Sin and ink are still a volatile mix

It has felt strange to go several days without mentioning the media coverage of the scandal at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City involving the powerful 79-year-old conservative leader Msgr. Eugene Clark and his beautiful, married, much younger secretary Laura DeFilippo. Just look for the New York Daily News tabloid headlines that scream "Beauty and the Priest." This story has it all -- sex, what certainly seem to be lies and one really interesting videotape by a private eye (which is evidence in a nasty divorce, of course). Here's a tiny sample (leaving out the part where the priest is alleged to have made a kind of "touchdown!" scoring gesture to his secretary when he manages to register for the hotel room):

The Daily News viewed the videotape. After a two-hour brunch on the porch of the nearby Surfside Inn, Clark, dressed in a white polo shirt, was seen wheeling a small black suitcase into the White Sands Motel. His secretary, dressed in short white shorts and a matching top with spaghetti straps, followed him inside with an orange tote bag over her shoulder.

When they emerged about five hours later, the video showed Clark and DeFilippo wearing different outfits.

By the end of the week, Clark had resigned, the Vatican was involved and the Daily News was writing unique stories that featured items such as the following.

Have you seen a newspaper print something like this lately? This seems rather, uh, Fleet Street British to me.

The Archdiocese of New York accepted Msgr. Eugene Clark's resignation yesterday. But there are still questions left unanswered for both sides. Here are a dozen:

SIX QUESTIONS FOR MSGR. CLARK

You've been stripped of your priestly duties and have been suspended from the Eternal Word Television Network. What now?

Why would you stay at an Amagansett motel when you have a $2 million house nearby?

Were there any other women who have helped you with your “paperwork?”

You've railed against homosexuality in sermons. Where do you rank infidelity among sins?

How can a priest afford a pad in the Hamptons and trips to St. Bart's?

What would you say to Philip DeFilippo and his children?

The New York Times played things much, much straighter.

But here is what interests me. You know the old saying about the murder mystery in which the pivotal clue was the dog that did not bark? That is what this case reminds me of. The newspapers have rolled out damning evidence and opinions. There have been loaded quotes, stunning second-hand anecdotes and lots more. Catholics are outraged.

So what is the dog that is not barking? I am not hearing the usual claims that the press is out to torch the church. I am not hearing the normal yelps -- often justified, no doubt -- about media bias. Conservatives seem to be as mad as progressives, even though the left is getting to make hay about Clark's many sermons against the fruits of the Sexual Revolution.

A few conservatives have made the valid point that a man's teachings can be accurate and orthodox, even if he fails to live up to them. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. also preached many a strong sermon on marriage, family and fidelity. He spoke the truth, even as he struggled to heed his own words.

What we have here, folks, is an ordinary, very human pot-boiler. As I once wrote, in a column about an Episcopal cathedral scandal in Denver, "Sin and ink will always be a volatile mix." And all the people said, "Amen."

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