PHOENIX — John "Jack" Spaulding, a former Valley priest accused of molesting multiple children, died Tuesday night, 12 News learned Wednesday.
Spaulding is accused of sexual molestation by at least two victims and filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday, naming an accuser and the accuser's family. 12 News has chosen not to identify the alleged victims.
He also filed the lawsuit against the Diocese of Phoenix and Bishop Thomas Olmsted.
"We understand how difficult and painful this is for his family, the community of believers, and in a particular way for the individuals who came forward with allegations and their families," the Diocese of Phoenix said in a statement Wednesday.
"Seeking truth and justice was a shared desire. His death prevents this process here on earth and brings sadness, anger and hurt on many levels."
The lawsuit filed by Spaulding on Tuesday claimed that Olmsted and the Diocese "defamed, libeled and slandered" the former priest over the accusations of sexual conduct with minors. The lawsuit also alleged that one of the accusers, their family and their lawyers defamed Spaulding.
The lawsuit was seeking $500,000 in damages.
Spaulding had been diagnosed with a terminal illness just a few days before his indictment in January, according to an earlier motion filed by his lawyer.
Spaulding's lawyer had argued that the former priest was too sick to appear in court earlier this month. The motion claimed that attending court would be a "threat" due to illnesses like the flu spreading around.
The judge had pushed Spaulding's arraignment to March 6.
12 News has learned that because of Spaulding's death, the county attorney's office will begin the process of dismissing all charges.
On Wednesday, Spaulding's attorney sent 12 News a statement saying the following:
"In today's online report, your organization referred to my client Fr. John ("Jack") Spaulding as a "former priest". Fr. Jack is currently and will always be a priest. Regardless of any proceeding in the Church and the related rulings about ministry authority, the priesthood is the Sacrament of Holy Orders. No one and nothing can remove that Sacrament."
Spaulding was indicted and accused of sexually abusing at least two boys under the age of 15 between 2003 and 2007, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced in January.
Spaulding was charged with six counts of sexual misconduct with a minor and one count of molestation of a child. He was never fingerprinted in the case and no mugshot was taken, despite a judge's orders.
He was a priest at St. Gabriel's Catholic Church in Phoenix and St. Timothy's Catholic Church in Mesa when the alleged crimes took place.
But Spaulding is accused of sexually abusing multiple other boys in the years before that.
The allegations stretch back to the 1970s, when he was a young priest in Glendale.
The Diocese of Phoenix said in a statement last month that Spaulding was placed on leave from St. Timothy Parish in June 2011 after an investigation found that an allegation of sexual misconduct against him was credible.
Spaulding was found guilty by a special tribunal convened by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in 2014, the Diocese announced Wednesday.
"As part of the trial it was recommended to the Holy See that he be dismissed from the clerical state, he appealed the case and it remained pending at the time of his death," part of the statement read.