Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lopping off the tall poppies—UPDATED

Gee, it seems only a few weeks ago that we were shocked by the news of Fr. Thomas Euteneuer's fall from grace—oh, wait a minute, it WAS a few weeks ago! And it was just a couple of weeks after that that the grand jury in Philadelphia claimed there were as many as twenty-seven suspected predator-priests still active and unchained in that see.

Now whose neck is on the chopping block? Fr. John Corapi, the EWTN-televised priest with the booming voice and the take-the-faith-to-the-gym theology. Unlike Fr. Euteneuer, though, Fr. Corapi isn't going down without a fight. Here's the release from his website (H/T to Deacon Greg Kandra):

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.
I would urge everyone at this time not to leap to conclusions. I would hope and pray that the charges are found to be without merit, and that Fr. Corapi's charism and vocation suffer no damage as a result of them. At the same time, I hope and pray that the investigation is fair and balanced—not in the Fox News sense; I mean really impartial—and that justice is done where justice is due.

It seems that Satan, in his infernal desire to sift the disciples like wheat (cf. Lk 22:31), is targeting the "tall poppies" of the Church in America. Who's next: Fr. Robert Barron? Abp. Timothy Dolan (well, they've been trying to get him since he moved to the Big Apple from Milwaukee)? Karl Keating? Maybe some old woman (or man) has a repressed memory return from some indiscretion committed by Abp. Fulton Sheen?

Update: March 21, 2011
Deacon Greg's original post, as of this writing, has had 238 responses; according to Elizabeth Scalia, the story is "producing a lot of sound and fury in some quarters, signifying not-much, and producing little-to-no light." Frank Weathers at YIMC has a great indirect commentary on calumny. Doctor Gerald Nadal agrees with Fr. Corapi that the suspension publicly proclaims him guilty until proven innocent. Lisa Graas points us back to the Anchoress, as does Deacon Greg; frankly, if you read one post—well, if you read one more post–that would be the one to read.

In sum: We've still only heard one side of the story. While I'm inclined to give Fr. Corapi the benefit of the doubt, I'm not his religious superior, nor do I run EWTN (which, according to a source Steve Ray has, is yanking his show for the time being). That being said, like Dr. Nadal, I do believe Fr. Corapi deserves the presumption of innocence—not because he's a fantastic preacher, nor because he's a priest, nor because he's a Public Figure, but because he's a person, a member of the Church and a child of God like the rest of us.

A little later:
Mark Shea essentially agrees with the Anchoress in proposing the Prof. Digory Kirke response: "How about if everybody minds their own business and lets the investigation proceed so that the facts, whatever they are, will be uncovered?" And, without casting unnecessary or rash judgment on Fr. Corapi, Fr. Dwight Longenecker reminds us that we have to be careful that our respect and admiration for specially prominent priests doesn't verge into "bubble gum religion".

The point of a priest being an alter Christus is to point us to Christ Himself. We always have before us the example of the Corinthians, who built personality cults around Paul, Peter and Apollos; St. Paul himself took some pains to reject such partisanship:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? ... What then is Paul? What then is Apollos? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor (1 Cor 1:13, 3:5-8).
There are plenty of good, strong Catholic voices from whom we can learn the authentic faith—not only priests such as Frs. Corapi, Longenecker, Zuhlsdorf and so forth, but upwards to hierarchs such as Abp. Timothy Dolan (not to mention our highly intelligent, highly profound Pope) and downwards to lay men and women of great knowledge such as Dr. John Zmirak, Chuck Colson, Dr. George Weigel and so on. But at the end of the day, they—and we—are all disciples of Christ, not disciples of _________. We do well to remember that.

A little later than before!
From Pat Archbold's blog in the National Catholic Register:

Statement from Rev. Gerald Sheehan, Regional Priest Servant
Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity
18 March 2011

Today, as Regional Priest Servant for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, I have the unhappy responsibility to announce that Father John Corapi, SOLT has been placed on administrative leave from priestly ministry, in accordance to the Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church.  We have received an allegation that Father Corapi has behaved in a manner unbecoming of a priest and are duty-bound to conduct an investigation in this accusation.

It is important to keep in mind that this action in no way implies Father Corapi is guilty of the allegation.  It is equally important to know that, based on the information we have received thus far, the claim of misconduct does not involve minors and does not arise to the [level?] of criminal conduct.  Consequently, this matter will be investigated internally, and unless and until information suggests otherwise it will not be referred to civil authorities.  In the event that we learn of any occasion where the criminal civil law may have been breached we will immediately refer the matter to civil authorities.
Update: March 23, 2011
Patrick Madrid has a copy of an announcement from EWTN regarding the suspension of Fr. Corapi's show. You can read it here.