DUIN: Speedy Church Justice Missing
June 12, 2008
Every priest in the Diocese of Arlington knows of Father James Haley. And the Rev. Joseph Clark.
What both priests have in common is that their careers have been destroyed by one man - Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde.
Bishop Loverde was not amused when, starting in 1999, Father Haley began supplying him with names of adulterous priests, homosexual clergy and priests with a predilection for child porn.
Instead of immediately removing these clergymen, the bishop on Oct. 23, 2001, gave Father Haley four hours to move out of his rectory and suspended him from all priestly functions.
A lawyer who got wind of this compelled Father Haley to testify in 2002 in a lawsuit involving a priest who had run off with a female parishioner. Father Haley's 233-page deposition, filed in Arlington County Circuit Court, was filled with salacious details about his fellow clergy.
Father Haley, 52, remains in limbo as the dispute between him and his bishop has escalated into a case that reached the Vatican in 2004. While it gathers dust there, he gets by on a $1,700 monthly stipend by bunking with friends and using a motorcycle.
Friends have counseled the whistleblower to quit the priesthood and get a secular job, but Father Haley, convinced his calling is divine, refuses to walk away.
Father Clark's troubles began in 2005 after he told a deacon, Gerald Moore, that he was improperly handling consecrated wine. The deacon's daughter threatened the diocese with a lawsuit, and instead of calling the daughter's bluff, the bishop put the priest on forced leave.
"Any priest worth his salt would have been miffed at what the deacon did," Father Clark, 50, told me after I ran a story about the fracas in August. "I am trying to get the bishop to admit some degree of fault in regards of his failure to defend me in my canonical duty to run the Mass correctly."
But Catholic priests have no Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in their corner and little recourse in canon law if they oppose a bishop.
While in Rome covering the papal transition in 2005, I buttonholed Monsignor Augustine "Gus" DiNoia, undersecretary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (where a lot of the molestation cases and accusations end up). I handed the monsignor a full page article I had written in 2004 about Father Haley and asked for comment.
I got none.
In November 2006, I located Bishop Loverde at a U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting and asked him whether he planned to restore Father Clark. He dodged my question, but eventually, the Vatican decided Father Clark had not been given due process.
In February 2008, the bishop offered Father Clark a job with a cloistered religious order. But ever since the deacon incident, Father Clark has suffered strokelike symptoms that make it impossible for him to work. He now lives with family in Delaware.
Other priests have had their lives ruined by false accusations or vengeful bishops. Monsignor William McCarthy, a New Jersey priest accused and suspended in 2002 of abusing two girls, was not exonerated until April - six years later.
"The political reality is that Rome doesn't like to go against its bishops," Father Clark told me. "If there is some question as to the virtue of your bishops, the whole house crumbles.
"The local 7-Eleven clerk has gotten more protection than I receive. Justice in the church is supposed to supersede that in the civil quarter, but that didn't happen."
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