Mormon Church to examine its role in Brock sex-abuse case

The Arizona Republic/January 26, 2011

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be "looking into" its role in the Susan Brock case following the release of police reports that show Susan and her husband, Maricopa County Supervisor Fulton Brock, met with their local church stake president and the parents of a boy at the center of Brock's sex case more than a year before she was arrested.

Kim Farah, spokeswoman for the national church in Salt Lake City, Utah, said officials are not commenting on specifics of the case but "we are just learning about the (police report) documents . . . now that we've been made aware of them we will be looking into it." Farah referred to the church's lengthy written policy on reporting child abuse.

The policy takes a "zero-tolerance" position on child sex abuse and puts protection of victims above confidentiality between clergy and adults.

"Helping the victim is of first concern. 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," the policy reads. To encourage clergy do this, the church established a help-line that "provides bishops with immediate access to professional counselors to guide them in protecting abuse victims."

Farah also said the meeting that took place in October 2009 "was not held to discuss allegations of sexual abuse. The victim's family asked for the meeting to discuss their concerns about improper gifts and influence''.

The police report says the parents of the victim, 17, whom Susan Brock pleaded guilty to attempting to molest, met with Chandler LDS Stake President Mitch Jones in October 2009 to discuss "frustration with Mrs. Brock's interference in (their) son's life."

The father of the victim asked Brock if she was having "sexual relations" with his son and she denied it, the report says.

Under state law any person "who reasonably believes that a minor is or has been a victim of abuse" must report the alleged abuse to authorities. Communications and confessions to clergy are exempt, but personal observations of clergy are not. A phone message left for Jones at his Chandler home was not returned. It is unknown if he used the church's child abuse help-line.

In an e-mail forwarded by Farah, Arizona LDS spokeswoman Cindy Packard said when local church officials became aware of the sexual relationship between Susan Brock and the victim in October "these leaders were instrumental in getting the matter reported to law enforcement authorities."

Farah would not identify the leaders by name, but police records indicate the matter was reported by the victim's father.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the victim in this case. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not condone child abuse in any form and will not tolerate such actions by anyone affiliated with our faith," Packard wrote.

Frank Verderame, a Phoenix attorney who has represented clergy sex-abuse victims, said it would be difficult to hold Jones legally responsible after Susan Brock's denial and without information from the victim. "But some would say under the circumstances he had an obligation to meet with and confront the child. You don't need a law to know what the right thing to do is," Verderame said.

Attorney Melvin McDonald,said Susan Brock could be sued by the victim for her actions but the church's liability is uncertain if there was no direct disclosure of her actions to the stake president. McDonald is a former U.S. Attorney and former Maricopa County Superior Court judge who has defended child sex-abuse suspects and is a member of the Mormon Church.

"I am not surprised that she pulled this off," McDonald said of Susan Brock's years of contact with the victim and her husband's insistence that he knew nothing about it. "If there's one flaw with Mormons, it's the trust."

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