How Should Our Community Handle Wrong Decisions Made By Our Church?
Trigger Warning: Child Abuse and Sexual Abuse.
Everyone who reads or writes for this blog has a connection to Mormonism on some level. For some it is an interest, for others it is their religious practice. And for others it is the cultural background. Some fit all these categories. On some level, we are all part of the Mormon community. So how do we as a community deal with an issue like this one that was in the news this week?
The church is being sued for covering up sexual abuse of children by a church member. This deals with cover-ups on multiple levels. First, local leaders did not protect children in their area from a sexual predator in their ward, even though they knew about his behavior. But this case goes beyond local leaders. In the indictment, the church as an organization is accused of covering up the abuse, of encouraging and in some cases threatening, members to stay silent and not report the abuse. It says
“The Church has not accepted responsibility for what it did and, equally importantly, for what it failed to do, despite being confronted with Micheal Jensen’s [the abuser] abuse on several occasions, the obvious harm caused, and its own protective and enabling hand in the events. Instead, it has continued its cover-up, sending emissaries from Salt Lake City, Utah to Martinsburg, West Virginia, who instructed fact witnesses not to talk with counsel for the Plaintiffs. Through Church leaders, it has tried to intimidate Plaintiffs from pursuing this action, and has directed fellow church members to prevail upon Plaintiffs to abandon their claims lest they run afoul of Church teachings regarding forgiveness. The Church, resultantly, not only made Michael Jensen’s conduct possible in the first instance, but it also has multiplied the harm to its victims, with its campaign to ostracize them from their faith community and deter them from pursuing justices for their families.”
The most disturbing part of this for me is the accusations against the church. Yes, there are individual members who do terrible things. There are even individual church leaders who make horrible mistakes. There is no excuse for the actions of the individuals involved in this case. But for the church as an institution to decide to cover up the abuse of children is utterly unconscionable. It is an organization deciding to intimidate witnesses, to try to prevent a criminal from being prosecuted. I cannot conceive of a single good reason for this to happen, for the church to make such a choice.
How do we, as a Mormon community deal with this information? How do handle our relationship with the church? My decisions has been to end the relationship. I have sent a letter to have my name removed from the records of the church. My choice is not to be associated with an organization that makes these kind of choices. But that is my decision. How do you deal with this information?