A special tribunal based in Rome has determined former Mesa Rev. Jack Spaulding committed sins against the Sixth Commandment and recommended removing Spaulding from the priesthood.
The tribunal, which consisted of three judges with doctorates in canonical law, found sufficient evidence to determine that Spaulding violated the Sixth Commandment. According to a document released by the Phoenix Diocese, violating the Sixth Commandment is used as a description for the sexual violation of a minor through “a cleric’s sexual touching or sexual exploitation.”
The tribunal’s ruling also led it to recommend Spaulding’s removal from the clerical state, which is called laicization. If the recommendation is finalized, Spaulding couldn’t identify himself as a Catholic priest, nor could he function as a priest, according to the release.
Despite the ruling, information released by the diocese in a question and answer document also states the ruling “will not impact any matters before civil courts interpreting civil law according to civil legal standards.” According to the document, the standards of proof used by the panel to reach its decision differs from criminal and civil cases – the former involves reaching “moral certitude” about a case, while a criminal and civil case involve beyond a reasonable doubt or a preponderance of evidence, respectively.
Phoenix Diocese spokesperson Robert DeFrancesco said Spaulding had 30 days to appeal the panel’s decision, although he said the Diocese is unaware if he decided to file an appeal. Attempts to reach Spaulding’s attorney, Don Wilkinson, were not returned before deadline.
The decision came approximately two years after the case against Spaulding, who served at Christ the King Parish and St. Timothy Parish in Mesa among other parishes across the Valley, was sent to the Vatican for review by an independent panel. The charges are related to allegations that Spaulding engaged in sexual relationships with teenage boys in the mid-1970s and in 1984 and 1985. A total of four incidents were reported to the Phoenix Diocese.
“It came to our attention and we alerted the proper authorities,” DeFrancesco said.
The first prominent allegation came from David Pain Sr., who alleged his son, David Pain Jr., was molested by Spaulding in the 80s. Pain Jr. was shot and killed by Pain Sr. after Pain Jr. forced his way into his family’s home in 2010, and authorities ruled Pain. Sr. shot his son in self defense.
Additional allegations against Spaulding arose in July 2011, as two adult men alleged Spaulding had inappropriate sexual contact with them in the 1970s. He resigned from his position at St. Timothy Parish in June 2011, and the Phoenix Diocese placed Spaulding on administrative leave pending the completion of an investigation.
The statute of limitations has expired in all of the cases, meaning Spaulding cannot face any criminal penalties.
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