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Monday, March 28, 2011

Fr. Corapi, Priests on a Pedestal and the Church...

Many of you may already know that one of the greatest and most beloved evangelists of the Catholic Church, Fr. John Corapi, was recently put on administrative leave, after being accused by a woman that formerly worked for him of having sexual encounters with her and other women and drug abuse.

In a statement, Fr. Corapi posted on his ministry's web page, he calls for prayers for everyone involved.

On Ash Wednesday I learned that a former employee sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women. There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed “credible” in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure, which was in recent years crafted to respond to cases of the sexual abuse of minors. I am not accused of that, but it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints. I have been placed on "administrative leave" as the result of this.

I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty “just in case”, then through the process determining if he is innocent. The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known. I am not alone in this assessment, as multiple canon lawyers and civil and criminal attorneys have stated publicly that the procedure does grave damage to the accused from the outset, regardless of rhetoric denying this, and has little regard for any form of meaningful due process.

All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned.
Unfortunately, one of the many effects of the priest sex scandal is a zero-tolerance policy that may infringe on the rights of innocent clergy that get accused of improprieties. Although, I must point out that it has not been determined whether Fr. Corapi has been wrongfully accused.

The popular priest, who is a regular on EWTN, as a catechist and guest, and a prominent national Catholic speaker, has many supporters.

The Vice-President of Operations of Santa Cruz Media, Inc., which produces Fr. Corapi's speeches into videos, says, "There is no evidence at this time that Fr. Corapi did anything wrong, only the unsubstantiated rant of a former employee, who, after losing her job with this office, physically assaulted me and another employee and promised to "destroy" Father Corapi. We all continue to pray for this person, and we ask you to do the same."

His conversion story, which is one of my favorite CD’s, resonates with audiences. Without glamorizing his past, he humbly discusses going from a man of the world, who ran in the fast lane with the Hollywood crowd and owned a Beverly Hills mansion with a yacht and several luxury cars, to cocaine addiction, homelessness, depression and an eventual conversion that led him to the priesthood in his 40’s. He was ordained in Rome by Pope John Paul II.

While the blogosphere has been in a frenzy since the allegations broke (see here, here and here) and while I want to believe in Fr. Corapi’s innocence, former Anglican convert, Fr. Dwight Logenecker brings out an interesting point.

Fr. Logenecker writes that sometimes, we have a tendency of putting priests on pedestals because they represent, in holiness, everything that we want to aspire to. Often, we get caught up in certain priests' homilies or seek certain priests out for Confession. I've even heard friends and relatives tell me they "hate" attending Mass with such and such a priest and would rather attend with so and so because their homilies are more powerful and interesting.  

Unfortunately, we have to be reminded, or at times, hit with a four by four across the forehead with a story of scandal, to realize that the reason we attend Mass is not the priest, the homily, the music or the entertainment value. The reason we attend Mass as Catholics, is the Eucharist; the summit of our faith. It's to listen to the Word of God. It's to thank, honor and praise God.  It's to enter into the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ, the Church. It's the Sacrament.

As holy as any priest may be, they are human.  We should hold them to a higher standard because of their vocation and respect them for their commitment to God but also understand they are not perfect. 

Priests have enlisted to be in the front line of a spiritual warfare that is beyond our comprehension.  If there is anything evil can do to discredit and humiliate the priesthood, and thus the Church, it will do it.  Unfortunately, while a great majority of priests remain faithful to their vows, some do fall from time to time, and those are the ones that get the headlines. 

During the height of the media hysteria to try to connect Pope Benedict XVI with the bishop cover-up of the sexual abuse scandal, a Jewish friend asked me that if it was determined that the Pope was guilty of being involved in the cover up, would I still believe that he should remain as pope (In other words, should he resign?). This is a profound question for a Catholic, considering that we believe the College of Cardinals in Conclave, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, elected Joseph Ratzinger to lead the Church. It was probably more profound than my friend intended.

I remember telling him, something to the effect, that regardless of Pope Benedict's failures as a man, as Catholics we believe that he was chosen to be our shepherd.  And as our shepherd, he is protected by the Holy Spirit from misleading God's flock. 

Through almost two thousand years of Catholic Church history, there have been a handful of popes who were notorious sinners.  However, not one of them pronounced, misled or changed the teachings of the Church, as handed down by the Apostles, to suit their whims and sinfulness.

I don't believe in the Catholic Church because of Pope Benedict XVI or because of the bishops and priests. I believe in the Church because, it was established by Christ as His Kingdom on earth for better or worse.

Why did Jesus choose twelve misfits and give them the authority that God the Father had given to Him, including the ability to bind and lose on earth what would be bound and lose in heaven, forgive sins and spread and preserve the Gospel throughout the world? And, why did He give Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, and charge him with feeding and tending His sheep and flock? We’ll never know.

Consider that despite following Jesus for three years, listening to His sermons and witnessing miracle after miracle, one of the twelve Apostles betrayed Him, another denied Him, and most faltered, doubted and ran for cover when the feces hit the fan.

Therefore, as we consider the plight of Fr. Corapi, whether he is wrongly accused or not, we need to pray for him and all priests, who are fighting the good fight.  And, while we have to love them, as we must love all God's children, and respect them, despite their human frailties, we cannot idolize them and expect them to do no wrong.

As it is commonly said, the Catholic Church is a hospital for sinners not a museum for the saints.  And, if there is one thing the Church has proven through its rich history, is that we have many sinners.

Fortunately, we have many saints as well...


Jorge A. Alvarez said...

My father, may he rest in peace, always spoke about the pendulum effect. This is a classic example. The media in general is dismissive of those that do not worship at the alter of the 4th estate. So called jorunalists, most with leftist based educations, foster an environment of guilt before innocense; flying in the face of our constitutional forefathers. A constitution by the way, immersed in religious themes with a great reverance to the almighty God. Father Corapi is a faithful steward of God's message. May he soon be back doing what his calling entails. And may we ask our Lord to keep the faithfull focused on God's love and forgiveness. Father Corapi: Godspeed.

Carlos Espinosa said...

Well stated, Jorge. Fr. Corapi is an institution and deserving of our prayers. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My prayers for a quick and just resolution and for Fr. Corapi to be back on the circuit.

Bobby Sands said...

It seems the two previous readers missed the point of the article.