HOW IT STARTED
Father Corapi made his first announecment in March 2011:
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. I have been placed on “administrative leave” as the result of this… All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned.
EWTN removed his programs from the cable network:
In EWTN’s thirty years of existence, the Network has never knowingly aired programming featuring any priest whose priestly faculties have been suspended. The Network has always responded consistently and immediately in such situations by removing such programs from the air. We are obliged to do so in obedience to the discipline of the Church. Father John has long been a friend of EWTN and many of us have worked closely with him throughout the years. He is a tremendously gifted preacher who has led many souls to Christ. We are doing exactly as he has asked and supporting him and everyone involved in the situation in the best way possible, through our prayers.
Many of us were unfamiliar with the nature of his SOLT religious community:
The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity is a community of disciples of Jesus and Mary composed of all vocations: priests, deacons, brothers, sisters and single and married laity. The Society was founded in 1958 and has been approved by Rome as a Society of Apostolic Life. Ecclesial Teams are the basis of our community life as well as the means by which our missions are staffed. A complete Ecclesial Team is composed of at least one priest, religious and lay person or married couple. At the present, the International Headquarters of Our Lady’s Society is located in the United States, in the city of Robstown, Texas under the Diocesan jurisdiction of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas. In looking forward to when The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity achieves Pontifical Status within the Church, the International Offices will be transferred at that time to Rome, Italy.
There was a clarification from the lucrative company, Santa Cruz Media, over which Fr. Corapi was identified as the CEO:
Santa Cruz Media, Inc. is the owner of all of Fr. John Corapi’s intellectual property and the DVDs, CDs, and books that flow from it. We are a secular corporation and not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way. As such, we are not under the jurisdiction of any bishop or other official in the Catholic Church, although we have the utmost respect for Church authority.
Here is my FACEBOOK comment from March 2011:
FATHER JOE: Priests are men under authority. Fr. Corapi, himself, says that they cannot play games with their promise of obedience and others should respect this. If Father Corapi’s faculties have been removed and his ministry suspended, then EWTN was morally required to take the action they did. Hopefully the matter will be resolved and he will be restored to his place on television and radio. Having said this, the sale of media (audio, video, web and print) would also fall under “ministry.” Given the situation, Fr. Corapi could certainly require Santa Cruz Media, Inc. (an extension of his ministry) to suspend sales and distribution of his materials. I suspect that the good priest is innocent, but there is much to which we are not privy. Prayer is our proper posture at this time, not ridicule of episcopal jurisdiction in the Catholic Church.
WHERE IT STANDS NOW
ON JUNE 17, 2011 AN ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE BY FATHER CORAPI THAT HE WOULD CONTINUE MINISTRY BUT NOT AS A PRIEST IN GOOD STANDING. IT IS A VERY SAD DAY.
(June 2011) I have not blogged about this matter until now and I am not comfortable about posting on it. This issue has gone beyond Father Corapi and could harm the very souls for whom he has confessed concern. Already on the social network sites, his fans are taking sides with him and attacking the Church. This has quickly become a very dangerous situation, another reason why cult worship of religious media personalities should be discouraged. Our faith is in Jesus and the Church, not in preachers with impressive rhetoric and militant attitudes.
This business has gone sour and Father Corapi, as much as I hate to say it, is duplicitous in saying (on one hand) that the bishops have a right to do what they are doing and then (on the other) to malign them for violating his rights and daring to impose discipline upon him. He is a priest and cannot pretend to be anything else, as with this pathetic “black sheep dog” foolishness. His failure to shut down his multimillion dollar business was an early sign that he would not obey the demand of the bishops to suspend public ministry. Now he is taking it to the next level. Faithful Catholics have no choice; in tears and anguish, we must leave Father Corapi. Pray for him but do not participate in his pretense of obedience while he is actually disobedient. True humility would have him submit and accept the Cross. His obstinancy insists that no one will tell him what to do– that was the trouble with his independence all along. More grievous than any genuine or false indiscretion with a woman, the skirting or outright violation of obedience is the greatest possible failing for any priest. Everything from his assignments to the moral life is covered in his fidelity to the Church and Christ. He is to discern God’s will in his obedience to the bishop and his superiors. Evidently, he has become a dissenter on the nature of priesthood and its obligations, as well as upon Catholic ecclesiology. While on “administrative leave,” a suspended priest can neither preach nor teach religion; his intention to do so anyway would be a movement toward the Protestant camp, no matter what the message.
