Monthly Archives: June 2011

I Just Reduced Prices on My CD

When I set up my CD two years ago, I set the price and didn’t really think about it since.  I was playing around just now and realized that, after 2 years, it was time to change the price a bit and see if I get more sales.

For a limited time (limited by when I decide to raise it again), I’ve dropped the price of the _Hide Me In Your Wounds_ MP3 album to the “rock bottom rate” (which is pre-set by Amazon, though there appears to be some kind of technical problem right now).

The price of the CD has dropped from $14 to $12, which reduces my personal profit, but I want to get it out there, and I’ll certainly make more money if I make more sales. 🙂

IN any case, if you don’t know, Hide Me In Your Wounds is a collection of daily prayers and devotions . With a couple exceptions, they’re relatively short prayers and devotions, or long ones broken into smaller segments.  The idea is to give you something to pray along with in the car that’s not the Rosary–not that I have anything against the Rosary, but it’s really too long for the car.  In my own experience, either the Rosary gets interrupted when I listen to it in the car on a short trip, or else on a long trip it can be a bit sleep-inducing.

The idea behind Hide Me in Your Wounds is to have different prayers that you can listen to that, when you arrive at your destination around time, they’re over.  Or you can mix ’em with music.  I keep copies in my car, on all our phones, and on all our computers, and play them throughout my day.

The recordings are mostly of me, but I got recordings of my wife saying the Our Father and Hail Mary, and of my daughter Allie (age 7 at the time of recording) saying the same prayers, as well as the responses on the Litany of the Saints.  A lot of people say this is what makes the CD special.  A nice lady from Ireland wrote a review on Amazon saying how nice it was to have a CD that was a family praying.  At times, Allie yawns, which people have given both positive and negative feedback on, but most say that it adds to the CD by being a little lesson in perseverance, etc.

Nuns have told me it’s changed their prayer lives.  A friend uses it in her CCD classes.  Another friend says she listens to it every day on her IPad while she does her chores.  My sister-in-law, with whom I have a fairly typical sister-in-law kind of relationship, says she listens to it every day and wishes everyone had a copy.

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How He-Man, Rudolph, Underdog, and Bob the Tomato became Corporate Cousins

I love interesting pop culture stories, and I love interesting corporate stories, and the story of Classic Media rivals TimeLife Warner Bros AOL Turner whatever it’s now called, and Comcast NBC Sheinhardt (ha) Universal GE whatever in the annals of corporate synergy, though on a smaller scale.

Classic Media was started by former Broadway Video executive John Engelman and Marvel CEO Eric Ellenbogen “in hopes of acquiring mismanaged classic properties and giving exposure to them” (Wikipedia).  Unfortunately, the Wikipedia entries have changed over the years, so I can’t double check the exact details, but, basically, Classic started as a spin off of Broadway video.  It made its name by buying bankrupt properties.  This includes the video arm of the defunct Golden Books, which itself includes most of the pre-1974 Rankin-Bass library (hence Rudolph), Underdog and other properties.

In 2003, Classic Media purchased Big Idea, the parent company of VeggieTales, which had gone bankrupt due to a lawsuit.  Ironically, the lawsuit was filed against Big Idea by HiT Entertainment.  HiT had acquired the company that had VeggieTales’ distribution contract, and Phil Vischer for some reason was not morally comfortable doing business with HiT.  He had a verbal agreement with his distributor that opted him to use a different distributor if they were ever bought.  In the long run, Big Idea won the lawsuit when it came before the Supreme Court, but not before going bankrupt in legal fees, especially following overexpansion and the lackluster theatrical performance of _Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie_.
So, Classic Media acquired VeggieTales.  In 2006, Classic sold itself to a company with a similar vision, the UK-based Entertainment Rights.  Entertainment Rights ironically has ties to HiT Entertainment, both as a competitor and as  the companies split some of the rights of certain properties.

