Sun. Mar 3rd, 2024
alert-–-mormon-church-couldn’t-care-less-about-sex-abuse-victims,-claims-son-of-pedophile-bishop-who-was-‘shielded’-by-religious-leader-now-charged-with-covering-up-crimesAlert – Mormon church couldn’t care less about sex abuse victims, claims son of pedophile bishop who was ‘shielded’ by religious leader now charged with covering up crimes

Matthew Gooden had not been born when his father, Shawn, began sexually assaulting two young relatives, aged eight and nine.

Matthew spent the first twenty years of his life blissfully unaware of the harrowing truth, leading what he thought was a normal upbringing in the Mormon church, in which his father had risen to the rank of bishop.

It was not until Gooden’s arrest in September 2022 that he was exposed as the monster he was.

But to his son’s horror, it transpired that church leaders had known of the abuse allegations almost two years earlier, but ‘kept it secret’ from police and the wider community.

Mormon leader Rhett Hintze was charged by Pennsylvania State Police on January 31 with failing to report a victim’s account to the authorities.

Rhett Hintze, a Mormon leader in Pennsylvania, was charged on January 31 with failure to report allegations of child sex abuse against a former bishop under his stewardship

Rhett Hintze, a Mormon leader in Pennsylvania, was charged on January 31 with failure to report allegations of child sex abuse against a former bishop under his stewardship

The former bishop, Shawn Gooden, was sentenced last year to up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges including the forcible sodomy of a minor

The former bishop, Shawn Gooden, was sentenced last year to up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges including the forcible sodomy of a minor

The case echoes a series of 'cover ups' within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon church

The case echoes a series of ‘cover ups’ within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon church

Instead, the church hierarchy quietly excommunicated Gooden but allowed him to continue attending church functions and meetings with children present, Matthew has claimed.

The shocking case echoes a series of ‘cover ups’ within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon church, exposed by an extensive DailyMail.com investigation last year.

And Matthew believes it is indicative of its callous attitude towards abuse.

‘The church is interested in protecting its leaders, its reputation, and the victims and their families can just go to hell,’ he told DailyMail.com.

Matthew describes what he felt was a regular childhood growing up in a Mormon community in Pennsylvania.

His father was a partner at a Harrisburg law firm and an upstanding member of the Mormon community.

He was selected for senior leadership roles, including bishop and first counselor of the Lebanon County ward.

There was no hint of malice or deviancy, let alone the sexual abuse of two young relatives from 1997 to 2000, when the victims were aged between eight to 12 and nine to 13 years old.

Matthew was three when his father’s abuse of his young relatives stopped.

Two decades of family life passed by without a word being whispered.

That was until one of the victims began therapy in 2020.

Gooden was a respected member of the Mormon community and rose to the rank of bishop and first counselor of the Lebanon County ward. He was also a partner at a Harrisburg law firm

Gooden was a respected member of the Mormon community and rose to the rank of bishop and first counselor of the Lebanon County ward. He was also a partner at a Harrisburg law firm

In October that year, the truth came out during a counseling session. The therapist fulfilled their statutory duty as a mandated reporter and informed Virginia police – many of the assaults had occurred in the Woodbridge area of that state.

But the victim also told the Lebanon County stake president – a church leader who oversees multiple wards – Rhett Hintze.

Due to his senior position within the community, Hintze was also a mandated reporter.

But, unlike the therapist, he did not report the revelations to the authorities, according to a Pennsylvania State Police report released Wednesday.

Not only that, but the church even offered to spare Gooden the humiliation of excommunication if he confessed to police, Matthew claims.

Gooden refused and he was ultimately removed from church rolls.

But no one else – not even Gooden’s family – was to know.

‘From that point on, the matter of his excommunication was still largely kept a secret. I wasn’t even aware of it at the time.

‘Everyone continued to believe he was a member in good standing. He was attending church, he was participating in all the church functions.

‘It wasn’t really until September of 2022, when Virginia authorities issued the arrest warrant, that the wider world knew.’

Matthew had learnt of the allegations a few months earlier, when his father first told him he had been excommunicated ‘for something he felt he needed to repent’, before telling him why shortly after.

But still, it came as a total shock.

‘I’d never in a million years thought that he would have been that kind of person,’ Matthew, now 26, says.

Church President President Russell M. Nelson

Church President President Russell M. Nelson

READ MORE: Mormon leaders accused of ‘covering up’ an ‘epidemic’ of sexual abuse that rivals scandals in Catholic church 

Katie Medley, 35, has blasted the Mormon church for failing to take action against a doctor and ecclesiastical leader who allegedly sexually abused her and around 200 other women

Katie Medley, 35, has blasted the Mormon church for failing to take action against a doctor and ecclesiastical leader who allegedly sexually abused her and around 200 other women

In July last year, Gooden pled guilty in Virginia to two counts of forcible sodomy with a child under the age of 13, one count of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of taking indecent liberties with a minor.

He was sentenced in November to up to five years in jail.

Gooden, 48, is awaiting trial on separate charges in Pennsylvania, including the rape of a minor.

His erstwhile Mormon colleague, Hintze, 50, is now also facing years behind bars.

Pennsylvania State Police say Hintze was informed of allegations that Gooden had sexually assaulted a 12-year-old boy at French Creek State Park in April 2000 by both the victim and Gooden himself in October 2020, but failed to pass this onto the authorities.

Failure to report sexual abuse as a mandated reported is a third-degree felony in Pennsyvlania, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

It is not the first time the Mormon church has failed to report allegations of abuse against its leaders.

In November, DailyMail.com uncovered police records that showed it failed to report a bishop who had confessed to sexually abusing a minor in Idaho.

A high-profile case in Arizona last year saw a court rule that church officials had no duty to report a member of his ward who had confessed to sexually abusing his daughter due to ‘clergy-penitent privilege’.

The abuser, Paul Douglas Adams, continued raping his daughter for seven years after he admitted to his bishop, John Herrod, that his behavior was out of control.

The inconsistency is due to the fact that 33 states exempt clergy from reporting information about alleged child abuse to the authorities if it was gleaned during spiritual confession.

Pennsylvania is one of those states, but the fact that Hintze was told by the victim about the alleged abuse may explain why he has been charged.

As to why Mormon leaders appear unwilling to report abuse, Matthew has a number of possible explanations.

‘The first obligation of any church or organization needs to be to protect its most vulnerable,’ he says.

‘In this case, and in others across the United States, we’re seeing that the church is not living up to that.

‘It’s focused on preserving its own name and reputation and that of the people they put into power.

‘To do that, they are overlooking the needs of victims and families.

‘Their response is to take a step back and wipe its hands clean of the situation.’

Gooden and Hintze worked closely together in their roles as leaders of the Lebanon ward.

Matthew, who is still a member of the church and a student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, says they considered themselves friends and would often hang out outside church business.

He believes this relationship is ‘problematic’ when it comes to allegations of abuse and often leads to a conflict of interest.

Matthew believes Hintze’s decision to allow his father to continue attending church functions until his arrest years after his confession was wrong not only due to safeguarding, but due to the reverence that male leaders are held in within the Mormon church.

‘There were plenty of people in the ward who still looked to him [Gooden] as a source of guidance,’ he says.

In a statement provided by Hintze’s attorney, the Mormon church said it ‘works actively to prevent abuse. Our hearts ache for victims of abuse, and the church is committed to addressing such incidents wherever they are found’.

It added: ‘The church trains its leaders and supports their lawful efforts. The charges now brought by local prosecutors for failing to report the abuse are misguided, and the church will vigorously defend him.’

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