PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – A Maricopa County grand jury has indicted a Phoenix priest accused of sexually abusing two boys younger than 15 between 2003 and 2007. Father John “Jack” Dallas Spaulding, 74, is facing six felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one felony count of molestation of a child.
Spaulding was a Catholic Priest at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in Phoenix and St. Tim’s Catholic Church in Mesa when the alleged acts took place, according to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The Diocese of Phoenix released a statement saying it was aware of the accusations against Spaulding and he was placed on leave in June 2011 after "an investigation and determination that an allegation ... was credible." He was at St. Timothy at the time.
"The Diocese received a report in June 2019 from an adult male who alleged that Spaulding sexually abused him as a minor," according to the statement. "The Diocese contacted law enforcement officials regarding the allegation and encouraged the family to contact law enforcement to make a formal report." (See the full statement at the bottom of this story.)
Spaulding was "dismissed from the clerical state" -- laicized -- in 2014, but he appealed the decision. His case is still pending with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, according to the Diocese of Phoenix.
Spaulding was included in a list of more than 109 Phoenix-area priests accused of sex abuse that was compiled by a St. Paul, Minnesota-based law firm in June 2019.
“It is my commitment to this community that we will hold criminals accountable and protect the rights of victims,” Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said in a news release. “It is an unspeakable thing to take away the innocence of a child. This indictment sends a clear message that we will hold those who commit these heinous acts accountable.”
Victims' advocates say this indictment was the result of survivors coming forward. "We're seeing that when a victim steps forward, their courage leads more to come forward and raises awareness and helps victims make our community safer," Tim Lennon, the president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said. "It's very sad, but it's not over. Until we end the kind of cover-ups, we still have work to do. ... We're entering a new era where survivors are standing up and saying, 'This is an issue; it needs to be addressed.'"
Over the summer, Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation giving victims of child sex assault in Arizona the ability sue their abusers in civil court until they’re 30 years old.
HB 2466 also allows all victims of child sexual assault, regardless of age, to come forward until Dec. 31, 2020.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office said this specific case was submitted to their office a couple of months ago and it's the first they've received. They explained that if law enforcement does not submit a case, they wouldn't have any record of it. MCAO said at this time there are no other pending cases regarding Spaulding that they're looking into.
STATEMENT FROM DIOCESE OF PHOENIX ON INDICTMENT OF REV. SPAULDING
"The Diocese of Phoenix learned today that John D. Spaulding, a priest of the Diocese of Phoenix, has been indicted for multiple counts of sexual misconduct with minors.
"The Diocese received a report in June 2019 from an adult male who alleged that Spaulding sexually abused him as a minor. The Diocese contacted law enforcement officials regarding the allegation and encouraged the family to contact law enforcement to make a formal report.
"Since making the report, the Diocese has cooperated with the law enforcement investigation. In order to avoid any possible interference with the ongoing legal process, we are unable to comment further.
"In June 2011, the faculties of Spaulding, then pastor of St. Timothy Parish in Mesa, were suspended and he was placed on leave following an investigation and determination that an allegation against Spaulding of sexual misconduct with a minor was credible. Since that time, several additional claims have been made alleging sexual misconduct by Spaulding, all of which have been reported to law enforcement.
"Upon being removed from ministry he has remained prohibited from publicly identifying himself as a priest, including celebrating the Mass and sacraments.
"In 2014, a Special Tribunal convened at the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) found Spaulding guilty of sins against the Sixth Commandment with a minor and recommended that he be dismissed from the clerical state, a process commonly known as “laicization.” The penalty would become effective upon finalization of the case by the CDF. Spaulding appealed the case and it remains pending with the CDF.
"The Diocese of Phoenix is committed to providing a safe environment where it values and honors every individual as created in the image and likeness of God. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and the Diocese of Phoenix urge anyone who has been a victim of abuse or who may have information concerning these allegations to call the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office or their local law enforcement agency. For additional information about support services for those who have been abused, please contact the Office of Child and Youth Protection at (602) 354-2396 or at dphx.org/youth-protection.
"Please continue to pray for the end of all abuse, and for a greater respect for the dignity of all people."