Saturday, August 25, 2007

Anger rises to the papal court

The Rev. Joseph J. Clark, an Irish-Catholic bartender turned priest, never planned to be in the middle of a fracas involving him, the Vatican and the Diocese of Arlington.

But since he was suspended from the priesthood by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde two years ago this month for arguing with a deacon, he has waged a quiet battle to win back his right under church law to preach and teach in the 400,000-member diocese.

His is the second case in five years in the Arlington Diocese to make its way into the papal court system.

The first case, involving the Rev. James R. Haley — who was silenced in 2001 after he accused Bishop Loverde of sheltering homosexual priests — remains unresolved at the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy.

Father Clark's case is now before the Signatura, the highest Vatican court.
Two cases at one time from one medium-sized diocese "is pretty rare unless there's a new trend starting," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, former editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

"Maybe bishops have gotten these ideas on how to deal with troublesome priests" from the new zero-tolerance rules on sex abuse.

Like all clergy in the Arlington Diocese, Father Clark, 49, cannot talk to reporters without permission from the diocese. He did not respond to requests for an interview.

The story of his suspension — according to diocesan documents and interviews with several laity and priests — began with an 11 a.m. Mass on July 24, 2005, at Holy Family Church in Dale City, Va.

Sometime after Mass ended, the priest got into an argument with a deacon, Gerald Moore, saying he improperly handled the consecrated Holy Communion wine, which the church teaches is the blood of Christ.

An Aug. 1 letter sent to the diocese by Julie Wheaton, Mr. Moore's daughter, said her father went into cardiac arrest a day after being "assaulted" by the priest in front of "dozens" of people.


"I have encouraged my father to press criminal charges as well as file a civil lawsuit," wrote Mrs. Wheaton, after identifying herself as a Denver police detective.

"I ask you ... to immediately remove Clark from Holy Family and do not place him in any other parish where some other poor person would be subject to his uncontrollable anger."

On Aug. 6, Father Clark was summoned to the bishop's home in Arlington — "just for a chat," said Fairfax resident Dan Graham, a friend of the priest. "He figured the bishop just wanted to hear his side of the story."

But Father Clark was confronted by the bishop and two other priests, presented with a decree condemning him for "verbal assault and physical intimidation," told to vacate his residence within a few hours and spend a "month of penance" at a local monastery.

"He lost his temper in dealing with a deacon," another diocesan priest told The Washington Times on the condition of anonymity.

"There is some dispute about exactly what happened there, but he does have a problem with his temper. However, the bishop should have sent him to anger management. The bishop does have the tendency to handle things with an iron club."

Contacted by The Times in September 2005, diocesan spokesman Soren Johnson said the incident with the deacon was "investigated thoroughly," and the bishop was working with the priest to resolve the issue "with the hopes of returning him to ministry as soon as possible."

But Father Clark never went to the monastery, Mr. Graham said. Instead, he sought an evaluation from an anger-management specialist in Philadelphia "and got a clean bill of health," Mr. Graham added.

The priest then flew to Rome to seek out a canon lawyer to help him appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy.

Meanwhile, "all the priests were really disgusted by the Joe Clark incident," said a layman active in the diocese on the condition of anonymity. "One of the senior priests got up at a priests meeting and read Loverde the riot act."

The Arlington priest agreed local clergy were put off.

"The bishop doesn't realize what he does is alienate clergy," he said. "The morale is low in the diocese."

The Arlington priest said Bishop Loverde was summoned to the Vatican to discuss his handling of the case, in which he limited Father Clark's role without defrocking him.

In June 2006, the Congregation for the Clergy issued a split decision: that Bishop Loverde didn't follow the proper procedures and Father Clark should not have dressed down the deacon, according to several sources.

"They said Loverde was right to remove [Father Clark] from the parish and preaching, but that he could celebrate Mass in the diocese and hear confessions," the Arlington priest said.

"Basically, Loverde had gone beyond his authority because Clark had not done anything wrong to be suspended."

The Vatican will side with a bishop in most such cases, said Monsignor Thomas Green, a canon law professor at Catholic University, but not if the bishop failed to follow due process.

"If the bishop suspended the guy and didn't talk to him before that; if he didn't give the priest a chance to seek counsel, then the Holy See could say you didn't proceed correctly," he said

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29 comments:

Anonymous said...

The embarassment that the deacon experienced is nothing compared to the embarassment that Jesus Christ experienced hanging on the cross. If he suffered a stroke due to such embarassment, it could not be blamed on the priest. The deacon simply needed a re-orientation of his concept of service for Christ.

Anonymous said...

Once when going to confession with Father Clark, I said I was mad because I was angry with a priest who I had heard on the news (Father Andrew Greeley) and we had a discussion about righteous indignation. Some things are wrong no matter who says or does them.

