This post has been updated (see notes at bottom).
JULY 11, 2011: Comments are now closed. This has run it's course and it's time to move on.
Upon seeing a video uploaded, in which John Corapi reveals his re-branded image (<== click link to see it) my initial instinct was to not feed, "the Dog", as he has become known. I decided to go ahead with this post upon seeing what was being displayed in his combox for the video which was topping 800 comments in less than 24 hours since the upload. I'm giving him the free advertisement he is looking for so you can draw your own conclusions if you still think all of this is simply the result of the accusations made, and subsequent administrative leave.
Let me make clear that I love John Corapi as a brother in Christ. He will remain in my prayers, and I entrust him to God's love and mercy. However, follow him in this new endeavor is something I cannot do, in good conscience.
This may be the longest post I've ever made in over 5 years of blogging. No one is being forced to read any part of it, or all of it. Those who choose to read it, may want to bookmark it, and read a section or two at a time and come back to it.
Target audience for this post?
This post is not for those who have resigned themselves to accept it all for face value Those people rightly want to keep their head down in prayer for his immortal soul and not see the indignity of it all paraded through the blogosphere. This is noble and right. It is the path I am going to take after this post, barring any major significant developments to be passed along for informational purposes.
I hope we can all be as generous and charitable with other Catholic clerics and bishops who fall, who are not to our liking, not as dynamic, and not seemingly orthodox, lest we become two-faced. If the misleading words or actions of a cleric on the "left" are worth analysis to help people avoid a moral or spiritual pitfall, is it not equally as just and fair when it involves someone on the "right"? If it is a right, and sometimes a duty, to call out members of the hierarchy, is it also not a right, and sometimes a duty, to call out popular figures in the Catholic Church who have the potential to mislead unsuspecting souls?
Hence, this post is for those who are still confused, angry at the Church, or dismissive of the seriousness of what he is doing in trying to maintain, and gain a following.
"Black Sheep Dog" image in the making before accusations?
Ponder for a moment the change in appearance of John Corapi from that soul who taught catechism with confidence, joy, and humility. That's the priest who helped and inspired me back in 2005 when I began to take my faith more seriously. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for boldly speaking about things I never heard from any pulpit in my life, until I found my current parish, Assumption Grotto where the fullness of the faith flows freely and constructively at every Mass. May God bless us with many more priests willing to proclaim the fullness of the faith from the pulpit, and bishops with the fortitude to stand up to anyone who would get in their way. I nearly lost my faith because priests were more concerned with who they might offend if they were truthful, than those docile souls yearning for authentic guidance, teachings, and spiritual development. There is no place in the Church today for such false charity. If we cannot trust our own pastors and bishops to give us these things, then to whom shall we go? It is our eternal salvation they should concern themselves with, not with our self-esteem which is inflated inordinately by the absence of sound teaching, or fanned with the flames of secular humanism. Hold that thought for a moment.
There was a change over the years, and we see below some changes and dates under each of the screen shots. Tell me why there was a jet black transition in his beard - remarkably now resembling a black sheep dog, dating back to a year ago, long before the letter was sent by Corapi's accuser to the bishops? People began to question it back then, but we now have context that suggests it was man in the early stages of reinventing himself into a whole new character, one which is far removed from anything Catholic. While we should take him at his word that his prior absence and subsequent weight loss was related to illness, I can't reconcile that black sheep dog-like beard with anything other than his current image re-branding. Did this really just all happen in the past few months? In his latest video message he admits it's been a rough 10 years, without elaborating.
**Some have also observed that the "Black-Sheep Dog" was trademarked by Santa Cruz Media on April 8, 2010 (with the hyphen exactly where shown). It may have been intended for other purposes than what it is used for now, but it also leaves questions in the minds of many.
On Thursday, April 08, 2010, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for THE BLACK-SHEEP DOG. This trademark is owned by Santa Cruz Media, Inc., Kalispell, MT 59901. The USPTO has given the THE BLACK-SHEEP DOG trademark serial number of 85009403. The current federal status of this trademark filing is NOTICE OF ALLOWANCE – ISSUED.
