’d written it which means i’ve repeated it! oops but i think the fact is alot needs to be done to improve this situation! it needs to be brought into the light openly discussed and talked about! Is it right that Priesthood leaders should keep these things quiet! The answer is no. Every person is different and so some circumstances have to be judged on their own merits but the fact is if a child is being abused it needs to be reported! The fact is paedophiles are usually predatory, and they repeat their offenses, they dont stop unless they hand themselves in! I think some serious questions need to be raised also in the area of revelation! We all know that a man should be called of God, but then did God call a paedophile to work with kids? Or as a Bishop? Also why not have compulsory police checks for people who are going to be working with children? Any schools where im from have to just for caretakers! The Church shouldn’t feel compelled to do it because of Court cases but should want to do it out of christian love! Now people can judge the people who have been abused for going to court! Why not walk in someone elses shoes instead of judging when you dont know what their experience is like. I find most people who judge them haven’t had close hand experience! such as one Stake President who questioned whether it was just horseplay!! Well how about the same thing happens to your kid, lets see how much its horseplay, or your kids responsibility to tell you! The fact is Bishops are in a position to help because they are placed in that position if they aren’t told how to do that then they don’t know. So either they shouldnt be in that position or they should be trained to deal with it! I’ve seen too much hesitation maybe because they are afraid to offend people higher up! They forget the fact that this is Christs church and get caught up in their own self importance which I think is why the wrong advice or maybe pure naivety! If that child sitting opposite was their own i doubt the advice given would be the same, with the offender having the oppurtunity to carry on!

  137. mormonoutsideusa says:

    Well i have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, that Gordon B Hinckley is a Prophet of God and Jesus Christ atoned for my sins but our Church does not teach infallibility of its leaders a saying goes The Catholic Church teaches the Pope is Infallible but none of the members believe it, the LDS Church teaches that the Prophet is fallible but none of the members believe that. So if they are only human they can make mistakes even when it comes to running the church! Now doctrine will hopefully always be pure and with such good men as the First Presidency and 12 Apostles i have no real doubts, but they are only human as we learn from the scriptures and so they make mistakes just like all of us! Now when you get to Stake President and Bishop level nothing changes they are still only human! Sometimes callings are not made by the Spirit of Prophecy but because the leader thinks that person is best, sometimes the Spirit doesnt say it should be him or that woman. So the fact is the Church is true, we should expect mistakes to come! I’m grateful for church leadership, but i feel on this issue the Church isn’t perfect maybe my reforms wouldnt be everyones and i guess that is why im not prophet, but the reforms and programs are based on doctrine and the Prophets and Apostles are doing their best to get this problem out! I think it should be talked about, children should either know that they can talk to the Bishop and know what to do, have a hotline they can call, be taught from an early age to tell and noone will be mad with them. There should be more sensitivity to people who have been through this experience to help them understand that forgiveness is important but that because of the memories it takes time and that they are given that space without being judged by others! If Bishops are to help in the process of emotional healing they need to be trained to expect someone to know what to do when they haven’t is quite unfair. So whose responsibility is that? Thats what i mean by the Church isn’t infallible not trying to knock anybodies testimony, but how many do you think have left the church because they believe it is infallible and then found out that it is not! Jesus is going to sort his church out first at his Second Coming and then the world!
    Faithfully Yours.

  138. Can I ask people to use a little white space and paragraphing in their posts when they get long.

    It is hard for me to read otherwise.


  139. Jessica says she is fighting for change, but I don’t see how the courts will bring this about. Her campaign, if it is sincere, is tainted. People see her getting millions of dollars off of a man’s mistake who did not willfully wrong her. I believe she will be compared to the coffee lady who sued McDonalds. She had a point, but nobody remembers it.