REMARKS ON HIS STATEMENT
FATHER CORAPI: All things change, only God stays the same, so I have to tell you about a major change in my life. I am not going to be involved in public ministry as a priest any longer. There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone, and I shall be gone. I have been guilty of many things in the course of my life, and could easily and justifiably be considered unfit to engage in public ministry as a priest.
FATHER JOE: The problem is that priesthood is not merely a job we can change or a hat we can trade for another. Even if the priest is laicized, he is configured to Christ as a priest, forever. If he cannot engage in public ministry, then he cannot do so in any fashion, even if he drops his priestly title or goes under a pseudonym as in a superhero’s secret identity. [It is rarely permitted, but sometimes a laicized priest can give religious instructions with permission of the bishop if it is generally not known that he was a priest and no scandal would result. Fr. Corapi is too well known for this exception ever to apply.] The label “Black Sheep Dog” is a literary fiction without meaning. It says nothing that would grant him an escape from Church censure. He is a suspended priest who has no faculties for preaching or publicly teaching the faith. That means he cannot do it— even on the Internet or with books or with audio/visual media. If the Church authorities want him gone, and it is uncertain who he really means, then he should pursue his canonical rights in private. He has opted not to do this. Suspensions can take a year or more to resolve. He did not last three months! That is hardly the image of a tough former Special Forces military man. (But wait, we found that this part of his biography was a fabrication. We will let that fact check go given his more serious troubles.) Of course, he may acknowledge one important grain of truth; he may indeed be “unfit to engage in public ministry as a priest.” It should be said that all priests are unworthy. The best of priests fall short. If he were sincere then he should fight for his priesthood, no matter how much time it might take to be restored to ministry or good standing. However, such must be done within the system and among the fraternity of his brother priests. He should hold his tongue about how he feels about the process and treat the bishop, his superiors and the Church with trusting respect. A priest who caricaturizes the Church as the enemy is burning his bridges. These latest remarks have ignited a fiery inferno. Fame and fortune should mean nothing to a good and humble priest. He might argue that the Church has forced his hand, but every faithful priest knows this not true. The laity may not clearly understand this situation. Our lives and obligations are very different. He may want to step away from his priesthood, but a priest he is, and that means that any public ministry without ecclesial approbation will be PROTESTANT ministry, not Catholic.
FATHER CORAPI: I did not start this process, the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas ordered my superiors, against their will and better judgment, to do it. He in fact threatened to release a reprehensible and libelous letter to all of the bishops if they did not suspend me.
FATHER JOE: Notice how quickly Fr. Corapi uses the word libelous. Would he resort to the civil courts to punish any in the hierarchy who would dare challenge him, his importance and his resources? He says that he loves the Church and so I am hoping that he will not. Nevertheless, are the assets of his “for profit” company fully his or do they belong to the Church? I suspect they are in his name. We might see a fight about this yet. In his own mind, he is the Church’s great defender. He is Superman, Batman and the Green Lantern all rolled up into one. His fans echo his own conviction— “Oh how will the Church survive without him?” In truth, the Church will fare perfectly well without him. But, if he decides to pursue this BLACK SHEEP DOG nonsense, it is possible that he could inflict great harm upon the Church and cost good people their salvation. As for the bishop’s actions, it confirms what I suspected, that SOLT was impotent in reigning in this isolated Lone Ranger priest who had made religion into his own personal big business. Let me be fair, he may not have started out expecting this happen. But the media can make celebrities of anyone, even religious leaders. When fans tell you that you are wonderful, their praise can be seductive and the person can become addicted to adulation. This is deadly for the minister of God. Everything we have is gift. Every priest should be the poor man– the sinner who seeks to bring God’s mercy to other sinners. Fr. Corapi did some incredible work. My fear is that everything might now be undone.
FATHER CORAPI: My canon lawyer and my civil lawyers have concluded that I cannot receive a fair and just hearing under the Church’s present process. The Church will conclude that I am not cooperating with the process because I refuse to give up all of my civil and human rights in order to hold harmless anyone who chooses to say defamatory and actionable things against me with no downside to them. The case may be on hold indefinitely, but my life cannot be.
