Msgr. Abandons His Altar Ego

By Barbara Ross and Adam Lisberg
New York Daily News
August 7, 2006

The divorce case that brought down one of the leaders of the Catholic Church in New York is still roiling in the courts - but Msgr. Eugene Clark has apparently made peace with his new role in life.

Clark resigned in disgrace from his post as rector of St. Patrick's Cathedral a year ago, accused of carrying on an affair with a church secretary 33 years his junior. He denied the claim - but when a videotape emerged of them leaving a Hamptons motel after 5-1/2 hours inside, he stepped down and moved out of the cathedral rectory.

Today, the 80-year-old priest lives in his quiet East Hampton home, entertaining his family in his sparkling backyard pool and staying out of the spotlight.

"Let's keep it that way," Clark said recently, declining to speak to a reporter at his home.

His alleged lover, secretary Laura DeFilippo, 47, is similarly mum - living in an apartment in White Plains as she tries to negotiate a final divorce settlement with her husband, Philip, 47.

DeFilippo went to work straight out of high school as a parish secretary for Clark, who would later officiate at her marriage to Philip. Her church salary got as high as $100,000, Philip DeFilippo said in court papers, and he grew suspicious of the trips they took together.

In July 2001, she told her husband she and Clark were heading to a Riverhead, L.I., warehouse to look through old paperwork. But a private eye he hired caught them heading, instead, to a Montauk restaurant and then an Amagansett motel.

Philip DeFilippo filed for divorce, claiming his wife committed adultery, though she denied it through her attorney.

The the two have argued for months over ownership of their home and custody of their two children. A source said Clark never sat for a deposition in the case.

The News caught Clark when he returned weeks later to the Surfside Inn restaurant to interrogate waiter Jonathan Todd, 27, of Staten Island, who had served the cleric and DeFilippo brunch.

Todd said Clark found him slicing lemons in a back room and pressed him about their conversation that day, even though Todd couldn't remember it.

"According to him, he asked me if he could get some lodging for a couple hours," Todd said. "'She was tired.' This is what he told me. 'She just wanted to lay down.' I was like, 'All right. I still don't remember, pal.'"

Clark never identified himself as a priest, Todd said, but he still found it odd that Clark would interrogate him so strenuously.

When Clark walked out of the restaurant, he told The News the allegations of an affair were "not true." He repeated his denials to the archdiocese - but resigned anyway two days later.

"He has not lost his priesthood. He has no assignment," said archdiocesan spokesman Joseph Zwilling. "He can't celebrate Mass or celebrate the sacraments publicly ... because this is what he agreed to when he stepped down as rector."

Clark's alleged affair made national news - in part because he was a theological hard-liner who used his pulpit and a Catholic TV show to condemn the country's "sex-saturated society."

He retired to the rustic home that he built four decades ago near a secluded beach.

"Nobody that knows him has anything negative to say about him," said Shirley Freedman, who lives next door with her husband, retired Rabbi Martin Freedman. "We find him a very fine fellow."

Another neighbor said Clark hasn't lost his sense of humor - once greeting him on their private road by asking, "Heard any good gossip lately?"

With Nicole Bode


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