Romley's Letter to Vatican Sent Back
Sought Extradition of Indicted Priests

By Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
Downloaded August 6, 2003

That was the response Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley got last month after he mailed a letter to Vatican officials asking them to order indicted priests back to Arizona for prosecution in child molestation cases.

Romley said he sent the request to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretariat of state.

Several fugitive priests are known to be overseas, including one in Rome and others in Mexico and Ireland.

Romley's letter came back unopened, with a note from the Vatican postmaster: "Sir, the item here enclosed is returned to sender because refused by the rightful addressee."

"That's a bit disappointing," Romley said. "This is an issue that is clearly significant to the church and, really, to Rome."

Vatican authorities could not be reached for comment.

About 30 Arizona priests have been accused in criminal or civil court of sexual misconduct, mostly involving children, during the past two decades. Romley has tenaciously prosecuted the suspects while investigating diocesan officials suspected of covering up abuse.

Retired Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien, the former head of the Phoenix Diocese, adopted major reforms to stave off a possible indictment for obstructing justice. He subsequently was forced to resign because of criminal charges against him in a fatal hit-and-run accident.

At a news conference Friday, Romley stressed that O'Brien's replacement, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, has cooperated with prosecutors. "There is a good-faith effort, I believe, to truly make a difference."


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