    I’m sad about what happened. Sadder still that the wounds are being kept open through the adversarial court process and that nobody seems to notice that. Dale Carnegie said that arguing with somebody only makes them defensive, it doesn’t bring about change. Those hearing about these case will see it based on their already pre-conceived notions of the Church. Those who hate the church will use it as fuel to drag the Church’s name through the mud. Those who love the Church will see a girl whose eyes were filled with $$$. Even those who want to believe it is a noble cause may have a hard time defending how going after the Church for money is better than any other course of action. She has said here that she has been compensated, and any further compensation should come from the convicted criminal, not the group that tried to help.

    I’m sorry that so few here are advocating forgiveness and finding a better way to accomplish your goal. She was fully capable of telling the police. She was fully capable of telling her mother. It sounds like she told a friend. This does not seem like such a noble and altruistic endeavor to me as it is not as black and white as some here make it seem. Everyone has choice, no matter what happens. I’m sad that so many believe she had no choice after hearing bad advice from her Bishop. Sad today that many believe she has no choice but to take money from the Church when even she claims she does not need it.

    A girl has been hurt, and the encouragement she is getting is to keep the wounds open. I know what court proceedings are like. Neither happy, tranquil, nor peaceful. They bring heartache and turmoil. I would have a hard time believing that she has forgiven her Bishop or the Church. This case is not conducive to the healing of any soul. There are better ways.

  140. Jessica C. says:

    I am sorry CJR, that you seem so uninformed about who I am, and why I have done what I have done. I think it is a terrible mistake to think that as a 13 year old, I had the ability to go to the police on my own-especially after my bishop scared me to death about it. My mother was the wife of the pedophile, I did not feel comfortable going to her. Perhaps you should do some reading on the psychological state of mind of abuse victims.

    No one here is NOT advocating forgiveness. You choose to narrow your lens through which you view these posts and therefore miss the most important points that are being made.

    If you have read anything that I have said to the Seattle Times, you will have found out that I found the verdict to be vindicating.

    My case brings to light a terrible problem that plagues the Church. I hope my case wakes bishops up and tell victims that they shouldn’t be silenced by the shame. If you want to brush aside the aforementioned, then that is your decision, but I have done what I set out to do.

    Millions of dollars? NOT. Try again.

    Think again. My closest friends and family all love the Church and support me. Your view in this area seems to be black and white- (pot calling the kettle black???).

    And I haven’t been compensated.

    McDonald’s lady got millions of dollars? News to me. I believe the judge reduced the verdict. She sued because Mcdonalds wouldn’t pay her medical bills totalling less than $20,000 (I believe).

  141. Shouldn’t the question regarding Motherwell be whether or not the bishop was counseling Jessica in the religious context?

    Motherwell case states:
    Thus, we hold as a matter of statutory interpretation that members of the clergy counseling their parishioners in the religious context are not subject to the reporting requirement under former RCW 26.44.030.

    The other question, which no one has raised, is whether or not the friend’s conversation with the bishop, the one that preceded the meeting, in which the bishop was told of the abuse, was considered confidential–priest – penitent privilege, was it?

  142. CJR: Her bishop didn’t give her “bad advice” as you put. He enabled the abuse to continue when he could have stopped it.

    I think the main problem here is that people just can’t imagine a bishop would actually do what he is accused of doing, and even if that were to happen, I think people just can’t believe that the Church wouldn’t respond in an appropriate fashion.

    In order to be brief, I didn’t mention scores of other cases similar to this one in which the Church has responded poorly. In my own case, the first response the Church had to our report of wrongdoing by the leadership was to have legal contact us. They realized that the bishop had overstepped his bounds and talked to my husband to try and reach an understanding to insure that we wouldn’t be pressing charges against him and/or the church. This was never a thought that entered my mind.

    NOTHING has been done at this point to take to task the bishop and stake president who were out of line. This, unfortunately, is NOT an isolated incident.

    Though I did think about it ocassionally, I never actually felt like I should sue the church. However, I did get severely frustrated several times in dealing with the Church Office Building and leaders there. They didn’t really respond to me. I had to get my husband to step in before they would even listen, and then, they never actually talked to me or the victim–only my husband.

