Priest's Abuse of Children
Was Known for Years
Records Paint a Disturbing Portrait of Daniel C. Clark's
Addiction to Child Sex and the Church's Response to It
By Andrew Wolfson firstname.lastname@example.org
Downloaded May 4, 2003
As a seminary student at Cincinnati's Mount St. Mary's, the Rev.
Daniel C. Clark ranked last in his class after his first year, and
faculty later described him as "very much of a loner."
But Clark seemed to have one gift, according to his evaluations:
He was great with children.
"His way with youths was really an asset to our parish,"
wrote Robert Sonntag, a church leader in Aurora, Ind., where Clark
worked with Boy Scouts and other children in 1978, before he was
It was Clark's attraction to children, however, that ultimately
destroyed his priesthood and damaged the lives of young parishioners,
many of whom had turned to him for counsel.
In lawsuits filed against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville,
Clark, 55, is accused of molesting 19 children ages 5 to 17.
Convicted in 1988 of sodomizing one boy and sexually abusing another,
Clark also faces 60 years to life in prison if found guilty of new
criminal charges alleging he abused two other boys from 1998 until
He has pleaded innocent; a trial is scheduled to begin June 24 in
Bullitt Circuit Court. Clark, who now wears an orange jail jumpsuit
instead of his clerical collar, has been held in the Bullitt County
Detention Center since his arrest Aug. 7, unable to make his $500,000
Clark, who was removed from all ministry last summer but remains
a priest, declined to talk with a reporter, as did his lawyer, David
But records surrendered by the archdiocese -- including Clark's
373-page personnel file and 20 years of correspondence with Archbishop
Thomas C. Kelly -- paint a disturbing portrait of the priest's addiction
to sex with children and the archdiocese's response to it. The records
* Archdiocesan officials twice talked with Clark about voluntarily
leaving the priesthood -- once before his 1988 conviction "because
of his past record" of molesting children, and once after.
But when Clark balked both times, Kelly declined to petition the
Vatican to defrock him.
* Despite knowing Clark had told his psychiatrist in 1986 that he
wouldn't assign himself to a parish because "the risk is too
great," Kelly assigned him the next year to serve as a part-time
pastor at SS Simon & Jude church. Clark also was allowed to fill
in regularly as a weekend substitute at other parishes.
The archdiocese also assigned Clark in 1986 to live with the Holy
Cross Brothers, despite concerns he might abuse students at Holy
Cross High School, which shares the campus. "We will make it
quite clear that he is not to be involved with the high school in
any way," the archdiocese's clergy personnel director wrote
to Clark's psychiatrist. "But is he capable of keeping such
* Immediately after his 1988 conviction, Clark confided to Kelly
that he was "terrified of doing it again." But while Clark
was removed from public ministry upon his arrest and never again
assigned to a parish, over the next 14 years he was allowed to volunteer
his services to numerous organizations.
The archdiocese said it relied on Clark to tell the groups he volunteered
with about the restrictions on his ministry, including that he was
barred from working with children.
But representatives of several groups, including volunteer fire
departments, ham radio organizations and the local Department for
Disaster and Emergency Services, said they didn't know of his record
or the restrictions -- they just knew him as "Father Dan."
Citing in part the pending litigation, the archdiocese's chancellor
and chief administrative officer, Brian Reynolds, declined to respond
to questions about Clark and how the church dealt with him. Other
priests mentioned in the files declined to comment or didn't return
a reporter's calls.
"In the past year we have all heard so many new reports from
people telling they were abused by Fr. Clark," Reynolds said
in a brief statement by e-mail. "Their stories are tragic and
"I wish no child ever had to experience any form of abuse,
especially by a member of the clergy," Reynolds said. "In
hindsight it is easy to say the church should have seen more or
'A LOT OF BAD THINGS'
Clark said his pastor molested him as a child
Daniel Cooper Clark's mother was Catholic, his father was not, and
he wasn't baptized in the faith until 12 years after he was born
on a farm in Winchester, Ind., in 1948.
He would later tell one of his victims, according to court records,
that "there was just a lot of bad things going on in my childhood."
The records also show Clark would later tell one of his victims,
as well as Kelly, that he was molested in his childhood by his own
When Clark decided to pursue ministry as a young man, the Archdiocese
of Indianapolis sponsored him, then dropped him for unexplained
reasons while he was pursuing his undergraduate degree at St. Meinrad.
Later, at Mount St. Mary's, where he was sponsored by the Archdiocese
of Louisville, Clark nearly flunked out. Scott Andrew, a classmate
and longtime friend who eventually left the priesthood and is now
a family therapist, said Clark wasn't "bookwise" and liked
to drink and party more than study.
