The case of an East Valley priest accused of molesting teenage boys is now being reviewed by a Vatican-based board in Rome which will ultimately decide whether to remove him from the priesthood.
The Diocese of Phoenix has completed its investigation into the Rev. Jack Spaulding, the former pastor at St. Timothy's Catholic Community Church in Mesa, and forwarded the case onto the Doctrine of Faith after deeming that the allegations against Spaulding were credible. In part, the Diocese deems accusations of molestation credible if the priest served at the parish at the same time his accuser did.
In June, Spaulding, 68, resigned from St. Timothy's and the Diocese of Phoenix suspended him after a diocesan review board deemed allegations of Spaulding having a sexual relationship with a teenage boy in 1984 and 1985 as credible. Spaulding served at St. Maria Goretti Church in Scottsdale at the time of the alleged incidents. But, the alleged victim, David Pain Jr. died in June, 2010, and the case was brought to the attention of the diocese by his father. It is believed to be the first such case brought against a priest on behalf of a deceased victim,
Findings from the investigation that were reviewed by Diocesan officials for at least six months, were forwarded to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in early December. The Holy See will assess the case and evaluate the evidence, according to the Diocese of Phoenix. The Vatican's initial review of the case may be completed sometime after Lent or Easter - April 8 this year - and then sent back to the Diocese of Phoenix for a trial in the months ahead.
"The role of the Diocese of Phoenix was to transmit the facts as we know them," according to a statement from Diocese of Phoenix spokesman Rob DeFrancesco. "We do not have a timeline as to when the Holy See will reach a conclusion. It is important to note that the process and investigation remain confidential so that the integrity of the procedure is protected and to ensure fairness for those who brought the allegation, as well as Father Spaulding's right to a confidential process."
After the initial complaint against Spaulding came to light in June involving Pain Jr., three more accusers came forward to report that Spaulding had also molested them; as far back as the mid 1970s.
The most recent claims were received by the diocese in July of 2011, according to the public notification statement it released on Oct. 14. Two adult males allege that Spaulding had inappropriate sexual contact with them over 30 years ago, when they were approximately 11 and 13 years old, respectively. The men state that they met Spaulding at St. Helen Parish in Glendale, and that the misconduct occurred at a private residence. The diocese advised the men to contact the Glendale police, but they indicated that they had no interest in doing so.
If Spaulding is found guilty of the allegations by the Vatican-based board, he will be removed from the priesthood. However, Spaulding would not be facing any legal penalties as the statute of limitations has expired on all of the cases.
Spaulding was incardinated in the Diocese of Phoenix in 1971, and has served in a number of parishes since then: Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glendale, Christ the King Parish in Mesa, Santa Teresita Parish in El Mirage, St. Louis the King Parish in Glendale, St. Raphael Parish in Glendale, St. Helen Parish in Glendale, St. Maria Goretti Parish in Scottsdale, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Phoenix, St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Cave Creek, and St. Timothy in Mesa.
The accusations of molestation are coupled with Spaulding harboring other priests accused of the same thing at parish rectories of churches where he served.
Spaulding twice harbored at a Mesa church another priest who was accused of sexual misconduct and inciting violence at a mission for the poor in Mexico, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix confirmed in September.
The diocese said Spaulding had allowed the Rev. Loren Riebe to stay at the St. Timothy's Catholic Community rectory in June 2009 and May of this year - even after the diocese warned him not to take in the priest who garnered national attention in 1995 when he was deported from Mexico amidst allegations that he had molested teenage boys.
Harboring Riebe also wouldn't be the first time that Spaulding has been accused of giving shelter to a suspended priest facing allegations of sexual abuse. In 1993 while pastor of Scottsdale's St. Maria Goretti Church, Spaulding took in the Rev. Michael Harris of California, according to the Diocese of Orange in California.
Spaulding's attorney, Don Wilkinson, told the Tribune Tuesday that the Diocese of Phoenix "cherry picked" the file before forwarding it to Rome, and that officials there do not have all of the information from the case that the Diocese presented to a review board consisting of various community members who decided that the allegations against Spaulding were credible.
Spaulding's defense team is preparing a response to the case for the Holy See, which could decide to send the case back to the Diocese of Phoenix to hold a trial against Spaulding. The Diocese of Phoenix then would send the case back to Rome a second time with final recommendations.
"This stuff doesn't happen overnight," Wilkinson said. "It's not over. The review committee at the Diocese is made up of some of the most respected members of the community, and they would consequently be disappointed to know that their actions were based on incomplete knowledge of the case."
"When Rome sends the case back to the Diocese of Phoenix, that's when we would anticipate that all the stuff that the Diocese did not show to Rome will come out at this time," Wilkinson added. But we do know this - Rome does not have the complete file - the Diocese does."
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