Next step in case of suspended Mesa priest will be hearing in Rome - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Next step in case of suspended Mesa priest will be hearing in Rome

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Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2011 12:05 pm | Updated: 5:25 pm, Thu Aug 25, 2011.

A priest remains suspended from St. Timothy’s Catholic Community in Mesa on allegations of sexually abusing a teenage boy about 25 years ago, and details of the case next will be reviewed by a Rome-based Catholic authority that will hear the case.

It will be at least two to three months before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican in Rome could begin looking into the information a former FBI agent compiled for the Diocese of Phoenix surrounding allegations of sexual abuse involving the Rev. Jack Spaulding.

The diocese has yet to submit the case to Rome, and a canon attorney representing Spaulding has yet to file a response to the allegations. That attorney contends that when the victim told those close to him about the alleged abuse by a priest at St. Maria Goretti Church in Scottsdale in the 1980s, he never disclosed a specific name. Spaulding served at St. Maria Goretti from November 1982 to June 1996, according to the diocese.

Last month, the Diocese of Phoenix announced that Spaulding, 67, had resigned from St. Timothy after being placed on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation into sexual abuse allegations.

No criminal charges are being pursued against Spaulding, but he would be removed from the priesthood if found guilty of the allegations.

Everyone on each side of the case agrees that it is rare, if not the first time, that a relative has filed an abuse complaint against a priest on behalf of a deceased victim. David M. Pain Sr. of Scottsdale, the father of David Pain Jr., filed the complaint about two months after his son died, according to information from the diocese.

The Rev. Mike Sullivan, a canon lawyer who works at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Minneapolis, Minn. and is representing Spaulding, said people close to Pain Jr. told an investigator that he had said he was sexually abused by a priest, but that he never provided the priest’s name. A former FBI agent conducted 14 interviews for the Phoenix diocese.

“This one is going to take a while,” Sullivan said. “The information that the Diocese of Phoenix has given us wouldn’t stand scrutiny in a court of law. Large churches such as St. Maria Goretti Church usually have two priests and are training grounds for priests before they have their own church.”

Paul Pfaffenberger, the director for the Office of Child Protection at the Diocese of Phoenix, said on Thursday that Sullivan’s statements about the victim not naming Spaulding are incorrect.

“That’s simply not true,” Pfaffenberger said.

On June 17, 2010, Pain Sr. fatally shot his son after Pain Jr. forced his way into the family home in Scottsdale. After Pain’s father shot him in the pelvic area, he fled with his friends who left him inside a vehicle in the parking lot of a Mesa motel where he bled to death from a severed artery before Mesa police responded to the scene.

Authorities ruled Pain Sr. shot his son in self-defense.

Pain Jr. battled drug addiction, according to his obituary, and in 1990 he was sentenced to nine years in prison on an armed robbery and burglary conviction, according to prison records. Scottsdale police had been contacted about the allegations of sexual abuse two years before Pain’s death, but when investigators tried to make contact with him, he never called them back, according to Officer Dave Pubins, a Scottsdale police spokesman.

A Pain family member told Scottsdale police said that inappropriate activity involving a priest and Pain Jr. may have happened in California, Pubins said.

However, police don’t believe that a specific name of a priest was given by the family member.

“We had tried to make contact with the alleged victim to corroborate the information, but it could never be determined that a crime was ever committed and a formal report was never done,” Pubins said.

The Tribune could not reach Pain Sr. for comment, and other family members did not return phone calls.

Soon after Pain Sr. submitted his first complaint to the diocese in August 2010, Spaulding was given the opportunity to respond to the allegations and discredited the dates, according to Don Wilkinson, a civil attorney representing Spaulding. Then, last month, Pain Sr. submitted a second complaint, stating that after reviewing his records, he had the correct dates and the diocese took them at face value, Wilkinson said.

Spaulding was not given a chance to respond to the second complaint, according to Wilkinson.

“We would like to see those records,” Wilkinson said.   

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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