Clark would be diagnosed in the 1980s as "cross-addicted to
sex and alcohol."
In 1980, the faculty at Mount St. Mary's refused to recommend him
for ordination, but the Louisville archdiocese interceded on his
behalf. ThenArchbishop Thomas McDonough had said in a 1978 memo
that Clark "meets people well, he is concerned, he is involved
and he is interested."
In 1979, the archdiocese's vocational director reminded seminary
officials that the Vatican had ordered seminaries to cooperate with
dioceses in producing priests, and said, "This report is meant
to suggest (Clark's) readiness to be approved for major orders."
"They were desperate for bodies," said Monsignor Lawrence
Breslin, the seminary's former rector, who said he remembered Clark
as "immature" and unimpressive.
Eventually, the seminary allowed Clark to graduate, and he was ordained
on May 24, 1980.
He was assigned to St. Rita on Preston Highway, and a month later
began complaining in memos to the archdiocese that his $467 in salary
and stipends left him unable to repay student loans or even leave
the parish on his days off.
"As a result," he wrote five months after becoming a priest,
"I am experiencing a burned-out feeling."
Within a year, he had molested his first victim at St. Rita, he
admitted later in court. Thirteen plaintiffs contend in lawsuits
against the archdiocese that they also were abused by Clark when
he was at St. Rita.
They include Paul Barrett, who said he was 16 when he went to see
Clark for counseling after his parents' divorce. "I reached
out my hand to him for help, and he bit me like an old dog,"
said Barrett, now 38.
Barrett alleges that Clark fondled and later masturbated him under
the guise that girls were interested in him and would want to touch
him, and that the priest could "help me through it."
Barrett says he tried to report Clark to the church's pastor, but
another priest, now dead, told him to "leave the church premises."
Another plaintiff, Brian J. Weatherbee, said he told his mother
in June 1981, when he was 13, that Clark, after luring him to his
apartment, stuck his hand in Weatherbee's underpants while consoling
him for breaking a vase.
Harriet Ann Weatherbee testified in a deposition last year that
she reported her son's allegation to St. Rita's pastor, the Rev.
Vincent Schweizer, on July 3, 1981, and that Schweizer assured her
that it had been reported to the archdiocese.
At least one other parent reported Clark to Schweizer for allegedly
molesting his son, Schweizer acknowledged in a deposition last year.
Schweizer said he referred the man to the archdiocese, but never
followed up, taking Clark's word that he had been referred for counseling.
Clark later pleaded guilty in Jefferson Circuit Court to molesting
two children at St. Rita, including an 11year-old whom he called
out of class about a week after the boy's brother was killed.
Other plaintiffs who have filed suit against the archdiocese allege
that Clark molested them at St. Rita under the guise of helping
expel their evil spirits, checking them for "nerves" and
curing stomach aches.
Sex, marijuana use reportedly continued
In June 1982, about a year after allegations about Clark reportedly
were made to the archdiocese, Kelly -- who had recently been installed
as archbishop -- transferred Clark to another parish, St. Dominic
in Springfield, Ky.
"I know that you will bring great zeal and fidelity to this
assignment," Kelly told Clark in a letter, "and I am equally
confident that you will be well-received by the people you are to
St. Dominic parishioner John Willis Grider, then 17, would later
say the newly ordained Clark appealed to him because he drove a
Jeep, drank at a local bar and was relatively young.
Grider was sent by his mother to Clark for counseling because, according
to court papers, the boy had been drinking, smoking pot and having
problems in school.
"We had a few beers, and Clark produced a green, tin lock box
containing marijuana, rolling papers and pipes,' Grider said in
court papers, describing his first counseling session in the summer
"After a few hits of marijuana, Clark said he would teach me
some relaxation exercises in his bedroom upstairs. . . . Clark massaged
my chest and subsequently loosened my belt and unzipped my jeans."
Grider said that after Clark fondled and sodomized him, he walked
home and told his mother, who reported it to St. Dominic's pastor,
the Rev. James T. Blandford. Blandford said in an interview that
neither parishioners nor Kelly ever told him about any improper
conduct involving Clark.
Clark, however, apologized to Grider, according to an Oct. 18, 1982,
letter addressed "Dear John" that is now in Clark's personnel
"I ask for forgiveness for the anxiety I may have caused you,"
Clark wrote. "John, I am most sincere when I say I beg your
forgiveness -- I trust now in the Lord."
On April 6, 1983, Clark began seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Robert
O'Connor, for "emotional illness," according to records
from the archdiocese, which paid for the counseling.
