Explosive report claims Mormon leaders knew about child sex abuse in church — and 'let it happen'
The temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kensington, Maryland, near Washington, will open its doors to non-members in April for the first time in decades Eva HAMBACH AFP

On Thursday, the Associated Press released a new report alleging that leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were aware of extensive child sex abuse going on in their congregations — and "let it happen."

In one striking case the report detailed, a parishioner admitted to his bishop that he was sexually abusing his five-year-old daughter. "The bishop, who was also a family physician, followed church policy and called what church officials have dubbed the 'help line' for guidance ... Lawyers for the church, widely known as the Mormon church, who staff the help line around the clock told Bishop John Herrod not to call police or child welfare officials. Instead he kept the abuse secret. 'They said, ‘You absolutely can do nothing,’' Herrod said in a recorded interview with law enforcement."

"The Associated Press has obtained nearly 12,000 pages of sealed records from an unrelated child sex abuse lawsuit against the Mormon church in West Virginia," said the report. "The documents offer the most detailed and comprehensive look yet at the so-called help line Herrod called. Families of survivors who filed the lawsuit said they show it’s part of a system that can easily be misused by church leaders to divert abuse accusations away from law enforcement and instead to church attorneys who may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way."

"William Maledon, an Arizona attorney representing the bishops and the church in a lawsuit filed by three of the Adams’ six children, told the AP last month that the bishops were not required to report the abuse," the report noted. "'These bishops did nothing wrong. They didn’t violate the law, and therefore they can’t be held liable,' he said. Maledon referred to the suit as 'a money grab.'"

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This report comes amid years of similar investigations and reports into other major Christian denominations, and how they have handled sexual abuse cases.

The Roman Catholic Church, for instance, has for years been accused of covering up cases of priests abusing children, with former Pope Benedict XVI even admitting to have mishandled such a case himself while he was archbishop of Munich, Germany. Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist Convention is dealing with the fallout of a 300-page report on abuse within their churches and efforts by top Baptist leaders to protect people on an internal list of more than 700 known predatory pastors.