Hailey, Idaho– Allegedly abuse, John Goodrich, a former bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faces accusations of sexually abusing his daughter, Chelsea Goodrich.
In March 2017, Utah attorney Paul Rytting, head of the church’s Risk Management Division, flew into Hailey, Idaho, to meet with Chelsea and her mother, Lorraine. The meeting sought answers to a crucial question: would the church permit a local bishop to testify at John Goodrich’s trial? Bishop Michael Miller, who had heard a spiritual confession from John, was present at the meeting. The church, however, discouraged Miller from testifying, citing a law exempting clergy from disclosing information obtained during confessions of child sex abuse.
Audio recordings obtained by The Associated Press reveal a startling sequence of events. Rytting expressed concern for John’s “significant sexual transgression” but employed the risk management playbook to discourage testimony that could aid the prosecution. Subsequently, Chelsea and Lorraine were devastated as the authorities dropped the charges against John.
The Offer of Silence
Rytting went further, offering hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for a confidentiality agreement. The church asked Chelsea and Lorraine to destroy their recordings of meetings, highlighting the lengths it was willing to go to keep the matter confidential. The recordings, made at the recommendation of an attorney and with Rytting’s knowledge, captured the church’s attempts to navigate the legal landscape.
Today, John Goodrich practices dentistry in Idaho, a free man, as the legal maneuvers orchestrated by the church have shielded him from the full consequences of the alleged abuse.
Unraveling Chelsea’s Ordeal
Chelsea Goodrich’s journey began in 2015 when she started confronting disturbing memories from her childhood. As a 29-year-old graduate student in psychology, she grappled with traumatic recollections of her father slipping into her bed while aroused. The alleged incidents occurred in their Idaho home, with the abuse continuing during a school field trip to Washington, D.C.
Chelsea’s decision to confide in her mother and, subsequently, involve the church marked the beginning of a complex legal and emotional battle. The revelations about John Goodrich’s actions led to his excommunication from the church in 2015, but the legal fallout took unexpected turns.
The Church’s Legal Conflicts
The AP’s investigation into Rytting’s involvement revealed his dual roles as a defender of the church in high-profile child sex abuse cases and a confidant for victims. Rytting’s sworn statements in a West Virginia case disclosed the church’s secretive management of the Helpline, a phone number for bishops to report child sex abuse. The church, however, claims not to keep any records of reports to the Helpline, creating a contradiction in Rytting’s testimony.
In the case of John Goodrich, Rytting’s involvement in settlement negotiations with Chelsea and Lorraine exposed a pattern of nondisclosure agreements, a common tool to keep abuse allegations confidential. Chelsea’s acceptance of the settlement did not prevent her from sharing her story with the public.
The Church’s Response
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints emphasized its commitment to addressing and preventing abuse. The church terminated John Goodrich’s membership in 2015 upon learning of the abuse. The statement rejects claims of prior confessions, citing Idaho state law that protected communications between John and his bishop.
The church’s settlement with Chelsea in 2017 is acknowledged, with an emphasis on the survivor’s ability to speak openly about the abuse. The statement asserts that the church played no role in influencing the prosecutor to dismiss the criminal case.
Unanswered Questions and Ongoing Concerns
Despite legal settlements and official statements, questions linger about the church’s role in handling allegations of abuse within its ranks. Chelsea Goodrich, distanced from her community and family, remains focused on protecting other children.
The dark secrets surrounding John Goodrich’s alleged abuse case not only highlight the individual’s experience but also raise broader questions about the responsibilities and actions of institutions when faced with allegations of abuse within their community.
A1: The church invoked a law exempting clergy from divulging information obtained during confessions of child sex abuse, discouraging a key witness from testifying.
A2: Paul Rytting, head of the church’s Risk Management Division, employed a risk management playbook to navigate legal challenges, offering settlements and discouraging testimony.
A3: Chelsea and her mother accepted a settlement, but the terms allowed Chelsea to speak openly about the abuse. The settlement included a nondisclosure agreement.
A4: Discrepancies arise regarding the church’s record-keeping on the Helpline and conflicting statements about whether prior confessions were made by John Goodrich.