NOTE: The picture which shows the March 26 DeKalb event is a video advertisement uploaded in January 2011 for the event. That event was cancelled. All video links are below with notes.
Here is a video list used starting at the upper left.
- Likely the late 90's: Fr. Corapi teaches about sexual morality and civil marriages.
- May 2009: Fr. Corapi issues a statement on the Notre Dame Scandal
- February 2010: Fr. Corapi addresses his followers, discussing his health situation.
- January 2011 - Fr. Corapi pitches the March 26, 2011 event which was canceled days before his appearance because he was put on administrative leave.
- July 8, 2011: First video appearance as the, "Black Sheep Dog"
A revealing quote from a 2007 book
Deacon Greg Kandra sent me a quote this morning as I was writing this post that comes from the 2007 book, "Coronary" which discusses the 2005 multi-million dollar settlement Corapi won against a doctor who told him he needed heart by-pass surgery when he did not need it.
“Corapi said that a long time ago he decided not to let himself get backed into a corner where the church could manipulate him with threats like denying him a pension or a home or an assignment. He worried that it would be a real test of faith for him if the church asked him to go live in a monastery and give up his worldly goods. ‘Hopefully, I would do it,” he said years later, with an inflection in his voice suggesting that he might not. When pressed, however, he conceded that he had superiors like everyone else and if they said, ‘You’re finished,’ he’d be finished. But when really pushed about what he would do if ordered to turn over his assets, he said he had concluded that because of his statuts – somewhere between a member of a religious order and a parish priest – canon law was ambiguous on this question.”
That's really saddening to read. I have never heard an orthodox priest speak in such an either/or manner. Now, many people continue to think that if he had gone back to his community, he would not have been able to preach. This is a false conclusion. Priests travel from many communities all the time to preach at parishes and conferences. There is little doubt that his community would have continued to keep him on the preaching circuit because that is what he is good at. Like any other regular member of the community, he would have needed to follow sound spiritual direction and if it meant tweaking his talks to purge them of the off-putting boasting that had become increasingly more prominent. He might have been assigned to other duties now and then, as a pause, and to temper the appetites that grow from too much stardom.
Fr. Gerry Sheehan, SOLT, in an interview with Joan Frawley Desmond about Corapi's relationship with the SOLT, said this (emphasis mine, in bold):
Has SOLT evolved since Father Corapi became a member of the society?
In 1994, our new constitution made SOLT a society of apostolic life. 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.
We have begun to address the issues of members who joined the society before the new constitution. The society is moving to a more organized structural phase of its existence, with all the Church discipline that entails.
"It's all SOLT's fault!"
I think assertions found throughout the web that the SOLT made the 1994 constitutional changes just to get into Corapi's pocket book are silly and shallow. Show me an emerging religious community that does not make attempts to climb the allowable scales, first to a society of apostolic life (which is what happened in 1994), on on up to pontifical status, which I believe they are pursuing now. I don't see this as anything out of the ordinary and it would be ridiculous for the community to deny itself these higher levels of status because it has a celebrity among it's members. If the SOLT was pursuing pontifical status, then is it not possible that the push to bring members into conformity with the 1994 constitution, was also coming from Rome? Let's be real here. If he could not live with the 1994 constitution that we now know requires a promise of poverty, he had a real out. All he had to do was to ask that he be dispensed from his promises and put in a request to be laicized if there were no other ways to carry out his priestly ministry in a way that worked for him. It probably would have been granted out of charity, given the considerable change the SOLT took from when he first signed on. It would have been a respectful path to take if it wasn't working for him any longer.