Interestingly, Entertainment Rights already owned Lou Schiemer’s defunct studio Filmation, which had a similar history to Big Idea.  Filmation was known for producing advertisements and Saturday morning cartoons but made its name with the 1970s _Star Trek_ Animated Series, which won an Emmy for its sophisticated storytelling (episodes were often written by the same writers as the TV series).  They also had a successful 1970s live action series called _Ghostbusters_ and some adaptations of DC properties, including Captain Marvel and Batman.


When _He-Man and the Masters of the Universe_ came out in the wake of loosened FCC regulations regarding censorship of cartoons, it pioneered both the “toy-based cartoon” of the 1980s and the “made for afternoons” cartoon.  Up until then, cartoons broadcast on early mornings or afternoons were syndicated reruns of old Saturday morning cartoons.  MOTU was the first cartoon to be created specifically for first run syndication in the afternoons, and paved the way for _GI Joe_, _Transformers_ and others series.

 

When Columbia came out with the movie _Ghostbusters_ in 1984, it didn’t get approval from Filmation, which owned the trademark to the name “Ghostbusters.”  Filmation sued Columbia and suffered a similar fate to Big Idea: Filmation ultimately won the lawsuit, but legal fees combined with overexpansion drove it into bankruptcy.  Meanwhile, Filmation decided to capitalize on its license and Columbia’s violation of the trademark by introducing a _Ghostbusters_ cartoon based on the 1970s series.  Therefore, the animated versions of the Columbia version were known under names such as “The Real Ghostbusters,” “Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters” or “Extreme Ghostbusters.”

He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special

What does the He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special have over most of the Rankin & Bass specials? It actually mentions Jesus!!

Filmation, again, was purchased by Entertainment Rights.  Entertainment Rights purchased Classic Media in 2006, but *also* engaged in too much overexpansion and went bankrupt.  In 2009, Engelman and Ellenbogen, with a new partner GTCR, bought Entertainment Rights under the new holding company Boomerang Media (how they got away with that name, I don’t know).  Reportedly, they paid less for the whole enchilada than what Entertainment Rights originally paid them for Classic Media and even what Classic originally paid for Big Idea.  They changed the name back to Classic Media and recommitted to invigorating their properties.

Meanwhile, a few years ago, Mattel started making _Masters of the Universe Classics_ (MOTUC), an 8-inch line of highly articulated figures sold directly to collectors online and representing various permutations of the franchise.  So far, figures produced have included characters from MOTU fiction that were never made into figures, characters developed for the original line but never produced, characters from the 2002 version, the original version, _She-Ra: Princess of Power_ and the late 90s “New Adventures of He-Man”.  Originally, Mattel had announced that some character names technically belonged to Filmation, such as Queen Marlena and Cringer.  Recently, however, Mattel has produced and announced a package of those two very figures, which would seem to indicate that they acquired the rights from Classic Media.  They’re also doing a big push for the 30th Anniversary of the franchise, which may include a retail release of the MOTUC line.

This gets us to the news that inspired this blog post: Classic Media is launching a partnership with Mattel to “reinvent” various classic properties.  Mattel will produce toys based upon some of Classic Media’s other properties (i.e., Voltron), and Classic Media will be not only amping up the distribution of the classic cartoons but is also planning new productions based upon these properties.

What Andy Warhol and Susan Lucci have to teach us about being Catholic.

I just learned from Father Joe’s blog that Andy Warhol was a practicing Byzantine Catholic his entire life.   As his personal life goes: he was raised Catholic, buried Catholic (with a prayer book in his hands), and reportedly attended Mass at both Byzantine and Roman Churches his entire life.
While people claim he was homosexual, those closest to him also say he was perfectly chaste.  His work was intended to draw out the hypocrisies of America’s blend of commercialism and faith; works which superficially seemed sacrilegious  were intended to show how much of our treatment of religion in America is sacrilegious.  Now, I don’t really know much about Warhol except the infamous Campbell’s Soup can and the “15 minutes of fame” quotation.  I’ve learned more abut him from this article than I’ve ever known.  Whether the article is correct about interpretation of his works, or whether Warhol was successful in what he tried to do, that’s a matter of opinion.  However, it strikes me that the article discusses how Warhol is often criticized for works that put Da Vinci’s _The Last Supper_ in secular contexts, which he intended as a symbol of how that’s done all the time in our culture.

