The public controversy over the announcement of the accusations against Father John Corapi, SOLT, and his suspension from exercising his priestly ministry offers an opportunity to reflect on the flawed procedure apparently being followed in too many dioceses of the United States these days in the case of a priest accused of sexual misconduct not involving minors. The procedure is flawed because it inflicts grave injustice on the priest and serves as a deterrent to young men thinking of offering themselves as candidates for the priesthood.Like Bishop Gracida, several bishops and priests have come out in support of Fr. Corapi in recent weeks.
The procedure operates something like this. A person accuses a priest of sexual misconduct (again, not involving a minor). The priest is immediately suspended from active exercise of his priestly ministry while an investigation is launched into the truth or falsity of the accusations.
There is no need for a public announcement to be made that gives the name of the priest and the fact of the accusation and the suspension, and yet, all to often such a public announcement is made. Such public announcement by a diocese almost always results in media exploitation of the news in a sensational manner to the detriment of the Catholic Church and its priesthood. It seems that rarely, if ever, is mention is made in the announcement of the name of the accuser.
The investigation may take days or months or years to complete. In the meantime the priest’s reputation is effectively destroyed and perhaps he is ‘thrown out on the street’ with no means of support. The accuser, on the other hand, enjoys anonymity and suffers no loss of reputation or negative material consequences and in the case of an accusation later proven to have been false the injustice to priest is great.
In cases where the priest is accused of having used force (rape or some other form of involuntary abuse) there is some justification for not publishing the name of the accuser. But, where there is reason to believe that the alleged sexual misconduct was effected through mutual consent there is no justification for not publishing the name of the accuser. Under the present procedure it is too easy for a person to allege sexual misconduct (again not involving minors) for a variety of possible unworthy motives: revenge, hope for monetary gain, hostility to the Catholic Faith, etc. Such is reported to have been the case of the accusation against Father Corapi. The only safe way to guard against damaging the reputation of individual priests and the Catholic priesthood in general is to not publish the name of an accused priest until an investigation has proved beyond doubt the guilt of the priest.
Bishop Gracida makes a valid point. After the sex scandal, and the subsequent barrage of lawsuits filed against the Church, the new zero-tolerance policy is swayed heavily towards the accuser, maybe without much concern given to the detremental effect it could have on priests wrongfully accused.
I agree with an immediate suspension in cases involving minors (it's better to be safe than sorry), but in cases like that of Fr. Corapi, where the allegations are made by an adult, it should be handled with more caution and all avenues of an investigation should be exhausted before action is taken against the priest.
Listen, I understand why the Roman Catholic Church may be gunshy, especially after the millions of dollars that had to be coughed up in legal defenses and awards over the past two decades. However, high profile priests are especially vulnerable to anyone that may feel slighted or have some sort of resentment towards them. If priests are automatically suspended (when accused by an adult), for fear of a lawsuit, the stain on their reputation may be irreperable and may be just as damaging to the image of the Church.
As most know by now, Fr. Corapi was accused of sexual misconduct and drug abuse by a former employee on Ash Wednesday. While the investigation is underway, he was placed on administrative leave by the hierarchy of his order, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, prompting a whirlwind of controversy.
Scheduled speaking engagements have been postponed and his popular show on EWTN has been temporarily pulled. The popular priest, who has been known to draw as many as 10,000 people in public appearances, has proclaimed his innocence from the onset and has asked for prayers for everyone involved.
What do you think?...