Two months later, Kelly transferred Clark to St. John Vianney parish
on Southside Drive, where over three years he allegedly abused four
boys, according to suits pending against the archdiocese.
While at St. John Vianney, Clark also befriended a Bullitt County
woman, Geraldine Henry, who had four children, two of them boys.
Clark would take the family food, money and toys, and take the boys,
John and Ralph, on fishing trips, recalled April Divine, one of
Geraldine Henry's daughters.
"We looked at him as a father figure, because we didn't have
one," Divine said in an interview.
She said Clark began a relationship with her mother, once promising
to leave the church and marry her. But eventually, Ralph and John
would confide in their mother that Clark had molested them, according
to Divine and lawsuits both men have filed against the archdiocese.
Divine said her mother, who has lost her voice box to cancer and
cannot talk, now believes Clark was only interested in her sons.
Divine said her mother told Clark to stay away after her sons' revelations,
but after Clark apologized in writing and assured her that he'd
undergone treatment, she allowed him to visit again.
"Everybody thought he was a changed man," Ralph Henry
told a Shepherdsville Police Department detective last year. "I
mean he wears a collar of God."
Pastor told archbishop of ongoing problems
Clark's involvement with Geraldine Henry was no secret to the archdiocese,
its records show. Nor was his interest in her sons. In a July 1985
letter to Kelly, St. John Vianney's pastor, the Rev. James J. Lichtefeld
Sr., said: "John Henry's mother's name is Geraldine and since
he goes over there often it could be that she is the Gerri that
he is infatuated with. However, the evening he talked about John
Henry . . . he made it clear that it was not . . . John's mother,
that he was interested in."
Lichtefeld also wrote that Clark had mentioned his "involvement
with some high school boys when he was at St. Rita's."
Lichtefeld complained that Clark was "just going through the
motions with Mass" and "not praying," and that he
was drinking often and early in the day. Urging Kelly to grant Clark
a leave of absence, Lichtefeld concluded: "I do know that he
doesn't and can't operate as a priest and he knows it too. If he
stays here and continues as he is, he will be causing scandal."
Kelly granted the leave, noting in a memo that he approved it because
of Clark's relationship with Geraldine Henry, his lack of enthusiasm
for preaching and his "continued starving for attention."
When Clark returned to the archdiocese, his psychiatrist offered
a bleak prognosis to the Rev. William L. Fichteman, the archdiocese
clergy personnel director.
"Dr. O'Connor has seen very little progress in Dan and believes
that he is, for the most part, in a state of denial of his situation,"
Fichteman said in a May 1986 memo. "Instead of relating priest
to people, he still relates to people in categories such as son
to parent, intimate friend, etc. Thus, he forms relationships with
people which are inappropriate for a priest."
Fichteman also expressed reservations about Clark's return to active
"We are concerned that he is simply ineffective as a priest
and has nothing to offer a parish," Fichteman wrote. "This
perception is affirmed by the fact that three or four pastors who
have been approached about Dan coming to their parishes have said,
'Absolutely not!' "
Fichteman added that Clark -- when asked by his psychiatrist to
reverse roles and say where he should be assigned -- "finally
said he would not assign himself to a parish. . . . The risk would
be too great."
Fichteman said O'Connor rejected the idea that Clark request laicization,
or removal from the priesthood. "There is no way Dan could
function as a lay person," O'Connor said, according to Fichteman's
The records show Clark worked on Kelly to salvage his priesthood.
"Perhaps it sounds strange, but I would like to experience
death as a priest of the Lord," Clark wrote the archbishop
in June 1986.
After "careful consideration," Kelly allowed Clark to
work as chaplain at the old Highlands Baptist Hospital and in 1987
assigned him as a parttime pastor at SS Simon & Jude.
He was serving there and living at the Passionist Monastery on Newburg
Road when one of his victims from St. Rita called him on June 14,
1988 -- in a conversation recorded by detectives from the local
Crimes Against Children Unit.
"Did you really care, or were you using me?" asked the
victim, then 18.
"No, I really cared and I still do," Clark said. "I
prayed for you a lot. I still do."
"Then why did you do it?" the teenager asked.
"Because I was sick -- I was very mentally ill, which is obvious
and no one in their right mind would do something like that."
Clark was arrested nine days later. Kelly passed on that news to
his fellow priests by letter.
"One of our brother priests has been arraigned on charges of
child abuse," Kelly wrote. "Our first concern must be
with those who made these charges. . . . At the same time, I have
offered to Father Dan Clark our prayerful and fraternal support."
Kelly then removed Clark from public ministry.
Clark's friend, Scott Andrew, said that when he visited the priest
while he was awaiting trial, Clark told him that he had molested
"numerous children in numerous Kentucky counties, and across
state lines in Indiana."