    I couldn’t believe the lack of interest in helping the victim or at least even making sure the pedophiles were not allowed to have callings where they interacted with children. Since these events, this bishop called my father to nursery!!! A calling which he accepted. And the Stake President knows about this as well.

    Unless you have been through this situation, you cannot imagine the horror of seeing good people do nothing–good people in high positions in the church. It is heartbreaking, testimony shaking, and tragic for the victims involved.

    Also, have you ever tried to sue someone? It’s not as easy as it looks on tv. You have to really have a case that someone thinks might actually win.

    You have to be willing to shell out lots of money. You have to be willing to give up friends, to endure gossip, ridicule, and other horrors. You have to be willing to relive the abuse as you have to recount it over and over.

    You have to be willing to be slandered and disrespected and hurt by people who you had hoped would be your friends. You have to sit through court staring at your perpetrator and the people who you would like to never have to see again.

    And then, you win your millions in a ruling. The other side appeals, you continue shelling out money to your lawyer(s), and there is a good possibility you will lose. This happens over YEARS.

    The great thing that comes out of it? If Jessica C. had just went on her way, would this dialogue be happening? Most likely not. I am sure Jessica tried to get people to change, but nobody really listened.

    So when did people start listening? When money was involved. Suddenly, everyone is listening. The church has issued a statement condemning abuse. Maybe Jessica is willing to endure being called all sorts of things in order to get people to finally LISTEN and DO SOMETHING.

    As far as forgiveness, it is a gift that Heavenly Father gives to us in His time. You have no idea what it is like to try and forgive someone who has murdered part of your soul. Do you have any idea how much many victims would like to be able to forgive and move on with their lives? If only it were that easy.

    I have noted that many people who are uncomfortable with this topic are very, very quick to pass judgment that because a person is holding someone accountable it means they have not forgiven them.

    I have forgiven my father and my brother, but if I had the opportunity to put my child molesting brother and father in jail, I would do everything in my power to see that they were held accountable. If I had the time and resources, I might sue them. Sometimes it IS the right thing to do, and forgiveness or lack thereof has nothing to do with it.

    Jessica C. does not come across to me as a vindictive money-grubbing person at all. In fact, I believe that she loves the church very much. That’s what makes this so hard.

    By the way, I haven’t heard that Jessica has received a check yet. Do we even know what she is going to do with her money–if she even gets it? Maybe she’ll donate it to charity–whatever’s left after paying the lawyers.

  143. Ms. Michelle-L says:

    Just on a side note here–

    Who is anyone to say that Jessica did NOT forgive her abuser?

    By using the revered logic of CJR, if someone is in prison or is living the consequences of their actions, they have not been forgiven by the oh-so-spiteful victim of the crime.

    So, if someone is serving a life-sentence for being a serial murderer, we should obviously let them out of prison once they are forgiven.

    Yeah, I certainly see the rationality of this thought.

    Also, it is possible not to forgive someone, and NOT be hateful/full of hate towards them or anyone else. I know this can be hard for certain people to comprehend, but it is possible.

    CJR stated:

    “A girl has been hurt, and the encouragement she is getting is to keep the wounds open. I know what court proceedings are like. Neither happy, tranquil, nor peaceful. They bring heartache and turmoil. I would have a hard time believing that she has forgiven her Bishop or the Church. This case is not conducive to the healing of any soul. There are better ways.”

    By the way, I’ve never known of any victim who has regretted testifying against his/her abuser. Sounds like their really “keeping the wounds open”–for the abuser, may be. It’s never easy to get caught and then have to deal with it. You know how inconvenient and uncomfortable it can be for the pedophile if the victim doesn’t just ‘forgive, and move on, be happy’….I’m sure that pedophiles really do have the children’s best interest at heart.

    “I know what court proceedings are like. Neither happy, tranquil, nor peaceful.”

    Exactly. All the more reason to believe she didn’t do it for the money.

    “This case is not conducive to the healing of any soul. There are better ways.”

    I’d really like to hear some real suggestions that would be possible to put into action.

