The altar upon which Clark and two women engaged in filmed sexual congress was destroyed - burned - at Aymond’s order, which came as soon he learned on Oct. 8 the details of Clark’s activity in the parish Church, a spokesperson told CNA.
Clark and two women were arrested Sept. 30 and charged with obscenity after a neighbor observed through a window that they were filming sexual relations atop the altar, which was illuminated by stage lights. The priest was removed from ministry by the archbishop on Oct. 1.
One of the women with whom Clark made the pornographic film refers to herself as a “Satanatrix,” and the “proprietress of the Church of Satanatrix,” who posted on social media Sept. 29 that she would be traveling with another woman to “defile a house of God.”
The women’s attorney said in a statement this week that it is “appalling” that his clients are “being vilified” and facing charges for conduct he said was not illegal, because the church in which the filming took place was on private property. But police said the church’s altar was visible from the street, apparently through the glass doors of the parish entrance.
Aymond celebrated Mass at the parish Oct. 3, last weekend, after Clark was arrested. The archbishop celebrated Mass on the desecrated altar, an archdiocesan spokesperson told CNA, “because we were not aware of what had happened in the church.”
“As soon as the archbishop learned of the details, arrangements were made for the altar to be removed and a new one consecrated and the church reconsecrated,” the spokesperson added.
The archdiocese said that “there was no desecrating of the Blessed Sacrament,” during the sexual episode, and that “we are not aware of any other sacred vessels being desecrated at this time.”
Clark was ordained a priest in 2013 and became pastor of St. Peter and Paul last year. The archdiocese told CNA that the priest had “never before been the subject of any sexual misconduct claims.”
When he was ordained a deacon in 2012, Clark told the Clarion Herald that among his role models was Fr. Patrick Wattigny, a high school chaplain who admitted this month that in 2013 he sexually abused a minor, and who is accused of sending “grooming” text messages to a high school student earlier this year.
Priests in the Archdiocese of New Orleans told CNA that Clark is a quiet guy with a reputation among the presbyterate for keeping to himself. Priests in the archdiocese said that Clark’s nickname in the seminary was Lurch, in reference to the gloomy, shambling butler on television’s The Addams Family.
Some priests said that Clark is regarded as kind, attentive to the Serra Club and other projects, but was known by some to have a compulsive video game habit, sometimes staying up all night to play games.
Priests also told CNA that they are praying for Clark and his parish. Some speculated that the priest might have gotten involved with the women through a pornography addiction, and failed to appreciate the escalating circumstances or ask for help until it was too late, especially regarding the demonic aspect of the pornographic performance he filmed.
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Still, one priest said that while many in the presbyterate are surprised by Clark's action, the priest has no excuse for his choices.
Chistopher Baglow, a theologian who taught Clark in seminary, told CNA that he believes Clark’s misdeeds point to a problem with seminary evaluation.
In the seminary, nothing about Clark’s behavior suggested that the priest would later do the things he is accused of, Baglow said. But he did recall concerns about the seminarian.
The theologian remembered Clark for being a student who didn’t participate in class, was negligent of assignments and seemed often “to be flying under the radar.”
“It was clear he wasn’t trying, and some made it known,” Baglow said. “It was often countered that pastoral gifts and holiness do not require great theological genius, and the concern was expressed by some colleagues that we should avoid focusing too much on academics.”
But Baglow said his concern about Clark, or other students who gave evidence of not trying, was not about academics, but about character.