Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some thoughts on L'affaire Corapi

I was going to let the John Corapi story die without comment; the whole situation is just too sad and sordid for me to add myself to any dogpiles. However, I can't.

First, I'm saddened and sickened by the loss of a priest who was an effective communicator of our Faith. Whatever he does from now on to the end of his life, Corapi will never have the same chance to make a difference in the lives of American Catholics.

I wish I could say I were shocked. However, his own testimony about his life prior to entering the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity makes it clear to me that money and fame aren't a good combination for him. Many men have come from equally ugly backgrounds to become not only priests but saints; St. Camillus de Lellis comes immediately to my mind. However, the founder of the Hospitallers never had to drink from that lethal concoction called celebrity.

In general, I'm more convinced than ever that even parish priests should live in community with other priests, to limit the dangers of loneliness and help reinforce each other's vows. It's not good for any man to be alone. In this respect, the Society bears some of the blame for letting Corapi live apart and set up his ministry without oversight; I doubt this situation would have come about had Corapi been a Dominican or Franciscan.

On the other hand, I can imagine someone outside the Church demanding of me, "Why aren't you more angry? Why aren't you so disgusted with such hypocrisy and filth that you leave the Church?" My response would have to be: "Why would I be so astonished that what the Church teaches about temptation and human frailty happens to be just as true of priests as it is of laypersons?" 

It's a fairly recent innovation — and not altogether a good one — that the Church in America has begun shooting her wounded. Christ's parables of the wheat and the tares and of the net full of fish (Mt 13:24-30, 47-48) teaches us that there will always be bad Christians among the good, and that their final disposition will be with everything else at the end of time. Until then, we should extend every opportunity for conversion and commitment to discipleship, keeping in mind that we may need such opportunities ourselves.

Above all, Corapi is a reminder to all of us that to set yourself up as a public witness to the Faith is to set yourself up as a target of Satan. His Infernal Majesty is to be feared most not when you're faced with opposition and hatred but when you encounter adulation and admiration; his deadliest weapons hit you at your spiritual weaknesses in private, not at your strengths in public. "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mt 10:28). 

This is why St. Paul says, "Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor 9:25-27). We should never be so certain of our conversions that we neglect the care of our own souls; that way lies pride and presumption.

Finally, we should pray for the quondam Father Corapi ("The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, 'You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek'" [Ps 110:4]), for the Society, for the women hurt by his behavior, and for the faithful he has betrayed. And let's all remember the prayer attributed to St. Philip Neri: 

"Lord Jesus, watch over me always, especially today, or I shall betray you like Judas."