    Also, if we are to take the scriptures literally, didn’t Jesus say to forgive “even seventy times seven”? Some children have actually had to endure being abused that many times.

    Or, how about the following:

    (From D&C 98:44)

    “But if he trespass against thee the fourth time thou shalt not forgive him, but shalt bring these testimonies before the Lord; and they shall not be blotted out until he repent and reward thee four-fold in all things wherewith he has trespassed against thee.”

    Hmm. Interesting. Of course, some people will do nothing, and only see what they want to see.

  144. Jessica says she is fighting for change, but I don’t see how the courts will bring this about. Her campaign, if it is sincere, is tainted. People see her getting millions of dollars off of a man’s mistake who did not willfully wrong her. I believe she will be compared to the coffee lady who sued McDonalds. She had a point, but nobody remembers it.

    A way to alleviate that stigma may be to donate what is awarded to a charity or organization that deals with abused children.

  145. A way to alleviate that stigma may be to donate what is awarded to a charity or organization that deals with abused children.

    I would never compare her to the coffee lady. I dont see it my place to judge what she does with this money any more than it would be my place to judge what she did with lawnmowing money.

  146. Who said I was judging?

  147. “But if he trespass against thee the fourth time thou shalt not forgive him, but shalt bring these testimonies before the Lord; and they shall not be blotted out until he repent and reward thee four-fold in all things wherewith he has trespassed against thee.”

    This passage is purely contextual. The NT passage (seventy times seven) is much more on target. It is, of course, not literal, but rather insists that we should forgive someone infinitely no matter how many times they trespass against us.

  148. Jessica,

    I am glad that you got the Church’s attention. There is little that members can do when the source of the abuse is from leadership, or when the leadership actively hinders getting the truth.

    We ask a lot of our bishops, and I think the Church does them and the membership a disservice by not providing more support for either the victims or the leaders who really are trying. It seems like there are pamphlets for everything else–why not something for abuse victims?

    President Hinkley, I believe, is trying. It is the bureaucracy that gets in the way. Too many people want to believe it doesn’t happen here, so they deny it and discourage victims from getting the help that only the Gospel can give.

    By the way, THAT is the reason to go to the bishop–he is the representative of Christ, who is the ultimate source of healing.

  149. While forgiveness is certainly part of the healing process, I think it’s rather insensitive to assume that the solution to abusive situations is that simple. The abused typically would need to seek professional assistance from those trained to assist in emotional healing. Forgiveness will come eventually, but in the meantime I think it’s important to worry about bringing the perpetrators to legal justice and getting appropriate help to the victims.

    If nothing else, this lawsuit will require the Church to re-evaluate the responsibilities that are to be laid upon bishops’ shoulders, as well as the training given them to ensure the proper execution of their calling. While they are certainly qualified to act as counsellors in a variety of situations, there are certainly conditions that they are not trained to handle. But they should at least know how to direct the person to the proper resources. If abuse is involved, they need to understand that proper legal action must be taken, and psychological healing will probably be handled by those other than himself.

  150. Why am I reminded of Scott Adams’ (creator of Dilbert) critique of internet debate. I said she needs to forgive her Bishop, not the pedo. A lawsuit that is most likely heling to destroy him and his life is hardly conducive to forgiveness. It’s debatable that what she is doing is right. So to hurt somebody that much for a gray issue is hardly a good thing. To take money from the Church, which is used to help God’s children whether spiritually or temporally is not a good thing. If it were to compensate her, it would be ok. But it’s just out of spite.

    It seems to me that the people who already knew there was a problem are the ones supporting her. That who don’t know what to think still don’t know. I stand by my statements. This conversation hardly shows changes of heart.

  151. CJR- For someone who has played no part in the happenings of the last 12-13 years, you seem to think you know everything about it and the people involved. Since when did protecting children become a gray issue?

  152. CJR, it isn’t clear that the Bishop is being harmed, other than having to testify in court. The Church is paying all the bills after all.

    Once again because I don’t know the details I’m loath to judge one way or the other. I think it unfortunate that many on both sides seem to have no such compunction of reaching conclusions without much data.