Clark eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in
prison but was required to serve only 90 days in a work-release
program. He was ordered to have no contact with children during
his probation, which was set at five years.
In 1989, the archdiocese paid one of the prosecuting witnesses,
Michael Thomas Mudd, $207,000 to settle a lawsuit filed against
it and Clark -- with the stipulation that he never disclose the
terms of the accord or that it was settled.
ON SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT
Clark stayed busy with volunteer groups
It was about that time that Clark began sponsoring local Sex Addicts
Anonymous groups and serving on the steering committee of a national
council on the subject.
The Rev. William F. Medley, who succeeded Fichteman as the archdiocese's
clergy personnel director, rejected Clark's proposal that he be
appointed as the church's contact person for priests with sexual
problems -- problems that Clark predicted then would cause the church
In a January 1990 memo addressing Clark's future as a priest, Medley
wrote that Clark was "shocked" to learn that the church's
lawyer had decided he could never be assigned a ministerial role
because doing so "implied a position of trust," even if
it did not specifically involve children.
"An example would be that of chaplain to a nursing home,"
Medley wrote. "There would, obviously, not be any direct ministry
to minor children but his position there could obviously lead to
contact with children and he would be viewed as holding a position
Two years later, Kelly would assign another priest, the Rev. Louis
Miller, to be chaplain at a nursing and retirement home, despite
knowing that Miller had admitted in a mental health evaluation to
fondling boys his entire adult life.
In his own memo about a conversation with Clark, Kelly said he told
the priest it was so expensive keeping him on salary and housed
in the Passionist Monastery that "I planted the idea -- which
he loathed -- of possible laicization."
Clark rejected the idea in a Feb. 6, 1990, letter to Kelly: "After
a great deal of prayer, discussion with Dr. O'Connor, feedback from
colleagues and brother clergy, a request for laicization is not
an option I can or should embrace."
For many of the next 12 years, Clark was listed in the official
national Catholic directory as being on "special assignment."
He served on the archdiocese's Priest Council, and, according to
annual memos he wrote to Kelly, was ghost-writing decisions for
a priest appeal board, among other duties.
He also kept busy as a volunteer.
He was a storm spotter, for example, for the old Louisville-Jefferson
County Department of Disaster and Emergency Services, becoming known
as the "Priest in the Bell Tower." As bad weather approached,
Clark would climb to the highest perch at the Passionist Community.
"We always felt safer when the priest was in the tower watching
the skies," said Curran Copeland, the agency's former hazard
Copeland added that as the agency's informal chaplain, Clark "would
do whatever was needed, whether it was cleaning toilets or comforting
someone who had just lost his spouse. . . . He really did care about
people, and he had an undying, unlimited faith in God."
Others praised Clark for his willingness to help addicts in the
middle of the night.
Cecelia Price, the archdiocese's spokeswoman, said Clark was expected
to inform the volunteer groups about his history.
But the Camp Taylor Fire Department, didn't know about Clark, where
he was chaplain until last year, according to Chief Harold Adkins.
Nor did Kentucky REACT, a group of private radio operators that
Clark was involved with in the 1990s.
"If I had had that information, he wouldn't be on our board
-- we had teenagers in our program," said Ruby Gordon, retired
program director of the Health Department's methadone program, which
in 1994 invited Clark to serve as a director.
Copeland also said his organization didn't know. "He seemed
to have no sex at all. . . . He could crack a dirty joke now and
then, but it came off kind of lame, like he had read the joke but
was just repeating it."
Ex-colleague tells Clark to stay away from his children
In one of his last recorded letters to Kelly, in April 2000, Clark
insisted he was in control of his urges, saying he could "maintain
strict boundaries in my ministry."
And as recently as 1999, Kelly indicated that he thought Clark had
successfully rehabilitated himself. "I am very proud of you,"
Kelly wrote to him after he received an award from the National
Council on Sexual Addictions: "You have turned ultimate misfortune
into the ground of a successful ministry, and we are all grateful
for your generosity of spirit that prompts you to continue so faithful
in this work."
But according to his Bullitt County indictment, he was -- at that
very time -- visiting the Henry home and sodomizing two additional
boys, ages 11 and 12.
Clark's friend Andrew said he decided last year that he could no
longer have the priest around his own two children, who once affectionately
addressed him as "Uncle Dan."
Andrew called and left a message that Clark was no longer welcome
in his home when his children were there.
"I told him, 'the truth of it is you're a pedophile' and that
there is no cure," Andrew recalled. "It broke my heart
that it ended our friendship. But I couldn't trust him."