| Vatican returns
Romley letter about indicted priests
by Dennis Wagner - The Arizona Republic
Aug. 5, 2003
Return to sender.
That was the response Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley
got last month after he mailed a letter to Vatican officials
asking them to order indicted priests back to Arizona for
prosecution in child molestation cases.
Romley said he sent the request to Cardinal Angelo Sodano
- the Vatican's secretariat of state -- in hopes that Roman
Catholic hierarchy would help avoid the tedious process of
extraditing wanted clergy member from foreign countries. Several
fugitive priests are known to be overseas, including one in
Rome and others in Mexico and Ireland. Because Catholic clergy
take vows of obedience, Romley figured, they would be obliged
to return to Phoenix if instructed to do so by superiors.
But his letter came back unopened, with a note from the Vatican
postmaster: "Sir, the item here enclosed is returned
to sender because refused by the rightful addressee.''
"They have refused to accept my request. That's a bit
disappointing,'' Romley said. "This is an issue that
is clearly significant to the church and, really, to Rome.''
Vatican authorities could not be reached for comment.
About 30 Arizona priests have been accused in criminal or
civil court of sexual misconduct, mostly involving children,
during the past two decades. Romley has tenaciously prosecuted
the suspects while investigating diocesan officials suspected
of covering up the scandal. Former Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien
adopted major reforms to stave off a possible indictment for
obstructing justice. He subsequently was forced to resign
because of criminal charges against him in a fatal hit-and-run
At a news conference Friday, Romley stressed that O'Brien's
replacement, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, has cooperated
with prosecutors. "There is a good-faith effort, I believe,
to truly make a difference.''
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (602) 444-8874.