Anonymous said...

You have simply reported the errors reported in the Washington Times. Fr. Clark was never suspended he is not currently on assignment and the Bishop hs great discretion in these matters. He wa found in Rome not to have received "due process" and the Bishop has appealed this finding. Wintnesses to the incident were never interviewed and Fr. Clark was never interviewed before the Bishop made his decision. These are a few factual corrections to the Tmes story. Thanks! Basic summary: Fr. Clark was abused! Well known in the Diocese.

Anonymous said...

This case is about the murder of a priest. Many participants....

Anonymous said...

The even didn't quite happen as recorded. The Bishop has been ruled to have not given Fr. Clark if that tells you anything. They rarely if ever rule against a Bishop unless they are clearly in the wrong and even then it is not something that is done.

Anonymous said...

You have not reported the truth with accuracy...

Anonymous said...

This article in the Times is not accurate and tells about 10% of the true story. Here are some of the facts. The statement made in the Deacons daughter's letter to the Bishop was a lie. The Deacon was never admitted to the hospital at that time, but it is a little known fact that Fr. Clark was admitted to the hospital after his lynching at the hands of the Bishop.

There were no "dozens of witnesses" only 2 and they sent the bishop their testimony in writing. They state that there was only a serious discussion between the Deacon and Fr. Clark. The diocese said that the matter would be thoroughly investigated but these witnesses were never contacted.

The Bishop actually knows the Deacon as he was stationed at Holy Family years ago, and is well aware of the hostile reception a priest like Fr. Clark would receive when he assigned him there. You can draw your own conclusions on this.

Here are more facts. After his removal from ministry, Fr Clark went to an anger management specialist and was given a clean bill of health.

The Deacon has been given a complete pass on his improper conduct at the 11AM Mass and his vocal anti-clerical attitude.

Fr. Clark had a previous issue with the Bishop regarding universal fingerprinting in the Diocese. The Bishop also had an issue because Fr, Clark would not allow Senator Joe Biden become the godfather at a baptism because of the Senator's very public pro-abortion stance.

The Bishops letter to Fr.Clark instructing him to leave Holy Family in a matter of hours and leaving him without an assignment was dated the day before his meeting with the Bishop. This is proof that the decision to punish Fr. Clark was made without allowing any defense by Fr.Clark and was based upon hearsay from the Deacons daughter. Furthermore, this shows that there was a rush to judgment, and it is clear to any thinking person that the punishment doled out was extraordinarily harsh and did not fit the "crime".

The only conclusion that can be drawn from connecting the dots on all of this is the Bishop was looking at any excuse to remove Fr. Clark from ministry and this was the way he chose to do it.

The question that remains is will Rome allow this injustice to stand or will they step in and stop this abuse.

Anonymous said...

There is not an adequate process for reviewing the administrative acts of Bishops. Canon law is to be read and applied with equity. Its absence here is truly disturbing. There is a multitude who believe that Fr. Clark is a good priest.

Anonymous said...

Administrative actions of Local Ordinaries must be structured is such a way to promote transparent justice. Right now this section of the Code allows steath missions which cloak real injustice. Abuse of discretion is rarely reviewed and when it is Rome is reluctant to reverse the Bishops.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the Congregation of the Clergy issued a very confusing decree in which they asserted that Fr. Clark did not receive "due process" but was found to be substantively guilty of "scandal" by getting angry at the deacon. How any conclusion at all could be reached at all in the absence of due process is anyones guess. The decree is a muddled non-traditional mess. St. Augustine held that angry corrections are well within the ambit of christian Charity as when a Father corrects a Son who has disappointed him.

Anonymous said...

The Congregation of the Clergy issued a confusing decree which satisfied neither Fr. Clark or Bishop Loverde. In it they held that even though Fr. Clark did not recieve "due process" he was substantively guilty of creating a "scandal" by his angry correction of the deacon. How any conclusions were reached without an investigation is anyones guess. Even St. Augustine held that angry corrections are well within the ambit of charity.

Anonymous said...

There was no trial or investigation in this case since the bishop cloaked his action under the administrative section of the Code of Canon Law. Fr. Clark was penalized, punished and remains punished by mischaracterizing this as a simple administrative move. He should have been given the opportunity to defend himself in a trial. He was presumed guilty and stripped of everything, his work, his ministry, his faculties, his domicile, his reputation and now his health. The bishop still thinks he did the "right" thing and is appealing Rome's decision.

Anonymous said...

