Hidden Confessions of the Mormon Church

Hidden Confessions of the Mormon Church

By The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

In this week’s episode, produced in collaboration with The Associated Press, secret audio recordings expose a legal playbook used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that keeps evidence of sex abuse out of reach of authorities.

AP reporters Michael Rezendes and Jason Dearen investigate the case of a former Mormon bishop, John Goodrich, who was accused of sexually abusing his daughter Chelsea. 

The story opens in Hailey, Idaho, with Chelsea Goodrich and her mother, Lorraine, locked in discussions with the director of the Mormon church’s risk management division, Paul Rytting. One of Rytting’s jobs is to protect the church from legal liability, including sexual abuse lawsuits.

The women had come to the meeting with one clear request: Would the church allow a local Idaho bishop, which in the Mormon church is akin to a Catholic priest, to testify at John Goodrich’s trial? Bishop Michael Miller, who accompanied Rytting to the meeting, had heard John Goodrich’s confession before he was arrested on charges of lewd behavior with a minor.

Audio recordings of the meeting and others show how Rytting, despite expressing concern for what he called John Goodrich’s “significant sexual transgression,” would discourage Miller from testifying, citing an Idaho law that exempts clergy from having to divulge information about child sex abuse that is gleaned in a confession.

In the episode’s final segment, Rezendes and Dearen sit down with guest host Michael Montgomery to discuss why states across the country exempt clergy from mandatory reporting laws that are meant to protect children from abuse.

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