In March, Fr. John Corapi was suspended after allegations that he was improperly involved with a woman. After weeks of silence, Corapi announced today that he will leave the priesthood after being stymied in attempts to clear his name. Audio of the announcement is here; the text is here. I have three main points to make.
First, I understand if Corapi feels mired in process, unable to clear his name. I understand him being angry at a process that is—if his version of events is essentially accurate—an unfair process that is being used to silence him by certain powers that are critical of a robust voice for Catholic orthodoxy. But at the same time, it’s only been three months. That isn’t excessively long by the standards of civil litigation, and depending on how you draw the analogy, it’s more-or-less within the speedy trial act’s timeline for criminal trials. Cf. MP: The Kansas City fumble n.1 (June 7, 2011). And leaving the priesthood is a huge decision. We have all felt persecuted and paralyzed from time to time, and have yearned to break free, but it seems very hasty to take so precipitous a step after so little time.
Second, having raised the possibility of his story not holding up, I must add that I assume Corapi’s telling the truth, broadly-speaking. I have no reason to doubt him. It’s important to not be unreasonably charitable toward a man because I happen to like him and find his testimony powerful; good men sometimes fall and do bad things. As people have observed for centuries, Holy Mother Church is a hospital for sinners not a drawing room for saints. Accordingly, I acknowledge that there are two sides to every story, and Corapi makes what come to several accusations, especially about Bp. Michael Mulvey. But that maxim has limits: To avail himself of it, Bp. Mulvey must tell his side of the story. He cannot seriously say “there’s two sides to every story; I’m not going to tell you my side of it, but don’t buy what he’s saying.” Absurd! Corapi has made some claims about Mulvey’s conduct, and if Mulvey wants to avoid being thought of as the bishop who unjustly terminated Corapi’s ministry, fairly or not, it becomes incumbent on him to tell his side of the story. Fairly or not, like it or not, the ball is in your court, your excellency.
Third, having mentioned Corapi’s testimony, I think that we must distinguish between that testimony and Corapi’s ministry. Many believe that Fr. Corapi has been an extremely effective ambassador from Catholic orthodoxy in his preaching, and I agree. But I fancy that Corapi is fondly familiar to many of his followers because we were sold on his testimony—on his story. He rose to the heights of what the secular world would regard as success; money, drugs, girls, you name it. And he fell as fast, as far, and as hard as anyone has: addiction, homeless vagrancy, institutionalization. Watch the condensed version here and a fuller account here. Yet from these depths, he not only recovered his faith, but was opened to answering a call to the priesthood—no easy gig, as any priest will tell you—and commenced the ministry to which I’ve referred. And it is this narrative arc, this testimony, that I think most attracts people to Corapi. His testimony is powerful because it vividly illustrates that there are no depths to which you can sink whence God cannot rescue you and use you in His service. Like so many of us in kind, but worse than most of us in degree, this man was a disaster without God, and became triumph with and through Him. It’s unfortunate that a cloud may now hang over Corapi’s ministry; his critics will undoubtedly use it as a weapon to discredit him. But his testimony—because it isn’t really his testimony, any more than was Job’s, but rather God’s—remains undimmed.
I’m personally saddened by Corapi’s decision and the situation that led to it. I wouldn’t say that he was instrumental in my conversion, but he helped a great deal. Above all else, Corapi’s statement strikes me as a dignified shrug of the shoulders and somewhat elaborated personal serenity prayer:
I am not going to be involved in public ministry as a priest any longer. There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone, and I shall be gone. I have been guilty of many things in the course of my life, and could easily and justifiably be considered unfit to engage in public ministry as a priest. … Suffice it to say that I love the Catholic Church and accept what has transpired.
Corapi feels, I am sure, that he is accepting something he cannot change. I know that God will continue to bless you, Father.
- MP: More details emerge about Fr. Corapi’s situation (June 21, 2011)