There was no trial or investigation in this case since the bishop cloaked his action under the administrative section of the Code of Canon Law. Fr. Clark was penalized, punished and remains punished by mischaracterizing this as a simple administrative move. He should have been given the opportunity to defend himself in a trial. He was presumed guilty and stripped of everything, his work, his ministry, his faculties, his domicile, his reputation and now his health. The bishop still thinks he did the "right" thing and is appealing Rome's decision.

Anonymous said...

It is the duty of a priest to correct abuse in a subordinate. What is the big deal? He loses his job because he does his job. Greater irony must exist somewhere I guess.

Anonymous said...

Under Canon Law, unlike civil law, the Bishop is the judge, the legislator and the trier of fact. Rome certainly can't reexamine every questionable act by every bishop in the world. They don't micro-manage the local churches. There is no juridic substitute for the virtue of justice. (See the Admiralty court decision after the Mutiny on the Bounty: " If justice is not in the Captain then it is not aboard ship".)

Anonymous said...

Here is a case of a priest trying to do his best to be faithful to the mind of the Church and his bishop severely punishes him. Whats up with that? What kind of reform is necessary to prevent this kind of injustice in the future?

Anonymous said...

Fr. Clark is collateral damage in the wake of the abuse scandal. Somone interested in vocations and priestly ministry should review the matter... maybe a papal commission or the Pope himself. What was the book written a few years ago by Michael Rose Good Bye Good men? All indications suggest that this priest was a good and faithful teacher. Good Bye!

Anonymous said...

Before his assignment to the parish where the supposed incident took place Fr. Clark was stationed at a nearby parish for three years and was very popular with those parishioners. He had a good reputation among the People of God before this event took him out of ministry. Looks like a clash of personality between him and his bishop.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Clark is a reformer and consequently makes other priests look uncomfortably lax. His problem historically has been with incompetent or corrupt priests and pastors(The Establishment) rather than the people. The blood spilled now cries out to God for reparation.

Anonymous said...

You know the priests is Arlington were ready to accept Bishop Loverde when he first was named. But since that time he has nothing but prove himself to be a liberal New England American Bishop more concerned with politics than the Gospel. Been quite a disappointment for the pro-Roman clergy. His treatment of Fr. Clark is merely a symptom of his spiritual posture as well as his "heavy handed" leadership style. Bodies are piling up.

Anonymous said...

The former Rector of Mount Saint Mary's Seminary was a friend of mine and told me when Paul Loverde was named bishop of Arlington that he was on a mission to transform that diocese. I guess Arlington was an embarassment to the American Bishops. I didn't believe this but it played itself out exactly as Ken Roeltgen predicted. Arlington is being dismantled. Take one look at the log of vocations or priests who are on "special assignment". Even the Diocesan newspaper has been overhalled.

Anonymous said...

The Pope through the Congregation of Clergy is supposed to protect priests from Bishops like this. By all accounts they failed. The very reason for their existence seems in doubt after reviewing this case. When have they ever acted against an American bishop? Answer: NEVER! Never!! Never !!! A political organization rather than one based on law... that about sums it.

Anonymous said...

Bishops have proved themselves in recent years not to be men of justice or equity. This story is no different. Under cover of darkness some hide behind their office. I feel sorry for our Lord in all this. He will sort this out soon.

Anonymous said...

This is more of the kind of nonsense that laity and priests are aflicted with in the modern Church. The Orthodox Church looks like a reasonable alternative when trying to reconcile this clear injustice with the Gospel call to holiness. St. Chrysostum was correct when he claimed that the road to hell is paved with the skulls of dead bishops. The Church is still in its Babylonian captivity. Pray for liberation.

Anonymous said...

This bishop is a direct descendent of Herod's clan of priest killers. If he can't kill he exiles to Egypt. What in heavens name recommended him to an office that requires more than he has the capacity to give. The Peter principle incarnate!

Anonymous said...

Bishop Loverde needs a primer or refresher course in what it means to be a Father or Shepherd. He is as vindictive as they come to anyone whom he percieves as a potential opponent. AK'ers become special his special condidants. A blind guide headed for the pit. Please pray for this man that the veil is lifted from his eyes before he destroys again.

Anonymous said...

Bishop Loverde's stewardship of the Arlington Diocese has been very damaging. His treatment of faithful priests like Fr. Clark, Fr. Gould and Fr. Haley has been shameful.

Anonymous said...

What has been just as shameful is the way Rome has bungled this problem and let it fester. With all the problems facing the US Church, from fallout from allowing homosexuals into the Clergy to the lack of vocations, you would think they would get their heads out of the sand and deal with this issue. The abuse of Fr. Clark is so blatant and easy to document it should be simple to correct, and thus they could be seen for a change as effective and fair administrators

Anonymous said...

This issue with the Bishop in the Arlington Diocese seems to becoming famous as people that live overseas seem to be following these events. Hopefully someone in Rome is paying attention as well.