Francis Cardinal Arinze
I am writing to beg your assistance for a faithful priest in the diocese of Arlington, VA, Fr. Joseph Clark, who was suspended from ministry on August 5 by Bishop Paul S. Loverde without a hearing and without reasonable cause. Fr. Clark was reassigned in June from a very orthodox parish, St. Andrew in Centreville, VA, to Holy Family in Dale City which has a reputation for liberalism. He had only been at the parish a few weeks and was beginning to correct some of the abuses and laxity common in the parish.
On Sunday July 24 after Mass Father corrected a permanent deacon, Gerald Moore, for liturgical abuses during the preparation of the gifts and after the Consecration. The deacon handled the Precious Blood in an irreverent and improper manner in violation of the rubrics. Since he would not take correction Father told him if the abuse continued he could not allow him to participate in Masses he celebrated in the future. Mr. Moore contacted the diocese and accused Fr. Clark of harassment and threatened a lawsuit.
A few days later the delegate for clergy, Fr. Robert Avella, called Fr. Clark and told him they had received many letters from the parish. (The pastor said he received three letters and a few phone calls.) Father asked to see the letters and the accusations against him. His request was denied, but a meeting was arranged with the bishop for August 6. When Fr. Clark arrived for what he thought was a one-on-one discussion at the bishop’s residence he was met by the bishop, the diocesan lawyer, and Fr. Avella.
Without warning and without any attempt to get Fr. Clark’s side of the story, Bishop Loverde gave him a letter of suspension. The letter was dated the previous day indicating Bishop Loverde decided to suspend Father without even questioning him. The bishop ordered Father to vacate the rectory by 4:00 p.m. giving him fewer than six hours to find a place to stay and remove his belongings. The bishop also banned Fr. Clark from saying public Masses and ordered him not to leave the diocese.
The bishop has created a serious scandal in the diocese which is becoming increasingly public as people express their concern over Fr. Clark’s treatment. A friend who attends daily Mass at Holy Family sent me the following email about the impact Fr. Clark was having on the daily life of the parish. She was very upset about his suspension:
He is a most wonderful, faithful priest who began straight-away to correct something people had been doing [at Holy Family]: arriving a few minutes late for Mass…. He rightly admonished us on our duty to arrive on time for Mass in order to receive all the benefits God gives to us during the Holy Sacrifice and not to miss a single moment from the Entrance Antiphon, penitential rite, etc. There were about five of us who arrived late…. After Mass, I approached him and thanked him for what he had said because I had been falling into the habit at times of screeching up to Church, arriving exactly on time or a minute late. Thanks to him, I will never do that again. He stood up so strongly about the complete Holy Sacrifice as a gift of our Heavenly Father. I love him!... With the arrival of Fr. Planty, Fr. Clark, and the continuing presence of dear Fr. Carrier… I was completely in heaven and overjoyed! He is a strong and faithful priest who surely influenced my son to come back to the Church after a fifteen year absence when he was at St. Andrews.
many lay people to whom I have spoken are appalled at Fr. Clark’s
dismissal especially the people from his former parish who loved and respected
him. Even if every charge in the suspension letter were true, the bishop’s
action is extreme and overly harsh. Unhappily, the lack of due process
seems to be typical of Bishop Loverde’s treatment of faithful priests.
us, Your Eminence. Fr. Clark has done nothing to deserve suspension and
should be reinstated immediately lest the flock suffer further.