New Orleans priest defiles altar with pornographic filmmaking, arrested for obscenity

20200302 142215 1 2 Church of Sts Peter and Paul, Pearl River, Louisiana. / Church of Sts. Peter and Paul

A priest in the Archdiocese of New Orleans has been arrested along with two women and charged with obscenity after he was discovered filming a pornographic video on a parish church altar.

Fr. Travis Clark, 37, the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul in Pearl River, Louisiana, was arrested together with Mindy Dixon, 41, and Melissa Cheng, 23, on September 30. 

A local resident told police they noticed the lights were on in the parish church, and upon looking in the windows, saw the three engaged in sexual activity on the  altar. According to reports, the altar of the church had been outfitted with stage lighting.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced the following day, Oct. 1, that Clark had been arrested and removed from ministry. Initially, no details were given for the cause of his removal, other than to confirm that he was not accused of any offences related to abuse of minors. 

Details were not revealed until Oct. 8, when public records were released.

Dixon is a pornagraphic performer and “dominatrix.” According to Nola.com, she had posted on her social media the day before her arrest that she was headed to New Orleans to "defile a house of God” alongside another “dominatrix,” presumably Cheng. 

Police believe the sexual encounter to have been consensual, and have not filed charges related to sexual assault. The obscenity charge stemmed from the fact that the sex act was visible from a window.

Clark is expected to face canonical sanctions for violations of clerical continence, and for the profanation of an altar, which is constituted a crime in canon 1376 of the Code of Canon Law, which provides that “a person who profanes a movable or immovable sacred object is to be punished with a just penalty.”

Clark was ordained a priest in 2013, and became the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul in 2019. He had recently been named the chaplain of Pope John Paul II High School in Slidell, Louisiana, replacing another priest who resigned this summer. That priest, Fr. Paul Wattigny, was also suspended from public ministry Oct 1, after he admitted to abusing a minor in 2013.

“Both of these situations are very troubling to me. When a priest does not live out his vocation faithfully he suffers consequences and I must notify the parishioners, school families, and public in general,” said Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans in an Oct. 1 statement announcing the suspensions. 

“Please pray for all those affected, especially the parishioners of the parishes and school communities where they have served,” he added. 

Aymond has since performed a penitential liturgy of atonement and re-consecration of the altar at Sts. Peter and Paul church following the act of profanation.

As news of the story spread Friday, one priest on Twitter urged Catholics to pray prayers of reparation, "consoling the heart of Jesus."

Clark, Dixon, and Cheng have all been released on bail.


 

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