This is not necessarily owned solely by the SOLT for not putting enough pressure on Corapi sooner. If pressure was going to be put on Corapi by the SOLT, it would have needed the backing of the bishop). Keep in mind, this part of the equation begins in 1994 when the constitution was changed, not in March 2010 when Bishop Mulvey took the helm in Corpus Christi. Since Corapi's image transformation to the BSD visibly began over a year ago in February, was he simply just running out of options in holding out at the ranch as the Church put on the squeeze? Is Mulvey the SOLT shaker many are making him out to be on the web, trying to crush Corapi and wanting to suppress the SOLT? Or, is he a diocesan bishop possibly carrying out his duties and trying to help this community to survive and flourish according to their own constitution? We don't really know, do we? So, which is the more virtuous path to take? 1) To assume that the bishop has wicked desires for Corapi and the SOLT. 2) To assume that the bishop has the good of the community, the Church, and Corapi in mind? If we assume (1) and we are wrong, we have committed a serious fault. If we assume (2) and we are wrong, we have committed no fault. The fault in such cases would lie squarely on the bishop and he would pay much harder for it because of how it led others into scandal.
"It's EWTN's fault!"
Some are faulting EWTN. They claim that EWTN has a history of elevating certain "too good to be true" characters, who later crash in burn. There are a string of priests who appeared on EWTN, who did crash and burn. These include, Alberto R. Cutié (aka, "Father Oprah"), Kenneth Roberts, and several more.
While some of these men are recent converts, or have big tales to tell about their reversion, people naturally gravitate to their stories. Many remain faithful. A few succumb to the world, the flesh, and the devil just like any one of us may. Personally, I think there are serious dangers for such people to be thrust into the spotlight for an indefinite period of time, without very close supervision, and without some down time to temper any attachments they may be gaining from the notoriety and fame. It creeps up out of nowhere. It feeds concupiscence. It opens the door to greater temptations. This was the great injustice to John Corapi: Those over him, be it the SOLT, the bishops, or both, let him run free with full knowledge that he was very hard-wired for not one, but several vices, and materialism was a problem in his past life. Yet, he was allowed to live off on his own, doing what he wanted, when he wanted, how he wanted. So many freedoms, so many more temptations to fight off, and without strong support.
With regards to this criticism of EWTN, I would point to other personalities like Fr. Mitch Pacwa, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Charles Connor, Fr. John Trigilio, and a number of other nuts-and-bolts priests who are well known, but who also have an air of simplicity about them. They are not full of themselves. We need more of these. I'm leary of any celebrity priest who focuses too much attention on his own conversion for too long. How many of the EWTN-critical geniuses saying this, sat and watched his program on EWTN right up until the day it was pulled, saw it coming? Even if EWTN saw troubling signs as a few others have been mumbling about in the background in the last year or two, what would they say if EWTN had quietly shelved his programming without something concrete to base it on?
I'm not going to fault EWTN for having presented figures to us that we seemed to want. Rather, I would like to think that EWTN will grow and learn from this. While some watch Corapi get yanked from the lineup and shake their heads saying, "another one bit the dust at EWTN", his material was on for a very long time, so it's not like they just put him up there in the last couple of years.
Setting aside Corapi, at what point, do we simply accept the fact that the Judas factor will always be with us? There will always be those priests who, using their God-given free will, will make bad and evil choices.
I've read a number of people say they are going to withhold their donations and support from EWTN for pulling the videos. Newsflash: They cannot feature videos of a self-proclaimed, "once called Father" priest. If they go out of business, just remember your "contribution" when you lament that papal Mass, or rarely televised Solemn High Mass you won't get to watch, or Catholic movie, or lenten reflection.
You say "Fruits?" But from which tree?
Of those who are praying, there are some rightly praying for a number of his followers who are now confused and shaking their virtual fist at the Church, some of them falling on their Catholic swords and abandoning the faith because of the "injustice" they believe has come down on John Corapi. Even among Catholics - Corapi was only known to a small segment within "the market". However, with followers likely into the millions, he had no trouble filling a stadium with 10,000 people. Among those who did know him, there are friends divided, families divided, and even rectories divided.
Some are tossing out the "good fruits" argument. It's true that some have converted over the years. God worked through Father John Corapi by grace, as He works through any priest. Keep in mind, Corapi was simply an instrument in God's hand. Were good fruits produced with Corapi's cooperation with God's grace? Of course. Those are valid, good fruits. But, it is always in the context of a particular event that we must examine the fruits. Let's start with the day he was put on administrative leave and ask ourselves what kind of fruits we have seen.
