- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

NEW YORK The New York Archdiocese distanced itself yesterday from a high-ranking official's sermon that blamed the Catholic Church's sex scandals on homosexual priests and American immorality.
Monsignor Eugene Clark, who was filling in Sunday for Cardinal Edward Egan at the pulpit of St. Patrick's Cathedral, gave the sermon without consulting Cardinal Egan, the archdiocese said.
"He was speaking for himself," spokesman Joe Zwilling said.
Monsignor Clark, the rector of St. Patrick's, called the United States "probably the most immoral country in the Western Hemisphere," labeled homosexuality "a disorder" and said that admitting homosexual students into seminaries was a "grave mistake."
In a statement yesterday, Monsignor Clark said his homily had been "misconstrued and misinterpreted."
"I did not associate homosexuals with the illness of pedophilia, although some priests had fallen, sadly, into man-boy sexual relationships. Nothing in the homily implied that homosexuals were, categorically or individually, guilty of any crime," he said.
Monsignor Clark celebrates Mass at St. Patrick's when Cardinal Egan visits other churches in the archdiocese. The monsignor is not expected to consult the cardinal about the content of his homily, Mr. Zwilling said.
"I don't know if the cardinal even knew about Monsignor Clark's remarks before he departed for Rome yesterday," Mr. Zwilling said. "He certainly did not comment on them to me."
As he spoke, priests throughout the archdiocese read parishioners a letter from Cardinal Egan apologizing for any mishandling of sex-abuse cases involving priests.
Monsignor Clark estimated that 3 percent of U.S. clergymen have a tendency toward abusing children that is aggravated by sexual images in popular entertainment.
"So if the 3 percent were touched by that, we ask God to forgive them for it. We ask God to help remedy a situation which might be way beyond the control of the Holy Father and apostles," he said.
Monsignor Clark is known in the archdiocese for being conservative and unafraid to criticize the church hierarchy for liberalism, said Tom Reese, editor in chief of the Catholic weekly America.
"It's clear that Monsignor Clark is speaking for himself and is expressing the views of very conservative Catholics," Mr. Reese said.
Catholic League President William Donohue said he would be surprised if Cardinal Egan disagreed with Monsignor Clark's statements, which he called long overdue. "This MTV world of sexual titillation has everything to do with the corruption, whether that's in the church or out of the church," Mr. Donohue said.
Monsignor Clark's Sunday sermon in part echoed the Vatican's first public statement about the scandal. The pope's chief spokesman last month said that the church needs to prevent homosexuals from becoming priests.
Marianne Duddy, executive director of the homosexual Catholic advocacy group Dignity/USA, called Monsignor Clark's homily "very irresponsible."
"I think that most Catholics see this for what it is an attempt to deflect attention away from the horrible mishandling of the situation by church officials and the decades of cover-up that have been engaged in," she said.

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