Note: On July 5, 2011, Fr. Corapi's Superior, Fr. Gerry Sheehan issued another statement concerning his case. Please see my post: SOLT superior responds to Corapi's "false statements and characterizations"
For many people, Fr. John Corapi's recent decision to abandon public ministry as a priest, and the title, "father", has been painful. There have been many misunderstandings about certain facts, and not all of the facts known to date have circulated. Here are two interviews - one in video form and the other in audio form. What is refreshing about these two interviews is that they discuss reported facts.
Both interviews touch on this area of his life with SOLT which is where much focus is taking place.
ARROYO'S INTERVIEW WITH REPORTER WHO SPOKE WITH SOLT SUPERIOR
The first is an interview that Raymond Arroyo did this past Thursday with Joan Frawley Desmond, a senior editor at the National Catholic Register, now owned by EWTN. It was Ms. Desmond that SOLT regional priest servant (Corapi's superior), Fr. Gerry Sheehan, spoke to last week giving us our first glimpse into the other side of the story - that of Corapi's religious order (see June 19 breaking news article here, and June 24 followup article here - both pretty much the same, but perhaps the later one being the print edition). In her interview with Arroyo, Joan discusses her conversation with Fr. Sheehan further. This shed much more light on the matter than I got from just the article. Here is the interview which is worth the roughly 10 minute listening investment.
Joan Frawley Desmond put it perfectly when she said that this was a developing story, and one that is like a moving target.
KRESTA INTERVIEW WITH CANON LAWYER
In the second interview I want to pass along, Ave Maria Radio show host, Al Kresta, interviews canon lawyer Michael Dunnigan of the St. Joseph Foundation. He has considerable experience with cases from both sides of the table on matters such as this. They discuss the "process" - that is, what happens when a priest is accused of abuse or impropriety. They look at some common misunderstandings about the Corapi controversy floating on the internet and offer clarity. One that I was aware of from the beginning, but may have inadvertently mentioned in haste myself is the Dallas Charter. "The Charter", as it is commonly referred to, does not apply to Corapi's case since there is no minor or vulnerable person involved. Rather, it involves an adult. Dunnigan explains the difference between a case involving a minor, and one involving a adult. He also makes use of information that is in the public domain, via Corapi himself, and the religious order, to discuss some other specifics as they pertain to canon law.
I found this interview quite helpful.
The interview takes place at the beginning of his second hour on June 27, 2011 and it runs approximately 40 minutes. Like the interview with Joan Frawley Desmond, this one pretty much walks a line of objectivity surrounding facts and largely avoiding opinion. What I found most intriguing was how SOLT superiors could have handled the non-disclosure issue using Corapi's vow of obedience, while still respecting his right to pursue the civil matter. This raises questions as to whether it may have been heading in such a direction, but that is speculative as Dunnigan points out. However, this puts a spotlight on the kind of canonical options that would have been open to SOLT, and of course would have been dependent on cooperation by Father Corapi.
I was glad that Kresta devoted what amounted to two segments to dialogue with this canonist.
Edit: I had problems getting audio link to play in two of my browsers, but here is the interview with canon lawyer, Mike Dunnigan, uploaded to YouTube.
I am adding some things in that may not be known to some who have only briefed themselves with the initial video posting by Corapi.
Perhaps the timing of these two interviews is just about right. When the news first hit, the steam was bubbling from every angle, somewhat understandably as people dealt with the shock. Corapi himself turned the heat up when on Monday, June 20th, he released an audio, Unleashed. In it, were some surprising statements. This is just a sampling of points made:
- 90% of of his work did not require ordination and most of his works - doing talks in person and in media, saying "that's not public mininstry" and that his future will involve doing pretty much the same, but involving wider topics, not just religious matters.
- Says he accepts what happens to him for his past sins, and speaks affectionately about the Church, and that people should listen and obey the bishops. But then he shifts into denigrating his accuser and the leadership of the Church.
In that audio, his speech audibly slurring at times, and other times repetitive with talking points somewhat disconnected, his concluding statement cannot be summarized. After reminding people that he is still in the Church, but no longer involved in public ministry, he says that he will be doing,
“pretty much the same as before except my topics will be broader, and my audience will be [pause] broader. I didn’t start this. A very, very sick woman, with an axe to grind, filled with hatred, started this. The Church chose to believe her. They threw me under the bus; threw me out like yesterday’s garbage. Well…. I’m not bitter about it. I’m not going to be bitter about it. But I am not going to roll over and die. Indeed, the Black Sheep Dog is not ready to be extinguished. I’ll keep being a promoter of truth, [fanfare music begins], of justice, and of hope. We aren’t finished just yet, so stay with us. God bless until next time.”
On Tuesday, June 21st, he shocked even his most ardent supporters when he posted (emphasis mine in bold):
"The Bishop’s star witness against me is a severely troubled person that I tried to help for years. I provided the Church with evidence as to this accuser’s credibility very early on. There are two hours of audio telephone messages that clearly demonstrate this person’s serious lack of credibility. We shall consider posting some of these audio clips in the future. You can decide if this person sounds sober and/or sane."
