Monday, October 24, 2005
A Monsignor's Closet
August 20, 2005
When last we heard from the rector at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Monsignor Eugene Clark, it was April of 2002, when he made headlines amid the priest sexual abuse scandal, practically calling for a new Spanish Inquisition, this time directed solely at homosexuals.
Standing in one Sunday for the befuddled and hiding Cardinal Egan – under attack for having ignored abusive priests – Clark, rector at what is arguably the seat of the Catholic Church in America, ranted that homosexuality is a "disorder" and said it was a "grave mistake" to allow gays into the priesthood, blaming them for the sex abuse scandal. Clark has long upheld the Vatican belief that homosexuals – and the liberals who support them – are bringing down society, and, of course, want to destroy the institution of marriage. He also attacked those who are critical of celibacy.
Now here is Monsignor Clark, three years later, at the age of 79, exposed last week as engaging in an adulterous affair with a married women 30 years younger, proving that the greatest threat to marriage is in fact pompous, hypocritical, heterosexual men who can’t keep their dicks to themselves even as they become octogenarians.
There is a God!
"The next time somebody gets a lecture from a priest on the necessity of sexual restraint, their first reaction might be one of cynicism,” commented the Church’s own pitbull, William Donohue of the Catholic League, perhaps the first time I’ve ever agreed with him on anything. But in fact, many people have been reacting to the Vatican with cynicism for a long time, and certainly since the abuse scandal. This is just more wood on the fire, sadly confirming that they’ve learned not a damn thing.
Clark resigned last week, even though he denied the charge – which came from the husband of his secretary, Laura DeFilippo, filed in divorce papers – claiming he and the woman had a platonic relationship. But there are apparently videotapes of Clark and his gal pal going to a motel in the Hamptons and staying for five hours, each coming out in a new set of clothes. Clark is either pioneering an innovative new form of confession – driving 90 miles from the cramped church confessional to a beach motel in a swank resort area, for five hours of confession that involves a change of attire as penance – or they were screwing big time.
Adultery, however, wasn’t the only deception in gay-basher Clark’s closet. As I wrote in a column back in 2002 when he launched his antigay tirade, Clark dutifully worked as secretary for – and covered up for -- one of the most notorious, powerful and sexually voracious homosexuals in the American Catholic Church’s history: the politically connected Francis Cardinal Spellman, known as "Franny" to assorted Broadway chorus boys and others, who was New York’s cardinal from 1939 until his death in 1967. (The piece I wrote – “Cardinal Spellman’s Dark Legacy” – is included in my new collection of articles, Hitting Hard.)
Spellman, as I wrote, was the epitome of the self-loathing, closeted, evil queen, working with his good friend, the closeted gay McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn, to undermine liberalism in America during the 1950s’ communist and homosexual witch hunts. He, in many ways, is almost single-handedly responsible for ushering in the American Catholic church’s more punitive, authoritarian stances and reactions to the sexual revolution, feminism and gay rights.
Gore Vidal has long alluded to Spellman’s, homosexuality, once commenting that, "the serious crimes of Spellman were not sexual,” implying of course that the most serious crime was the arrogant and reckless hypocrisy, just as in the case of Monsignor Clark, who was Spellman’s right-hand man during the years he was getting some on the side, obviously teaching Clark a thing or two.
The original bound galleys of former Wall Street Journal reporter John Cooney’s Spellman biography, The American Pope -- published in 1984 by Times Books, which was then owned by The New York Times Company -- included four pages on Spellman’s homosexuality. (In a hideous example of the church’s power and The New York Times’ fears in those days, these pages were removed, the details of which are recounted in the piece in Hitting Hard). Cooney had included interviews with several notable individuals who knew Spellman as gay. Among Cooney’s interview subjects was C.A. Tripp, the noted researcher affiliated with Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey of the Institute for Sex Research – and author of the controversial book published last year, The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, which brought forth evidence of the former president’s homosexual relationships.
Tripp died in May of 2003. In a telephone interview I conducted with him a year before his death, Tripp told me that his information about Spellman came from a Broadway dancer in the show One Touch of Venus who had a relationship with Spellman back in the 1940s; the prelate would have his limousine pick up the dancer several nights a week and bring him back to his place. Tripp told me that when the dancer once asked Spellman how he could get away with this, Spellman answered, "Who would believe that?" The anecdote is also recounted in John Loughery’s history of gay life in the 20th century, The Other Side of Silence.
"In New York’s clerical circles, Spellman’s sex life was a source of profound embarrassment and shame to many priests," Cooney had written in the original manuscript of his book. The archdiocese exploded after it got wind of the information, and became determined to stop it from being published. None other than the current gay-basher Monsignor Clark, in an interview with the Times, called the assertions "preposterous," commenting that "if you had any idea of [Spellman’s] New England background" you’d realize these were "foolish" charges.
That ridiculous explanation is consistent with Clark’s current claims that there was nothing out of the ordinary about his going with a woman to a beach motel for five hours and a change of clothes. The woman’s husband, Philip DeFilippo, told the press his wife “frequently” spent weekends with Monsignor Clark at his beach house in Amagansett on the South Fork of Long Island, and sometimes even brought the couples two kids with her – allegedly exposing them to an adulterous affair even as he’s railing against child abuse!
Clark appears to be as arrogant and intoxicated with power as his self-loathing mentor. And I have no doubt the church will sweep this under the rug just as did Spellman’s hypocrisy. Let’s be glad, at least, that this one was brought down in his own lifetime and before he could do any more damage.