The Clerk's Tale

By Diogenes (articles ) | Aug 12, 2005

Three thoughts on the Clark crash:

1. Unless the news reports are total fabrications -- and Clark hasn't said they are -- he's guilty of a gross offense against the integrity of a marriage, which is an offense against justice, even if no sexual mischief took place. Further, the violation of his priestly commitments ("clerics are to shun completely everything that is unbecoming to their state" -- Canon 285) is objectively blameworthy, and would be so if Clark were an unknown and silent curate. As he is a high-profile defender of orthodox morality, and a public critic of sexual decadence, even the relationship Clark presently admits to is a betrayal of his convictions.

2. On Amy's blog several commenters remarked that if Clark were a liberal priest we (cons) would blame liberalism, but since he's a con we blame human nature. This is half true. For libs, sexual morality is a matter of claiming permissions to which they have no right. Though they deny it publicly, their project is intrinsically subversive. Caught celebrating -- i.e., putting their project into practice -- we cons don't charge them with a lapse (a weakness of will), but insist their role of saboteurs is no longer in doubt. When a con is found chaucerizing his secretary, his failure is a failure to be what he stands for. His guilt is magnified, not extenuated, by his professed convictions.

3. Clark could still let God bring good out of evil -- for Clark himself and for the Church he betrayed -- by giving an example of authentic contrition. This is Oscar Wilde in De Profundis

I remember that I was sitting in the dock on the occasion of my last trial listening to Lockwood's appalling denunciations of me -- like a thing out of Tacitus, like a passage in Dante, like one of Savonarola's indictments of the Popes of Rome -- and being sickened with horror at what I heard, suddenly it occurred to me, how splendid it would be if I was saying all this about myself. I saw then at once that what is said of a man is nothing. The point is, who says it. A man's very highest moment is, I have no doubt at all, when he kneels in the dust, and he beats his breast, and tells all the sins of his life.

Somewhat hysterical, but the point is valid. Redemption begins with a confession that there is a condition one needs to be redeemed from. Were Clark to forswear the usual half-denials and semi-excuses that keep his enemies gloating and his friends apprehensive ("Are you asking me for forgiveness, Monsignor, or asking me for loyalty?"), tell the plain truth, and embrace the penance consonant with the truth, he could still achieve the only victory that matters.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 10 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Aug. 13, 2005 7:58 PM ET USA

    I was truly saddened to see a gentlemanly priest such as Msgr Clark on my Canadian news last night, accused of having an adulterous affair. But Our Lord sees all and His permitting will just might be to provide Msgr Clark with the opportunity to be humbled and hence set free. Repentance of a very public and well-loved figure can produce much spiritual fruit, not just for himself but for all us sinners. If he is guiltless, then he will unite with all those falsely accused.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 13, 2005 1:22 PM ET USA

    "At least you know the children are safe" That's hilarious! It's not a defense of Clark's actions, but be honest, aren't some of the readers a little relieved to hear about a straight priest in the news. And between libs and cons, even in their sin cons are more dignified. Sure he's lying and committing adultery, but at least he wasn't roaming rest areas or public pools. And the libs don't even have the guts to call their big scandal by the right name: homosexuality- a deviant human state.

  • Posted by: Art Kelly - Aug. 13, 2005 12:13 AM ET USA

    I'm hoping that Msgr. Clark is, in fact, substantially innocent of the accusations that have been made against him, but the circumstantial evidence appears to be compelling. If he is actually guilty of a long-time affair, how can someone live a lie day after day? Furthermore, continuting to lie about it when caught "red handed" further adds to the scandal. It is so strange, I have to think that there is more to the story that will eventually come out which may mitigate the situation somewhat.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 12, 2005 7:06 PM ET USA

    It has been said that the last refuge of a scoundrel is patriotism. And, of course, those who are found guilty in criminal courts often "find Jesus" while serving time. Where is a cleric supposed to go who supposedly was patriotic and "in Jesus" on the front end? Ah, well, illicit sex has brought down KINGDOMS; bringing down an archdiocesan second in command wasn't a problem. Score one for the evil one.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 12, 2005 1:32 PM ET USA

    As I've heard said, when the priest comes to the parish picnic with his girlfriend, at least you know the children are safe.

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Aug. 12, 2005 1:06 PM ET USA

    While I agree with Leo XIII regarding the hypocrisy of conservatives who don't "practice what they preach," what label do we apply to those "liberals" who don't own up to their own immorality, even after they get caught...a la Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton? Say what you will about their "sins," at least conservatives like Bill Bennett and Richard Nixon had the good grace to depart from the public scene. Diogenes's analysis of the Clark situation is spot on, again.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 12, 2005 11:50 AM ET USA

    Lorenzo Scupoli's Spiritual Combat has an interesting passage about the difference between sins residing in the Understanding versus the Will.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Aug. 12, 2005 10:46 AM ET USA

    "Are you asking me for forgiveness, Monsignor, or asking me for loyalty?" Does this maneuver surprise you, Diogenes...? It shouldn't... Its classic and has been used down through the ages by clerics against toublesome laity... "Are YOU questioning ME???" "Are YOU AGAINST the CHURCH???" "Are YOU AGAINST 'true doctrine???'" etc., etc.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Aug. 12, 2005 10:19 AM ET USA

    Clark's lawyer said on Tuesday that the allegations of sexual impropriety had been "contrived" from "innocent events." But what is the innocent explanation for checking into a hotel under an assumed name for five hours during the daytime and changing clothes in the middle of the day? Don't tell me what he didn't do. What did he do (given the facts and pictures he has not denied)? Now that would be a denial with some credibility.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 12, 2005 10:16 AM ET USA

    Libs and cons are equally capable of mortal sin. A layer of hypocrisy is added in the case of an orthodox Catholic who yields to the temptations of the flesh or lives an extravagant lifestyle.