Out of over 500 comments left in the hours that followed, the vast majority, perhaps as much as 95% begged him not to release those audios. On June 22nd, Corapi posted again:
"Friends, I AM listening. And, am so thankful for the opportunity to be in communication with you. I have decided to not release those audio tapes."
TRIAL IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION?
What is important to keep in mind with this case is that the process which could have cleared his name was stopped by Corapi himself. With the launch of his website, he is controlling the narrative, and creating a sort "trial" in which only one party speaks in the court of public opinion. Further, one of the most curious facts emerging is that SOLT was hindered from beginning the preliminary investigation as to whether the accusations against him were credible. While noting that the preliminary investigation is the part that is most under fire and can last a long time for many accused priests, it is likely given his popularity, that had interviews with the accuser and witnesses not been obstructed by Corapi, this phase would have went quickly. If the accusations were deemed not credible at this point, the administrative leave would have ended and he would have been back preaching. As the canon lawyer, Michael Dunnigan points out, he probably had a better chance of helping other priests by staying the course and letting it play out.
CORAPI AND COMMUNITY LIFE
The bigger focus for many now, surrounds his life within the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. There were changes to the constitution in 1994 and they wanted him back in community. In the first interview you will hear Joan Frawley Desmond, who interviewed Corapi's superior explain that in the beginning, when the founder permitted him to live in solitude and to preach, the arrangement was not for him to live in his own home. I am not entirely clear on how long SOLT has been trying to get him to live back in community, so if someone catches that, please drop it into the combox, and cite the source. Watch that interview to hear it explained by Desmond. This move to live in a home was a later development that he apparently took on himself, and may not necessarily have been what his community desired.
In the end, we learn that attempts to bring him back into community life did not get anywhere. This would not have meant giving up preaching as seems to be the assumption in some writings online. We see members of other communities like the Fathers of Mercy traveling all the time to speak, as well as members of the Dominicans, among others. What it would have meant was giving up the assets: the money, the ranch, the sports car, the business, personsal possessions, and perhaps the most difficult of all, the power to do what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. I suspect the price of media produced would have been more in line with what we see out of other religious orders who often charge a modest amount, making the information more readily accessible to lower income people*.
This goes directly to the vow of obedience and I offer this most especially for those who are discerning a vocation. If a founder or religious superior makes a promise to a member, a future superior is not bound to honor that agreement. Rather, it is the other way around. For example, a diocesan priest who enjoys life as a pastor of a popular parish under one bishop, could find himself assigned to the chaplaincy at a hospital or university, or working in the chancery by the next bishop. He must go where he is sent. Many a religious superior has taken on the job while preferring to remain an ordinary member without the added burden of administration that goes with it. Others who are drawn to leadership roles may never get them. One doesn't have a "right" to do specific work, rather, each person is at the service of the Church through one's superior or bishop. Getting assigned to something undesired is an opportunity for "white martyrdom" for priests and religious. Obedience promised to one superior is transferred to the next just as obedience to one bishop is transferred to the next. The priesthood and religious life should always be entered unconditionally with respect to potential assignments. Most bishops and religious order superiors will try to match one's gift with their assignment and we have no reason to believe that SOLT would not have kept Corapi on the preaching circuit even if he had moved back to live with his community. In any event, even if the founder felt he had a gift for preaching and should live in solitude does not mean that his current superior has to honor that. For any priest or religious to lean on what a former superior says as a basis for keeping one's vows or promises, is making them conditional on personal desires. As you will learn from Raymond's interview Joan, a superior has to think about what is good for both the individual and the community. Setting aside his earning potential, how could a community not want him living there where he could help form a new generation of SOLT members with his skills, in between speaking engagements?**
PRESUMING INNOCENCE FOR ALL INVOLVED?
Without an investigation, the question of guilt or innocence with regards to the accusations made will likely never be answered, so we should continue to presume his innocence in this regard. At the same time, I would ask you to ponder whether the accuser, as well as the SOLT superiors, and the bishops involved - in particular Bishop Mulvey of Corpus Christi, should be given the presumption of innocence.
Permit me to explain: If we presume that the accuser is lying, and that SOLT officials and/or the bishops involved in this specific case are guilty of some moral or ethical breach, or even of negligence, is that not rash judgment (ccc 2477)? From rash judgment can flow calumny, which happens easily when we make inferrences from incomplete information and turn it into fact in our minds, then spread it as such to others. Calumny is objectively grave matter (see that entire section in the CCC in "III. Offenses Against Truth").
Is this not truly the most neutral stance we can take?
The only side we should be on, is that of truth and justice. We were not there at Santa Cruz Media to know what did or did not transpire between this woman and Father Corapi. We were not on the phone or in a meeting with SOLT superiors and Bishop Mulvey, or other bishops to know what was, or was not, discussed. So, the truth is not something any one of us can possess. We should all want justice - justice for innocent priests, but also for victims if they have been violated or scandalized. The "process" is flawed, and we should hope and pray that it is fixed so that justice for all involved is better served.
All we can really do is to pray for everyone involved, and to read carefully any updates provided by officials and Corapi himself.
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, intercede for all involved!
*Sentence edited for clarity on June 28, 2011 ~ 10pm EDT
**Last 2 sentences added June 28, 2011
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