Scandal at Mesa's St. Timothy Catholic Church Opens Fresh Wounds

Arizona Republic
June 26, 2011

For the congregation of St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa, Friday's suspension of its leader on allegations of sexual misconduct was like cutting open scars that had just healed.

The Diocese of Phoenix suspended Father Jack Spaulding for a 25-year-old case involving alleged sexual misconduct, which follows the 2004 suspension of the church's former priest, Monsignor Dale Fushek, on similar accusations. Fushek was later excommunicated.

Saturday evening, members of the Mesa parish rushed inside the church for Mass, avoiding or declining to comment to media outlets posted outside.

On her way into the 5 p.m. mass, Monica Colomer said the community would prevail because the church and its teachings "follow Jesus," not Spaulding.

She also said she wrote about her feelings on Facebook, saying the community will not be destroyed by the allegations and will endure through yet another painful time.

Dan McBride of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Chandler, who was appointed administrator pro tem of St. Timothy by the Diocese, was up-front with the packed congregation from the start.

"This is obviously a difficult and painful weekend for the people of St. Timothy," McBride said.

He reiterated themes of unity in times of adversity and affliction and that God would be the source of their healing.

"It seems this world comes up with endless ways to divide the Christian community," he said.

In his address, he said he had a hard time going to bed the night before, knowing what was ahead in the coming weeks.

"We all have to face death and mourning and grieving in our life," he said. "As we gather on this day, all those things are present."

McBride during the service did not reference the Fushek scandal, after which Spaulding was named as Fushek's replacement. But he did read a letter written to the parish from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who also expressed sympathy and recognized how hard the time must be for the members.

"He (Spaulding) has walked with you and your families" in the good times and hard times, Olmsted wrote. "Wherever the Lord is, there is mercy. Wherever he is there is peace"

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