Always remember the 3D's when discerning spirits in any situation:
1) Defiance and/or Disobedience
2) Division and/or Disunity
What should you remember about these? They are fruits, but they are not fruits of the Holy Spirit. Have we not been seeing these fruits since it all began? Are they evidence that the Angel of Darkness is involved? Perhaps, and perhaps not. Sometimes Satan doesn't need to bother with somoene if the choices they are making are to his liking. I wouldn't presume, as a matter of fact, to state that Satan is behind this. However, there is one more element to ponder in this regard.
Now we come back to that thought I asked you to hold at the beginning, if you are still breathing after this long post.
The mark of the priesthood is ever in the cross-hairs of the Angel of Darkness. If he can get one cleric to fall, especially with a very large following, he knows he has a good chance of pulling along some of those lambs. Satan knows something else too. He cannot get orthodox Catholics, especially those of a traditional bent, of which I consider myself, to dissent on matters of sexual morality as we see with those on the other end of that spectrum. So how does he go after them? He puts before them candy in the form of a great cleric, or visionaries who are, by all appearances, very orthodox and devout. All such a person needs to do is take up certain causes that resonate well with such Catholics. Combine with that the fact that many Catholics have been deprived of these same things by their pastors and their bishops in the decades following Vatican II: Eucharistic and Marian devotion, authentic pro-life efforts from conception to natural death, and preaching the fullness of the faith from the pulpit. It's a perfect storm, and a perfect opportunity - this combination, for Satan to fill the void with his candy.
Instead of being fed these things by their pastors and their bishops, the flock is out wandering and seeking them wherever they can find them. Some land in parishes not in communion with the Catholic Church. Others look for them wherever they can find them - on the web, on TV, radio, you name it. Many of these resources are very good. Some have truth but are caustic and merely making people aware of just how starved they are and not really building up the Body of Christ, but singing to a disaffected and disgruntled choir. Then, there are those that are pure spiritual traps, looking to string people along just long enough to get them to turn on the Church. Not all people who flock to the site of unapproved or condemned apparitions go for the sensationalism and wave of enthusiasm that accompanies these things. Rather, they are rightly comforted and aided by those tried and true Catholic devotions they find at these places. If they were fostered generously at the parish and diocesan level, perhaps they wouldn't find a need to engage in spiritual Russian roulette with every apparition claim that comes along.
For some poor souls, Fr. John Corapi was the only voice orthodoxy within reach. That is why they are reeling. Mocking them won't help. They are tired of being stepped on by other sheep who have picked up the disease of dissent and are fouling up their parishes and diocese unimpeded by the very shepherds who are suppose to protect them.
The Holy Spirit is working through many of these organizations, movements, and people. But, the faithful need to be wary of anything which takes a turn that involves the 3D's I mentioned earlier. Past good fruits, is no guarantee of future good fruits! The presence of the 3D's is a sign that some other spirit, if not human fallen nature, then Satan himself is driving the bus. Get off quick before it picks up speed in its journey over a cliff edge.
No one is obliged to obey something which they believe is objectively immoral. If the pastor of a parish forbids a young associate priest from speaking the truth about the Church's teaching on contraception as a Confessor, he not only can disregard such a directive, but has a duty to reject it.
Is it right for the head of a community, or a diocesan bishop over a society of apostolic life, to direct someone to live within it's constitution? You bet. This is the part that has caused many to prayerfully let go of John Corapi, and leave him to use his God-given free will. Even if it could be proven that his canonical rights were violated with the initial administrative leave, what harm would have come to him, had he gone quietly back to community where he would have had a roof over his head, a place to lay his head at night, meals to eat, heat, warmth, and medical needs met as he waited the process out and made his appeals? It's so much more than the many other falsely accused priests in such situations have. What would not have been fed in community during such cooperation, would be any appetites he may have for the kinds of things detailed in SOLT"s July 5th statement.
All the legal and canonical cartwheels in the world are no substitute for simplicity, and complete, unconditional trust in God who knows the truth, and what is best for John Corapi's immortal soul.
