He molested his own children, and there were several of them — boys and girls. He served 10 years in prison for it, and now he’s out. This much is public record. He’s now attending our ward again. This is the third time he’s shown up at our ward with a new wife, his previous two marriages ending after he continued to molest children. He is, unfortunately, disarmingly charming. I do not know the status of his membership. He does not hold a calling that I know of, but he is a frequent and articulate participant in class discussions.

The bishopric seems to have erred on the side of being passive. They’ve supported some measures introduced by ward leaders to try to help with the situation — like many wards, primary-aged children in our ward must now wait for their parents pick them up. There are probably several other measures that other ward leaders have taken that I haven’t noticed.

One woman in the ward recognized him, and took it upon herself to tell other ward members. But the bishop is treating this as an entirely confidential matter, and has told only a few select leaders about it. From what I understand, he believes that those ward leaders whom he has informed can keep a close enough eye on him, and that it’s not an “issue” or a “situation” so long as they take the atonement of Christ seriously.

There is no reason to treat this as a confidential matter, because there’s nothing confidential — info on this sort of thing is freely available (check out whether there are convicted sex offenders in your area right here). Abusers prey on people’s reluctance to talk about their activities. Whether it’s the guilt that the abused children feel, the shame that their parents feel, or the discomfort that people in general have in talking about it, it all plays into their hands and enables them. Every parent should know, just ask the family of Megan Nicole Kanka. Withholding this information violates the trust of every member. It is Satan who wants us to keep quiet about this.

The bishop is also wrong about the obligations that we incur by believing in the atonement. I don’t know whether this man has been forgiven. That’s between him and the Lord. I do know that the rate of recidivism for child molesters is close to 100%. I also know that ignoring severe risks at the expense of those under our charge is not faithfulness. The church’s policy dictates that this man should never receive a calling that involves the youth. Is this a sign that the church doesn’t believe in the atonement?

One who really takes the atonement seriously understands that the truly repentant will grasp the nature of the threat that they pose, and they will understand the need to take steps to protect against it. If Christ has really changed this man’s heart, then he will recognize the danger more readily than anyone.

So long as the bishop withholds this information, and so long as he councils his ward leadership to keep it confidential, he will share culpability for this man’s actions should he molest again. This means that he will have run afoul of Christ’s warning, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

How would you feel if nobody told you about a known child-molester attending church, and your child ended up being molested while you were discussing something related to your calling in the parking lot? If you knew that there was a child molester attending your ward, wouldn’t you be more likely to help wandering children find their class or their parents?

Many geographical communities maintain public registries of convicted sex offenders. I’ve even heard of community pools where there are posters containing photos of convicted sex offenders who live in the area. These communities take seriously the obligation that they have to protect their children. Sadly, I just don’t have a lot of confidence that my spiritual community recognizes the same obligation.

I plan to discuss this with my bishop. I’ve written this anonymously, because I don’t want identify who he is before I’ve discussed the matter directly with him, and with whatever other leaders it may be necessary to take it up with. This is anonymous not because I wish to hide, but because they deserve a chance to get it right. Stay tuned, though. If nothing changes, I’ll be more forthcoming.

In the meantime, I think that it’s important that we discuss these things as openly as possible.