  153. Henry,

    The purpose of the court’s noting the “religious setting” is to clarify that clergy aren’t exempted because of their status but because of their role. A police officer who failed to follow proper reporting protocols while on the job, for example, couldn’t argue that he was exempt from mandatory reporting because he happens to be a Mormon bishop, and clergy are exempted from the reporting requirement!

    The circumstances of Jessica’s conversation with her bishop are exactly the kind the court has in mind when they speak of a religious setting — Jessica spoke to him specifically because he was her religious leader.

  154. Jessica,

    I’m very interested in seeing how your lawyer used the Motherwell case. Are any of the court proceedings available yet? I trust that you haven’t knowingly misrepresented the Motherwell case and have simply relied on what your lawyer told you. If that’s the case, you should question your lawyer about it, as it appears that he’s misrepresented the law to you, presumably in hope of getting you as a client, and then did the same thing to the jury, in hope of lining his pockets.

    Since the Motherwell case proves that Washington’s mandatory reporting statute doesn’t apply to clergy, and that your bishop *didn’t* break the law, I think you should reconsider dealing with a lawyer who didn’t know that. If he couldn’t understand the Motherwell case he’s grossly incompetent, and if he misrepresented it to you and the jury, he’s unethical. Either way, there’s no reason for you to let him make bogus arguments in your name. You’ve been victimized enough already.

    Another reason I’d strongly urge you to reconsider is that the judges hearing the church’s appeal are certain to comprehend the Motherwell case and throw out the verdict against the church. But even though the church won’t have to pay any money in damages, if you ask your lawyer to fight the losing appeal the church will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to show that your lawyer never had a case against the church in the first place.

    In any event, I wish you the best.

  155. Matt,

    Let me see if I understand you clearly. You think Jessica should fire her lawyers and drop her case. You think she is illinformed and operating without ethics. You think bogus arguments are made in her name. She is allowing herself to be victimized (I read into that that she also allowed herself to be victimized in the first place, though I base that as much on tone and your reputation and less on the last comment)

    Your concern is tens of thousands of dollars this could save the church, for a case that was never had (except of course for that jury saying they had a case, and won)

    Uh Matt, heed the prophets advice and skip those home poker games. This was all quite predictable, the church is right and the jury and victim are wrong – now give back the money and you will be right in heaven.

    Jessica, dont believe this. You won because your case was better and the defendents were found liable.

    The patronizing wish at the end there Matt, was…. well. ….. cute and patronizing. Did you intend it otherwise?

  156. Isn’t the interpretation of the Motherwell case by Jessica’ attorney something the judge would rule on before it is presented to the jury in the jury instructions?

    I think it is incorrect to say that just because someone is a religious clergyman or woman, any conversation a person has with them is considered to be in the religious context. The argument that is being made by Jessica/her lawyer is the specific conversation she had with the bishop had nothing to do with religious/spiritual counseling, but merely seeking help.

    I believe I am also correct in stating that it wasn’t one lawyer who represented Jessica, but a lawyer and a rather large and established law firm. I would be careful in questioning their legal ability since they seem to be one of the more successful firms in the Seattle area.

    Can anyone answer my question above? Was the conversation the bishop had with Jessica’s friend considered confidential?

  157. Henry,

    I’ll try to answer your questions. The court in Motherwell didn’t bother to look to the content of the conversations to determine whether they were in a religious context, assuming without question that these conversations took place in a religious setting. With the context of the conversations not at issue, the only question was whether the three men having conversations in a religious setting were clergy. Without looking at the substance of their conversations, defendant Hartley was exempted from the reporting requirement because he was an ordained minister, while the other two were not because they weren’t ordained ministers at the time of the relevant conversations.

    [W]e hold as a matter of statutory interpretation that members of the clergy counseling their parishioners in the religious context are not subject to the reporting requirement under former RCW 26.44.030. Because defendants Motherwell and Mensonides were not ordained ministers when they first learned of the suspected child abuse, they do not fall within the exemption. Their convictions are affirmed. Because he was an ordained minister at all relevant times, Hartley does fall within the exemption. His conviction is reversed.