Obedience to even a mere "suggestion", as Corapi called it, is God-pleasing. ***Servant of God, John A. Hardon, SJ wrote (emphasis mine):
Third, priests are told to carry out obediently the commands and suggestions of the Pope, their bishop and their superiors. There are two profound insights here. The first is that perfect obedience in anyone, here in a priest, does not wait to be commanded. In fact, by the time a person has to be commanded, he or she may still obey of course, but that is not the main function of obedience, to give solemn commands. True obedience responds even to the suggestions or intimations of ecclesiastical authority.
Read more from this really great article by Fr. Hardon: "Humility and Obedience in the Priest".
Here are more quotes on obedience from the saints:
”It is better to cherish the humble desire of living according to the rule of the community, and to be diligent in its observance, than to entertain exalted desires of performing imaginary wonders, for such imaginations only tend to swell our hearts with pride, lead us to undervalue our brethren, from an impression that we are better than they.”
“Obedience, is rightly placed before all other sacrifices, for in offering a victim as sacrifice, one offers a life that is not one’s own; but when one obeys one is immolating one’s own will.”
--St. Gregory the Great
A black beard, a dog, and a new image
If I set aside the accusations made against John Corapi, and suspend judgment altogether on that, and even if the accuser is guilty of all that he has accused her of in public, it is his behavior since the launch of this Black Sheep Dog website that has revealed to me a man that, at the very least, seems to have grown tired of what he was doing, perhaps some time ago.
For those who thought there was some kind of canonical cartwheel he was planning that would permit him to clear his name, then go back to public ministry, it seems pretty certain, he is looking to be laicized. Sadly, his first video in which he shows himself, is nothing short of a sales pitch to follow him as he tries to re-brand himself into a new market. Priests who held out hope that he was going to fight to bring an end to injustice to innocent priests who are accused, don't hold your breath.
|Delilah cutting Samson's Hair|
He's moving on, publicly, before the paper work is complete, before he is dispensed from his promises as a priest and member of the SOLT, and before he is laicized, which is all but certain to happen with the "change" he announced in that video. He has more money than most could ever dream of having, to live comfortably and quietly, albeit probably not at the lavish level he now lives. Watching this video, hearing him say it hasn't only been a tough few months, but a tough year, and then, somewhat sheepishly (pun intended), that it has been a rough 10 years, sure got my attention. Whatever does that mean?
With each new post he writes, audio he releases, and video he uploads on his new website, it is clear that more people are letting go, many giving him one last act of charity by thanking him for the good he did for them in years past, and a promise to pray for him as they say goodbye. Others feel he is committing various acts of betrayal - betraying his priesthood, the Church, his own teachings. Those who defend him in those comboxes have various reasons for doing so. Some believe he is a victim of false accusations and is entirely innocent. Others are willing to accept that he has fallen back on some of his old ways - ways which were hard-wired into him for many years. Some of these people plead for others to forgive him and just accept his new venture, shouting "ONWARD", his new bark. There are those who still feel he is doing this to help the priesthood, and others who feel he is exploiting this for his own gain in ways that are detrimental to the cause of truly innocent priests who are falsely accused. Then, there are the non-Catholics following him, cheering him on. On both sides, there are those who are expressing themselves in truly vile ways behaving like pagans who do not know Jesus Christ. Anyone Catholic leaving such comments needs to do an examination of conscience. God knows exactly who is behind the statements made anonymously or with pseudonym. They ought also to look at their own comments through the lens of a non-Catholic who happens to stumble upon the post. This is division and disorder on stage.
I saw a post by Dr. Gerard Nadal, this morning who for the longest time, laudably, gave him the benefit of every single doubt. He wrote yesterday after watching the video:
The pictures chronicle the sad story. As I move on, I’ll have the Divine Mercy Novena for Father Corapi in a new folder entitled “Priests” in the “Category” panel to the right. I’ll continue to pray for Father Corapi, but there is little left to do for a man who can’t see that he’s drowning, and who keeps batting away the life rings being thrown to him.
Again, for Father’s distraught followers, the Church has no shortage of excellent spiritual guides as priests, deacons and religious men and women.
