UPDATE: The Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Sarah McDonald, tells WGNO News that the altar, on which the alleged sex act took place, has been burned by the Archdiocese. On Saturday, Oct. 10, Archbishop Gregory Aymond celebrated Mass with a new altar at the church, and he introduced a new priest.
PEARL RIVER, La. — Parishioner Steve Fecke says that he liked his former priest, but the “devil got to him.”
Fecke was one of dozens of church members who attended Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church Saturday, after the ouster of Father Travis Clark. Frecke was also there to participate in what he said was a much-needed church fundraiser, to “move the church forward.”
According to court records, Clark and two women, Mindy Dixon and Melissa Cheng, each face an obscenity charge for an incident at the church, Oct. 1. All three were taken into custody at the church by Pearl River Police.
“He will never be a priest- anywhere- ever again,” says the Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Sarah McDonald.
Clark is accused of engaging in a sex act with the women– inside the church — on the church altar. In the Catholic faith, such an act would be brazenly sacrilegious and would desecrate the sanctity of the church.
On Saturday, Archbishop Gregory Aymond presided over the first Mass at the church with a new priest– and a new altar. Aymond said the former altar was burned and a new one installed, to remove the “evil spirit” that Clark had brought into the church.
While Aymond says he is “infuriated” by the incident, the attorney representing Dixon and Cheng maintains that consensual sex between adults, in what they believed to be a private place at the time, is not a crime.
WGNO’s Susan Roesgen will have a special report on the allegations- and reaction from the community– on WGNO News Sunday, (Oct. 11) at 10pm, after the NBA basketball game.
Pearl River Alderwoman Kathryn Walsh told WGNO News by email that the allegations are “very disturbing for all of us.”
“When a person you highly respect and tend to look at as a friend does something like this,” said Walsh, “it hurts deep down.”
Alderwoman Angel Galloway told WGNO News by email that the church members are “some of the finest citizens in Pearl River.”
“I pray the peace of God that passes all understanding will fill their hearts and carry them,” says Galloway. “I also pray for the three people involved in this,” she says.
“I have faith that any darkness will be refilled with light.”