FATHER JOE: And who are these canon and civil lawyers? Was there an appeal to the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome? No, I doubt it. My suspicion is that Fr. Corapi refused to cooperate with the process. Maybe he never understood what the Catholic priesthood was really about? His promise of obedience was not selective and he had indeed surrendered certain rights. He promised celibacy and gave up an important natural right to marry. His overall promise of obedience meant that he would speak for the Church and not for himself on matters of faith and morals. In a negative way, it also meant that he would not speak if the Church so deemed. His faculties to say Mass, to hear Confessions, to preach and to publicly teach, all fell under lawful authority. He was to function as an extension of the Church and his bishop. Now he is claiming that such a promise of obedience conflicts with his “civil and human rights.” He should reflect more intensely upon the biblical scene where Jesus washed the feet of his apostles. The first must be last. He was called to be a servant, not the Master. Demanding large audiences and tens of thousands of dollars for talks is not the way of humble priests. The Pope could give him a lesson. We call the Holy Father the “Servant of the Servants of God.” This word “servant” can be translated as SLAVE. In any case, I guess Fr. Corapi wants his own version of freedom, but he will pay a terrible price for his alienation from the true Church.
FATHER CORAPI: I shall continue, black sheep that I am, to speak; and sheep dog that I am, to guard the sheep—this time around not just in the Church, but also in the entire world. I am, indeed, not ready to be extinguished. Under the name “The Black Sheep Dog,” I shall be with you through radio broadcasts and writing.
FATHER JOE: The sheep dog has no occupation separated from the chief shepherd or bishop. A dog that runs after the sheep on its own is not a true sheep dog, but rather we use another name for that canine… we call him a wolf. If people leave the Church or attack our bishops over this scandal then I would suggest that Fr. Corapi change the name of his blog and new label to BLACK WOLF.
FATHER CORAPI: I hope you stay with us and follow us into our new domain and name of “The Black Sheep Dog.” Through writing and broadcasting we hope to continue to dispense truth and hope to a world so much in need of it.
FATHER JOE: Those who collaborate, defend and buy his products will be offering material support to a suspended priest. In other words, he will be making his sin, their own.
Dear Fr. Corapi, reconsider what you are planning to do. Speaking as a brother priest, (if I were in your shoes), before bringing spiritual harm to others and scandal to the Church, I would have preferred to “quietly lie down and die.” But in actuality, the Church is not asking you to do this. We want you to live and to offer oblations for God’s people. You are a priest and your prayers to heaven have power even if they are said from a lonely monastic cell. You do not have to shout from the housetops to be a good priest. I know my words are critical and I might sound harsh, but I am thinking both of you and of your followers. We all make mistakes. We are all sinners. Sometimes we speak out of turn. We become frustrated and afraid. Old demons try to reclaim us under new guises. Be strong! Be a man! Be a priest! Be a faithful son of the Church, no matter what the personal cost.
The complete statement by Father Corapi is available on THE BLACK SHEEP DOG site.
CALLING BLACK SHEEP DOG BACK HOME
Joan Frawley Desmond writes a masterful and eye-opening article for the National Catholic Register (June 19) on the Fr. John Corapi scandal. Not only his fans, but his dear friend retired Bishop Rene Gracida were apparently duped by the famous media priest. Incardinated into the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), Fr. Gerard Sheehan, his religious superior, revealed that the process and investigation into possible misconduct was complicated by Fr. Corapi, himself. The priest had gone ahead and filed a civil suit against the former employee who accused him of sexual misconduct.
“When she left the company, she signed a contract that she would not reveal anything that happened to her while she was at Santa Cruz Media. Fr. Corapi paid her for this. Father was suing her for a breach of contract. In canon law, there can’t be any pressure on witnesses; they have to be completely free to speak. The investigation was compromised because of the pressure on the witnesses. There were other witnesses that also had signed non-disclosure agreements. The canon lawyers were in a difficult situation, and Father does have his civil rights and he decided to follow his legal counsel, which he had a right to do. We tried to continue the investigation without speaking to the principal witnesses.”
If innocent of wrongdoing, why did Fr. Corapi pay employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement? About what were they not supposed to speak? Evidently he did not like where things were going and so he sent SOLT in writing his resignation from “active ministry and religious life.” This brought the investigation to an end. This insures that no report will be published. Fr. Sheehan noted that he sent him a letter in return asking for confirmation.
As I suspected, the society was offering him ways to save his priesthood and he decided not to do so. He refused to leave Montana and live within a SOLT community. He refused to meet or talk with his superior. He refused to live according to their rule of life and the changes approved by the Holy Father. It seems that his failure at obedience went far deeper than anyone could have imagined. He maligned a Church that was very patient and fair with him. He cast himself as the victim while orchestrating something entirely different behind the scenes. It makes me want to weep and weep and weep.
