Parishioners React to Fr. Spaulding Accusations

My Fox Phoenix
June 27, 2011

[with video]

SCOTTSDALE - Even though Fr. John Spaulding of St. Timothy's Church in Mesa has been accused of sexual conduct with a minor, parishioners are largely standing behind him.

Churchgoers at mass Sunday were told about the allegations against Fr. Spaulding during the service. It appears many had already heard about the investigation -- and some say the bottom line is he's innocent until proven guilty.

We talked to a parishioner who has known Fr. Spaulding for years. She says until all the facts come out in the case, and its determined they're true, she has no reason to believe he's done anything wrong.

"It seems like there's a perspective that people are guilty until proven innocent. It's unfortunate for someone who's been put in this position because they're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty," Becky Bowers-Greene told us. "I have no reason to believe the accusations are true at this time."

Last week a Diocese review board suspended the popular priest after finding a sexual misconduct claim against him was credible.

The alleged incident happened 25 years ago when Spaulding was a priest at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Scottsdale and the alleged victim was a minor.

Spaulding denies the allegations -- but resigned last week from St. Timothy's parish over administrative issues.

Some churchgoers aren't sure Spaulding should be punished for something that happened two decades ago.

"If it's that long ago, I believe whatever offense we commit, as long as it's not homicide or some horribly serious crime... certain age range... then people need to let it go," one parishioner who did not want to be identified told us.

He added, how Fr. Spaulding has lived his life since then should also be considered.

"Was he remorseful, did he reach out to the person, and how did the individual live their life beyond all that?"

The case has been sent to the church leaders in Rome for further review and possible disciplinary action. At this point Spaulding has not been charged with anything -- the Maricopa County Attorney's Office is aware of the investigation, but he is not currently under investigation by Scottsdale Police.


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