The Archbishop’s Silence
Here in south Louisiana, everybody is talking about the hurricane coming ashore today. But they’re also talking about this vile story from a small town north of New Orleans:
"The lights inside Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Pearl River were on later than usual on Sept. 30, so a passerby stopped to take a closer look.
Peering inside, the onlooker saw the small parish’s pastor half-naked having sex with two women on the altar, according to court documents. The women were dressed in corsets and high-heeled boots. There were sex toys and stage lighting. And a mobile phone was mounted on a tripod, recording it all.
The eyewitness took a video and called the Pearl River police, who arrived at the church and viewed that recording. Officers then arrested the Rev. Travis Clark, pastor of Saints Peter and Paul since 2019, on obscenity charges.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans announced the priest’s arrest Oct. 1 but would not give specifics about why he was arrested. Nor would the police.
New details, however, have emerged in court filings that paint a lurid picture of a priest recording himself engaged in sexual role play while desecrating a sacred place within the church. Public records additionally show that one of the women, Mindy Dixon, 41, is an adult film actor who also works for hire as a dominatrix. On a social media account associated with Dixon, a Sept. 29 post says she was on her way to the New Orleans area to meet another dominatrix “and defile a house of God.”
Obviously this is demonic. What is also infuriating is that Archbishop Aymond is treating this like a management problem. He’s stayed quiet (notice that the media found out through court filings), came in and exorcised the church, appointed a new priest, and sent an official letter saying that he is standing by the parish in its time of scandal.
“Be assured of my continued personal support and prayers for your parish community.” Those are the words of a bureaucrat, not a pastor. My God, this priest had kinky sex on the holy altar! The archbishop ought to be visibly shaken and infuriated by this desecration, and the pain it must cause the people of the parish. He has reportedly suspended Father Clark. Suspended? He ought to begin the defrocking process immediately, and make it publicly known that he is doing this.
Worse, it turns out that Father Clark had just been named chaplain of Pope John Paul II Catholic high school in nearby Slidell. He had been appointed to replace Father Pat Wattigny, removed from that position on October 1 after he admitted to Archbishop Aymond that in 2013, he molested a minor. From WWL’s report:
"Pope John Paul II’s principal on Tuesday sent a letter to school parents rebuking Aymond for waiting until last week to tell him that Wattigny had been under investigation for those texts since February.
Bill Arata, an attorney representing a student who received texts from Wattigny and a father of another Pope John Paul II student, said the students are struggling with the news.
Today is one full week to hear two incredibly disappointing events and to say that an in-house deacon can provide counseling to these kids when the deacon has children at the school would be the equivalent of sending me to do it,” Arata said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate. I think they need world-class crisis intervention. It’s obvious now they need it.”"
But get this: the Archdiocese has known all year that Father Wattigny was under investigation for sending inappropriate texts to a male student in that high school (asking, for example, when he would turn 18) — but it did not tell the high school’s principal. More:
Arata said Wattigny was sending texts to his client in the middle of the night, repeatedly asking when the boy would turn 18 and discussing private, in-person meetings.
The texts that the student’s mother turned over are from February and July and cover 90 printed pages, Arata said. Both batches of texts were provided to the Archdiocese’s general counsel, Susan Zeringue, who met with the boy’s mother in February, the archdiocese confirmed.
Aymond’s letter to Pope John Paul families defended the archdiocese’s handling of Wattigny, explaining how the church arranged for him to undergo “professional assessments” that led the priest to disclose an episode where he did abuse a child.
Gosh, parents, what’s your problem? The archbishop said that the lecherous priest preying on your sons via text message, trying to figure out when it would be legal to get into their pants, had been made to undergo “professional assessments.” What more do you want?
(I’m being sarcastic. What would Walker Percy have been able to do with a deadhead bureaucrat like Archbishop Aymond?!)
These guys, the bishops: they will never, ever get it. Many of them have shown over and over that they will protect the perceived interest of the institution over the interests of the Catholic people. And then when scandal breaks, they treat it like a corporate crisis to be managed, not a moral and spiritual catastrophe.
When, exactly, was Archbishop Aymond planning to tell the people of that parish, and of the archdiocese, that a parish priest and chaplain of a big Catholic high school had been caught having sex with dominatrixes on the altar of a church? Why did the Catholics of the archdiocese have to learn about this from the media perusing court documents? Why did it take eight months for the archbishop to tell the leadership of the Catholic high school that the chaplain appeared to be cruising boys in the school? This, eighteen years after Boston!
Why should anybody look to the archbishop and the clergy for spiritual and moral leadership?
The decadence of Father Clark and Father Wattigny are part of the problem. But the greater problem is the decadent passivity of men like Archbishop Aymond. According to Hannah Arendt, the collapse of faith in institutions and hierarchies was a precursor of totalitarianism in Russia and Germany. I know less about the situation of the Weimar-era German church, but in Russia’s late imperial period, the Orthodox Church hierarchy discredited itself in the eyes of many by being mindlessly conservative and indifferent to the suffering of the people. Younger priests begged with the hierarchy to open its eyes to what was happening, but they were rebuff...