Mandatory reporting of abuse

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Mandatory reporting of abuse

Question: Why don't bishops report every possible abuse to law enforcement?

"The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse their spouses, children, other family members, or anyone else violate the laws of God and man. . . . When abuse occurs, the first and immediate responsibility of Church leaders is to help those who have been abused and to protect vulnerable persons from future abuse."[1]

Given the Church's position, why don't bishops report every possible abuse to law enforcement? Bishops operate under the clergy confessional privilege, which helps people who have sinned have confidence that disclosing sins to the bishop will not automatically result in legal action. This allows the person to begin the process of repentance and change, to leave behind the sinful activity. (As part of this repentance process, the person is encouraged to voluntarily report to law enforcement.) When this confessional privilege is absent, people may be less inclined to seek help to change. In fact, multiple studies have shown that mandatory reporting laws do not decrease abuse, and some research indicates these laws may actually contribute to an increase in abuse (see C.D. Cunningham, below, and Mical Raz, below).

By counseling confidentially with perpetrators of abuse, and as appropriate restricting or withdrawing a person's Church membership, bishops are able to protect others as well as help the perpetrator repent, thus preventing future abuse.[2]

For further study, consider the following:



Notes

  1. 38.6.2 "Abuse," General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2022).
  2. See 32.2 "Purposes of Church Membership Restrictions or Withdrawal," General Handbook.