In any case, it strikes me that it also gets to the relativism of what constitutes sacrilege.  Byzantines, after all, are very disdainful of Western religious art–not, as many Westerners think, because of iconoclasm but because they think Western art is not properly religious.  Iconography is a sophisticated code of theological meaning, and an Ikon has to follow a particular set of rules, or else it just isn’t an Ikon.  In Byzantine theology, the Ikon is itself a kind of “Real Presence.”  If we can equate  the Presence of the Host to being physically next to someone, and the Presence of the Bible to talking to someone on the phone, then the Presence of Ikons is that of a video conference.  Icons are Windows into Heaven.  Western religious art, by contrast, expresses an author’s perspective.  Increasingly, as Western art has diverged from iconography, it has come more and more to embody personal perspectives of artists, allowing their personality to skew the theology and prayer aspects of the work.  Put simply, to a Byzantine,
this
The Statue of "The Blessed Virgin" in Cardinal Mahony's Cathedral in LA

Is the natural result of this:

A cheapish picture of Our Lady of Grace

.  Whereas, this
Our Lady of Perpetual Help

is not just a “work of art,” not just an artist’s rendering of his subjective views but a theological lesson, a spiritual lesson, a prayer, *and* a very real means of accessing the Reality of Jesus and Mary.
So while Warhol  may have seen the Last Supper, for example, as worthy of reverence as a work of art, if he was a properly catechized Byzantine, he may not have seen it as particularly worthy of reverence as a work of religion (not saying I agree, just pointing this out).

 

That said, the keynote of the article is that Warhol remained a devout Catholic his whole life.  However, he did not advertise it, for fear that, while he intended his work to send a prophetic message, it might scandalize people if they knew he was Catholic, so he sat quietly in the back of church and didn’t go to Communion where he might be recognized.  While the latter is perhaps a bit extreme, it also gets into Western versus Eastern views of receiving Communion.

This all reminds me of an article I read recently about 40+ year _All My Children_ star Susan Lucci (Erica Kane).  She recently came out with an autobiography called _All My Life_.  In that memoir, and interviews related to it, she tells the story of what it was like in real life for her when she performed in the infamous story where her character had the first legal abortion on television.  (Interestingly, they’ve recently done a story where it turned it was a “botched abortion”, and the baby survived and recently returned as an adult–this inspired a column that argues how abortion is the cause of the death of the daytime drama, since not as many women are stay at home moms anymore.)  Anyway, Lucci says she performed in the story to show how horribly abortion hurts women, how she felt a certain level of guilt about it and confessed it sacramentally, and how people reacted to her.  Again, like Warhol, she began being discreet about her Catholicism because people were scandalized by the character she portrayed on television.  (I’ve also seen Lucci listed as a “pro-choice Catholic” today, but can’t find any corroboration of where that comes from).

In any case, it should be a sobering lesson that these celebrities tried so hard to reconcile their faith with their work, but also showed great humility in practicing their faith quietly given their potentially scandalous circumstances.

A Parable

I’m borrowing this metaphor a bit from the folks at Creative Minority Report, just making it a bit more direct to the case:

A man’s wife and children are put into protective custody pending an investigation of an abuse allegation (note, of course, that the law protects the claimant in such allegations).  Technically, the accuser has the right to anonymity in such a case, but in this case, the abuser has contacted several authorities, and the man has learned who the person is.