Even the much beloved champion of life and orthodoxy, Bishop Gracida, appears to be distancing himself. The webmaster for the SOLT site, Fr. Samuel Medley, offered his painful thoughts.
In his video, Corapi tells us not to be bitter with the Church, and proclaims he loves the Church. I pray that John Corapi will back that up by meeting his Sunday obligation like any other Catholic, use the Sacraments regularly, and that he recalls all that he taught in his catechism which he knows like the back of his hand. This includes everything pertaining to the virtues, as well as morality, most especially with regards to his current status. He remains, at this time, Catholic priest, with an obligation to celibacy, and the level of chastity demanded of anyone not bonded in sacramental marriage. This does not cease until the Church says so.
As we pray for him, let us pray for those whose faith is in any way shaken by this, and for unity in the Church.
****If you are looking for other things to read, some of them with good references, visit the Pulp.it for today, which has an "extra" on Corapi. I also want to direct your attention to a post entitled: The SOLT response regarding Fr. Corapi and the response of Thomas à Kempis by David Werling at the Ars Celebrandi blog. David's point about what was going on at the Facebook page of Fr. John Corapi, with over 53,000 "fans", and the vile behavior of many was precisely one of the motivators for me in writing this post. Fr. Corapi has done nothing to stop the absolutely sick behavior going on in his blog combox, and at his Facebook fan page.
For those who have been yearning to hear Fr. Corapi just mention the Blessed Virgin Mary to no avail, I offer you something that was in today's Office of Readings:
From the Mariology of Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God, priest
(Italian autograph manuscript in AGCP B. I, VIII, V-15; Parte II ff: 136-138)
Mary always shows herself as the mother of hope
One of the titles rightly attributed to the Blessed Virgin Mary is that of Mother of Holy Hope. Hope is that virtue which anchors the ship of our soul in the stormy sea of this troubled world. It is a comfort left to us after the fall of Adam, a support in our weakness which encourages us to practice the Christian virtues. Hope is defined by theologians as a virtue planted in us by God which enables us confidently to expect from God eternal life and the aids that lead to it. Since Mary possessed this virtue in an heroic degree, she is appropriately called Mother of Holy Hope.
Instead of looking to worldly patrons, as people generally do, Mary trusted solely in God. She desired nothing and sought nothing but eternal life and the way to reach it. The world and all those things that the children of Adam are deceived into admiring and desiring were to her as though not existing. For her, earth seemed to be a desert, so that even the angels marveled, if one may speak in that way, that she could be so complete a stranger to created things. They seemed to say: “Who is this coming up from the desert, leaning upon her lover?”
Although endowed with extraordinary graces and unstained by original sin, Mary never counted on any resource of her own. Rather, she knew that God is the author of every good thing and the source of all perfection. She confided in him amid the dangers of persecution while she was a fugitive from her own country. She hoped in him even when she saw her divine Son die on the cross and the apostles dispersed, and she hoped in him when enemies turned on the infant Church, the loving bride of her divine Son. Supported by this confidence, she remained firm in the midst of what seemed like disaster, and strengthened those who, in their discouragement and need, turned to her as to a mother. She encouraged the weak, lifted up those who had fallen and urged the strong to ever greater trust.
We must not think that Mary has resigned from such maternal service in our day. Certainly not! Even now, from that exalted throne where she reigns in glory, Mary reaches out a mother’s hand to those who have failed. She graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude, comforting them and giving them courage. She heartens the good, praying that they may be fearless and unconquerable in the adversities of life. She inspires pastors and inflames with love the flock they shepherd for Christ. In a word, she never ceases to exercise her role as Mother of Holy Hope.
Note: This post has been edited from when it was first published for clarity on certain points where there was confusion. Significant changes or additional content is noted here:
**July 10, 2011: 11:00am: Added note about "Black-Sheep Dog" trademark.
***July 10, 2011: 6:30pm: Added quote by Fr. Hardon on obedience and related link.
****July 11, 2011: 6:00pm: Changed red text at top to announce the end of the "anonymous" comment option since so many people were leaving their comments unsigned with some kind of name or psuedonym that would hinder confusion about which one said what. Also, added links to additional resources.
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