|Mesa Pastor Jack Spaulding Suspended over Sexual-misconduct Allegation
By Jim Walsh and Matt Haldane
June 25, 2011
A colorful Roman Catholic priest who once described how Jesus and Mary were using him as a microphone was suspended from his public ministry Friday while authorities investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at his former parish in Scottsdale.
The sexual misconduct is alleged to have occurred more than 25 years ago when Jack Spaulding, most recently of St. Timothy in Mesa, was assigned to St. Maria Goretti parish in Scottsdale.
The Diocese of Phoenix took the action against Spaulding after the Diocesan Review Board determined the allegation of misconduct with a minor was credible. The diocese cautioned that the finding does not reflect whether Spaulding is guilty or not guilty and said further investigation is required.
A Diocesan news release said Spaulding submitted his resignation from St. Timothy this week effective July 4 following a separate investigation by the diocese over concerns that the parish failed to follow certain financial and human-resources policies and procedures. Details of the inquiry were not disclosed.
The Diocesan Review Board's findings came back days after Bishop Thomas Olmsted accepted Spaulding's resignation, the press release said.
"When we receive an accusation, we take it seriously," said The Rev. Fred Adamson, the diocese's vicar general.
Diocesan officials would only say the allegations have been found to have a "semblance of credibility." They refused to provide additional details, such as whether the allegations involve a boy or a girl.
"A semblance of truth would mean that the allegation is not frivolous, that it's possible that this could have happened," said Father Chris Fraser, judicial vicar for the Diocese. "You can put these two people in the same place at the same time. There are many facts, and many circumstances that come together and reveal themselves as being a possibility that this actually did happen."
Ana Campos, the Diocesan spokeswoman, said the matter was referred to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, as required by a previous agreement.
Sgt. Mark Clark, a Scottsdale police spokesman, said that Spaulding is not the subject of an investigation at this time.
A retired FBI agent did a preliminary investigation, collected several documents and interviewed several witnesses, including Spaulding, the Diocesan press release said. It added that Spaulding denied the allegation and is cooperating with the investigation.
In addition to any potential criminal charges, the case has been turned over to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, which could take internal action against Spaulding ranging from lifting the suspension to permanently stripping Spaulding of his priestly duties or excommunication.
Campos said that while Spaulding is suspended, he is not allowed to say Mass in public, to hear confessions, or to perform Last Rites or any other sacrament.
Spaulding replaced Monsignor Dale Fushek at St. Timothy after Fushek was suspended in December 2004, when an attorney notified the diocese that his client may have been abused by Fushek in 1985. The case was settled out of court.
The charismatic Fushek eventually was stripped of his priestly duties and excommunicated when he violated the terms of his suspension by preaching publicly at the Praise and Worship Center in Mesa, founded by some of his ex-parishioners.
Fushek was charged with a series of misdemeanor sex crimes stemming from his relationship with boys participating in the Life Teen youth ministry he founded, but eventually pleaded guilty to one count of assault. He was sentenced to 364 days of probation and fined $250. The assault charge involved touching a boy's genitals, but prosecutors dropped allegations that it was sexually motivated after Fushek won a series of pre-trial appeals.
Spaulding received notoriety in the late 1980s when he told parishioners at St. Maria Goretti that Jesus and Mary had spoken to him directly. He reported hearing voices, an experience known as a locution as opposed to an apparition, where Jesus, Mary or a saint would appear and share a message.
Spaulding would speak in a slow, monotone voice at some prayer services and describe the messages, sometimes saying that Jesus or Mary were using him as a microphone. He shared some of these experiences later as pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Phoenix.
The church investigated the incidents and found no evidence of a miracle.
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