    Without examining the substance of the conversations, the court appears to have ruled that during the conversations all three defendants were acting as “religious counselors.”

    Although Motherwell and Mensonides were not ordained ministers, they were acting as religious counselors. In that capacity, they raise a number of constitutional issues. We turn now to those issues.

    And remember that the court in Motherwell only got to the question of a clergy exemption *after* they had determined the three church employees were social workers in a “professional capacity” because they were *employed* to counsel their congregation. Jessica’s bishop is not a professional counselor, he’s a church volunteer, so Jessica’s lawyer will lose both of the two prongs (professional capacity and clergy exception) at the appellate court.

  158. JessY,

    Of course I wish Jessica the best. Disagreeing that the church was responsible for her abuse doesn’t mean I don’t want what’s best for her. For the reasons I mentioned above, andn for the reasons the court outlined in the Motherwell, I think the Washington legislature and courts are right to exempt clergy from mandatory reporting laws, even when they are paid clergy who counsel for a living.

    Jessica has nothing to do with her lawyer’s incompetence or dishonesty. Unfortunately for her lawyer, her innocence doesn’t make either competent or honest. And like I said before, I don’t have enough information to know whether he’s dishonest or merely incompetent. (His firm bio doesn’t help me. He went to law school at Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College, which is ranked 65 by USNews, 13 slots _below_ Harriet Miers’ law school. And his photo doesn’t help, either, as he posed to look like a deep thinker, but managed to look like he’s deeply thinking how to get that nice lady into a ’98 LaSabre. (No offense intended to respectablt blowdried used-car salesman!)).

    Lawyer jokes aside, if this guy told Jessica that the Motherwell case shows her bishop broke the law, he’s either incompetent or dishonest. And even with lawyer jokes aside, having worked with many lawyers and had reason to read the work of many lawyers, I can confirm that many lawyers are awful, both regarding competence and honesty. Lawyers can get a lot of money if they can convince their client and jury, so the temptation’s always there to cut corners, and they may have motives at odds with their clients. He may relish pulling the church through the mud.

    Anyway, I think the guy is bad news, and encourage Jessica to ask a lawyer she trusts to read the Motherwell case and help her figure out if her lawyer is competent and honest.


  1. […] Over at Viva Ned Flanders and BCC the plaintiff in the recent Washington State case against the Church has left some interesting comments. One of the things that she claims is that she would have been happy to drop the suit if the Church had been forthcoming with an apology. I see no reason to doubt her sincerity. Apologies, however, are a tricky thing. Were I the Church’s lawyer in such a case, I would feel professionally obligated to make the following arguments to my client against making such an apology: Such an apology could be construed as a confession of liability. This could have implications far beyond the current dispute. First, just because the plaintiff in this action is willing to drop her suit with an apology, does not mean that everyone else who might have a claim flowing out of the same transaction will also drop their claims. They may invoke the apology as an admission against you. Second, the apology might be introduced into evidence in unrelated suits as evidence of a particular pattern or practice of misconduct on your part. Furthermore, don’t think that informal personal conversations are not subject to all of the same sorts of problems. It is unlikely that such a conversation would come under the priest-penitent evidentiary privilege. Nor will the hear-say rule save you, as it would be a party admission even if the plaintiff were put on the stand to testify as to your words. Besides which, in the absence of a priest-penitent claim, even your most personal conversations are subject to discovery and you could be required to testify about them. Aside from purely legal consequences in this or other suits, developing a reputation as a soft defendant could have huge financial implications. It will make you into a more attractive target for marginal suits. Even if ultimately these suits are without merit, you will expend considerable resources defending them. (My fees are not cheap!) Finally, you need to consider the ethical and possibly legal duties that you have to conserve your assets to pursue your other goals. You are the manager of a limited fund and must think about the extent to which you can in good faith put that fund in jeopardy. […]