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Married priest sends out letter announcing his job as real estate agent

February 28, 1997

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ A Roman Catholic priest who scandalized the diocese when it came out that he had been secretly married for 15 years has apparently decided to leave the church and stay with his wife.

Patrick J. Clarke started working for a real estate agency last month and lists his wife’s address on his real estate license, state records show.

Although he’s sent letters to former parishioners informing them of his new position, he is still on leave from his job as pastor of Espiritu Santo Catholic Church and has not notified the church of his decision.

``I know nothing,″ said Mary Jo Murphy, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg. ``All I know is officially he is still on a leave of absence.″

After a copy of Clarke’s marriage license was anonymously sent to church officials, Bishop Robert Lynch announced in October that Clarke was married. He asked Clarke, 52, to take a leave of absence and choose between his wife and a job that requires he be single and celibate.

``You can be assured of my concern for your welfare in the important and personal decisions of purchasing or selling property,″ Clarke said in the letter sent this week to former parishoners, which did not mention his ministry.

He apparently made up his mind late last year.

He sent a letter with his Christmas cards that said he decided to devote himself to his marriage and planned to go into real estate, said former parishioner Andrew Rodnite, Jr.

``This has had big effect on me. It’s like losing a friend,″ said Rodnite, whose children were baptized by Clarke.

Clarke did not return messages left Thursday at his home and office. He has not spoken publicly since Lynch’s announcement.

His wife, Barbara Rominger, has said she will support her husband no matter what he decides.

Kathy Erickson hired Clarke to work in her real estate agency starting in mid-January.

``I felt he was a good person and he would fit in well here. I feel very strongly that he’s a wonderful asset,″ she said.

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