It’s a shame to even suggest implementing a random drug testingprogram for clergy, but maybe such a program would have savedCatholic priest Richard Arko from the embarrassment of beingarrested and removed from the Prince of Peace Church in Barberton,Ohio.
Arko was arrested last January, whenpolice found a marijuana growing system in the church rectory.According to reports by the Associated Press, police confiscatedabout 35 potted marijuana plants ranging from six inches to fourfeet tall, along with grow lights, electric transformers, airpurifiers and instruction books for growing marijuana. He wascharged with illegal cultivation of marijuana, a fifth-degreefelony. Arko pleaded guilty to the charges two weeksago.
Arko’s defense: his strong belief in themedicinal benefits of marijuana. According to an article by theReligion News Service, Arko was hoping that some day possession andusage of marijuana would no longer be a crime.
Although the charges carried a two-year prisonsentence, Summit County Common Please Judge Patricia Cosgrove,ordered two years of probation, 100 hours of community service, andrandom drug testing in lieu of the prison term.
His honesty about the cultivation of theillegal plants is almost surreal. Yet it is clear that he wastrying to invoke the healing powers of marijuana argument to gainleniency from the judge. Not far behind are the arguments for andagainst the legalization of marijuana.
Although these felony charges will notnecessarily remove Arko from the priesthood, an allegation ofsexual abuse lodged against him might. The Summit Countyprosecutor’s office is investigating an allegation made in Februaryby a 24-year-old Barberton man that Arko had molested him since 15.The diocesan review board will also investigate the charges beforeany removal decisions are made.
Clergy members are supposed to provideguidance for their congregations. They are supposed to be rolemodels. With frequent reports of the Catholic priesthood beingpopulated with pedophiles, homosexuals, and, now, potheads, thereshould be little surprise that people are losing faith in thechurch. How can you counsel someone on the evils of substance abuseby day, and later light up a joint? Your advice carries no weightif you are weak to the very things you urge others to abstainfrom.
Each event of contemptuous behavior by theclergy adds to the already significantly eroded influence of thechurch. This marijuana cultivation incident is just another knockagainst the Catholic clergy.