His superior stated:
“We wanted him to come back to the community, and that would have meant leaving everything he has. It would have been a drastic change for him. We will continue to move pastorally and charitably, taking steps to protect his good name.”
His autobiography, BLACK SHEEP DOG, was in the works for some time which indicates that this break from ministry as a priest was planned all along.
I mentioned earlier that this business brings into question the oversight or lack therefore over members by such societies. Why was Fr. Corapi not living in conformity with SOLT’s 1994 constitution? There is no good answer, except that the society looked the other way. Fr. Sheehan assures us that the rules will be enforced in the future:
“The founder’s arrangement with Father Corapi was established before that time, when Father Flanagan believed that every mission should take care of its own needs. Now, according to our constitution, a different way of life has been established for members. All the money we make is turned over to the society, which gives us an allowance.”
I also mentioned months ago on FACEBOOK that while his home and operations were in the Helena diocese, he had no faculties from the bishop to engage in ministry there. This shows the depth of his free reign and lack of ecclesial supervision. All the Church is insisting upon now is what should have been in place initially. Despite what Fr. Corapi says against the bishop of Corpus Christi, the official diocesan news release stated “that SOLT authorities had initiated the action to temporarily remove him from active ministry.”
I suspect that Father (Mister?) Corapi will have a spin on these new revelations, with an appropriate marketing pitch for his media products and books. This tragedy may make a cynic of me yet. But I hope not, such is also not befitting a priest.
A PRAYER FOR FR. CORAPI
I have offered Mass and prayed for Father. There is a frenzy about this subject that I did not really anticipate and which makes me uncomfortable. We really need to love him. If he has disappointed us, we need to forgive him, too. Below is a prayer I will share with you. I sometimes compose my prayers and will be saying this regularly on his behalf. God bless you all!
Dear Heavenly Father,
We want to bring to you in prayer our beloved priest, Father John Corapi. It is hard to know what is going on and our trust has been sorely tried.
He has inspired us with his example of reform and instructed us with his sound Catholic teaching. He has proclaimed the Gospel without equivocation or apology. He quickly became a rock of truth in a world filled with compromise and deception. He defended the rights of the unborn when so many were silent. While the Church was rocked with scandals involving the clergy, here was a towering figure that seemed to epitomize both real manhood and priestly courage. We listened to him on the radio and watched him on television. While a few saw him in person, most of us came to know and to love him through the modern communications media. Millions had the opportunity to encounter him, and through him, the Christ whose kingdom is breaking into the world.
We desperately wanted him to be a saint and yet he himself reminded us again and again that like all the rest of us, he was a sinner. We all fall short of the glory of God. Today, however, he faces a serious personal trial and perilous choices. Many of his friends have abandoned him. Others deride him with no regard for his priestly dignity and all the good work he accomplished in your name. Still others seek to defend him by defaming the Church he has always loved.
The facts are becoming clearer, but we do not know what is going though his heart and mind. If he is angry, please Lord— grant him the gift of a tranquil heart and the patience to endure all things for Christ Crucified. If he is fearful, please Lord— let him know that you are with him and that he need not be afraid. Many temptations face us all, but priests in particular face the worse assaults of the devil. If he has fallen, pick him up. If he remains standing, then give him the courage to embrace humility and truth in the coming storm. Even brave men sometimes need a greater share of courage. Do not allow him to run away from his high calling. He participates in the high priesthood of Christ; there is no more crucial vocation. Let him know that even if he should be reduced to poverty and have to minister alone in prayer or to the smallest congregation, that the oblations of such a priest still have infinite meaning and power.
Promises are made to be kept. Father often spoke about this in regard to the sanctity and dignity of the marriage covenant. He made promises as well— to be a servant of all by embracing a life of celibate love and of obedience to the voice of Jesus in the bishops and his superiors. Preserve him in your grace and defend him against the sins that afflict him, particularly that of pride and of despair. As long as there is the breath of life, there is hope. Let him embrace this hope and put on the mind and the heart of Christ in the Church.
When it seems that a great defender of the Church is suddenly in an adversarial relationship with her, it is easy to see that something has gone terribly wrong. It is our prayer that this beloved priest will surrender his life and his work, all that he is and all that he has done, into the loving arms of the Church over which the Blessed Mother gives the protection of her mantel of mercy. Dear Lord, we know you are not finished with him yet; but we also know that no service to you can be authentic and fruitful if there is a denial of his priestly office. Help him to see this and to know the graces that will testify to your truth and glory.