I noticed a couple weeks ago that the Facebook page of the "Black Sheepdog" (BSD) quietly slipped off the radar. The only Corapi Facebook pages that remain are run by fans. The BSD blog and website were still up, but there had been no activity for some time. Seems to me that when I decided to peek about two weeks ago, the last entry was from around Labor Day in September. No mention was made that anything was wrong.
Today, traveling around the Catholic blogosphere and on Facebook and Twitter is a link to the now defunct website http://www.theblacksheepdog.us/. All of the posts, all of the audios and videos are gone as are the items that were for sale. The "nuking" of the site also eliminated literally thousands of comments. It is all replaced with this:
Everyone is wondering what is up. Many are hoping that this signals Father Corapi's return to SOLT (yes, I'm still calling him Father because the Church, to my knowledge, has not stated publicly that he is no longer to be called, "Father" and I prefer to keep in mind that he remains a priest).
Here, I will throw in a few possibilities which are purely speculative, along with my own hopes.
1) He's calling it a day
The lowest hanging fruit on the tree is that Fr. Corapi is hanging it up after his business venture failed to give him the returns he was expecting. We watched his Facebook fan base go from over 50,000 on his original Father John Corapi page down to a few thousand when he created a new one under the assumed name, Black Sheepdog. Perhaps he is done with this and moving on to some other form of work, or living off of some other income he already has. Perhaps he was making a profit, but decided to fold his hand for other reasons - health, lack of desire to continue, difficulty in not crossing into doing what some may have considered an apostolate (see point 3 below), etc.
2) He's going back to SOLT
This is the second lowest hanging fruit, imho. If he does comply with SOLT's requirement to come back and live in community, that would be ideal. The community became a Society of Apostolic Life (SAL) in 1994. I believe it was under pressure to bring all members into compliance with a new set of disciplines and it's own constitution (among other things, members are now required to live in community). Some fans of Fr. Corapi have lamented this change in 1994 as if it was concocted to get his money because of his popularity. That is pure horse-hockey and a form of rash judgment against nameless, faceless superiors who were likely advancing the common good and desires of the larger community. The non-celebrity members of the SOLT community should not be denied the fruits that come with being a SAL because there is a celebrity among them earning big bucks. I also believe this whole issue with pre-1994 members was coming to a head as the community was aiming for the next rung on the ladder and reaching for pontifical status (this is speculative on my part, based on hearsay).
I think some 60 members had joined before 1994 and the society was in discussions with all of these people to agree on a solution to this change. Priests in such situations can accept the changes; they can look for another community if the changes are not appealing; or they have the option to seek laicization, which likely would be granted in such a case. Let's face it, 17 years had passed from when those discussions were to begin between SOLT and these members who joined prior to 1994. It's not like there wasn't enough time to find resolution. Further, Corapi's community and/or the local hierarchy failed him. He was hard-wired for a number of vices that gripped him earlier in life and which he discussed often in his talks. There were truly serious reasons to get this man back into community and out of isolation where the odds were high that he could yield to temptations (I don't know that he did, but I'm just sayin'!). Nothing would have prevented him, before the big blow-out, from going on the speaking circuit while living in community. It hasn't stopped the Fathers of Mercy or priests from other societies or orders. But, Fr. Corapi would have had to accept this arrangement. Given the way he handled his situation publicly, even if he returns now and even if he did not have a case pending investigation, I have my doubts he could ever go on tour again or speak publicly.
If he is re-thinking the path he chose and is going to shun his worldly pursuits (including any political/celebrity ambitions) and is heading back to his community that would be my greatest hope. With God nothing is impossible and there is great value to a priest offering the Sacrifice of the Mass and doing whatever humble task is given him by his superiors. If that is the case, something is needed: A public statement to undo the damage caused by such a strange departure.
3) He's complying with a directive from the Holy See
I'm not a canon lawyer so I do not know the specifics of this, but when a priest seeks to be freed from his canonical obligations and requests laicization, the Holy See may impose certain conditions for the laicization, or for remaining in good standing with the Church. My thought here is the possibility that the sudden disappearance of his public sites may be a desire to comply with some kind of directive from the Holy See, if he has officially requested laicization.
Here is an example from the laicization decree on Fr. Tomislav Vlasic, OFM - a public figure associated with Medjugorje - who had suffered severe penalties just one year prior (some would say he quit before he could be fired by requesting the laicization). There were three precepts imposed, under pain of excommunication, in his laicization decree, and I draw your attention to the first precept along with the introductory note:
As a salutary penal precept - under the pain of excommunication which the Holy See would declare, and if necessary, without prior canonical warning - the following precepts are imposed on Mr. Tomislav Vlasic:
a) Absolute prohibition from exercising any form of apostolate (for example, promoting public or private devotion, teaching Christian doctrine, spiritual direction, participation in lay associations, etc.) as well as of acquiring and administering goods intended for pious purposes;
Sidenote: I will not be posting any comments about Medjugorje or the Vlasic case as this was used merely as an example to show the langauge in such a decree on laicization.
Now, some would say that what Father Corapi was doing at the BSD website would not fall within such a realm and that what he was doing was not an apostolate, not teaching Christian doctrine, etc. At the end of the day, neither I nor anyone who reads this post is in a position to discern the matter; someone at the Holy See has this responsibility. The problem is that Catholics who were following him still saw him as a priest, wanted him to speak as a priest, but he was unwilling to act and talk as a priest. I don't see how this can't be disorienting to Catholics.
Perhaps the Holy See can make restrictions on such a public life of a priest upon laicization for other reasons than those cited for Vlasic. If the absence of the Black Sheepdog websites signals compliance with such a precept perhaps he is spared the kind of public notice we have on Tomislav Vlasic. The few thousand left following him after the self-implosion would have surely sunk the business end even more.
Time may or may not reveal whether Fr. John Corapi has been laicized and will be known as Mr. John Corapi by the Church. If he is not headed back to community, my prayer is that he is taking the necessary steps to remain in the graces of Holy Mother Church, following whatever is asked of him by the Holy See. Like all of us must do, I pray he is also following the 10 Commandments and that he has not fallen back into those vices which nearly cost him his life and his soul.
Please, in your charity, pray for this troubled priest and all concerned. May the Blessed Virgin Mary who pulled him from the gutter and led him to the priesthood; and Blessed John Paul II who ordained him, guide Father John Corapi in his time of need. We pray that his guardian angel makes it easy for him to act on the graces that come from the prayers of us all.
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