The man files a lawsuit against his accuser.  Then he announces to the world, “There is no way to prove my innocence of these allegations.  My wife has treated me unfairly, and these allegations are false.  I am therefore abandoning my wife and children.  I will be seeking a divorce.  I’ll still be a husband and father, but I just won’t live with them or do anything for them, because  that would require fighting for my innocence and putting me in an adversarial relationship with them.  Just don’t call me ‘Dad.’  I’ll still visit and write to my children, even though DSS says I’m not allowed to see them right now. ”
So, DSS issues a statement saying, “We’ve dropped the investigation since he moved out and filed for divorce a few weeks ago.  His family have moved back into their home.  Plus, he’s intimidated some of the witnesses, so we can’t investigate.”
The man replies, “Oh, by the way, I am not actually getting a divorce.  It’s more like a separation.  Again, I’ll still be a husband and father.  I just won’t be living with my family, doing any household chores, or teaching my kids anything or romancing my wife or anything like that.  That stuff was really a minor part of my life as a husband and father, anyway.  Most of my time was spent earning money, and I’ll still be sending child support checks and coming over to take my kids out to the park and stuff like that. And don’t blame my wife.  It’s not her fault.  She’s still a good wife and mother.  She just never lifted a finger to help me the entire time I was being investigated.  She threw me under the buss.  But she’s a good woman.  It’s just that, when I got sick, I had to pay for it with my own health insurance and my own money.  She never gave a dime to pay my bills.  In fact, she’s never supported me in any way.  She’s always mostly ignored me while I was travelling on business all the time or staying long nights at the office.”
The wife says, “I tried asking him all the time to spend more time at home with me and less time at the office, and he kept refusing.”
The guy says, “She just wanted my money.”
The guy says, “By the way, the person accused me of abuse anonymously, so I have no way to really defend myself because I can’t know who my accuser is.  My accuser is my former next-door neighbor.  I know for a fact this person is an alcoholic.  But I can’t defend myself.”  “Oh, you found out about the lawsuit I filed?  Well, I did that on the advice of my father-in-law.  Yep, it was the only way to defend myself against these accusations. ”

What would we say of such a person?

And it gets worse every day

Now, the Black One, in his desire to draw his fans away from loyalty to Holy Mother Church, is trying to sow division by undermining the authority of Bishop Mulvey and Fr. Sheehan.  In his latest “Black Sheepdog” blog post, he claims he’s been working closely with Bishop Gracida and Fr. Flanagan, and following their advice.  He appeals to Gracida’s status “retired bishop of Corpus Christi,” implying that he has more authority than the *current* bishop of Corpus Christi, and that Flanagan is the “founder and most respected member” of SOLT, implying that Fr. Sheehan is not respected.  He also threatens to publicize audio recordings of his accuser–again confirming Shea’s hypothesis that Corapi wants to “out” her by dropping clues, so his adoring fans will malign her directly.

A lot of people have been making hay of Bishop Rene Gracida’s sympathetic blog post, saying it endorses Corapi–well, Gracida says he hasn’t spoken to Corapi in a long time, while Corapi says he’s following Gracida’s advice.  I suspect we’ll be seeing some kind of retraction from Gracida when the contradiction gets around.

Why I Will Follow the Shepherds, not the “Sheepdog”

There’s been a lot of discussion today of the  “Black Sheepdog Who Once was John Corapi” issue.
On Thursday, I was one of his supporters, indebted for what his teaching has meant to me and always sharing his stories with others to encourage them.
On Friday, I was disconcerted by his announcement.  When Mark Shea, Elizabeth Scalia and others suggested he was on a very dangerous road to schism or cult or something, I thought they were engaging in a slippery slope, but I agreed with their critiques of the content of his message.
On Sunday, his superior, Fr. Gerry Sheehan, SOLT, has gave an interview with National Catholic Register which totally contradicts some of Corapi’s statements (which themselves, if you read them critically, are full of self contradictions).  Today, “the Black Sheepdog” issued another audio announcement, which his critics have denounced as even more narcissistic and riot-inciting, while his rioting supporters have used it as a rallying cry to fight for their unjustly persecuted hero.  He repeatedly says things like, “The Church never laid a finger or spent a penny to help me.”  He completely demonizes his accuser.  The man whose claim to fame is his alleged recovery from drug addiction and ministry to addicts has totally calumniated his accuser as an evil alcoholic.  Worst of all, the man who used to preach on the importance of the sacraments and how the sacraments are the lifeblood of the priesthood says he doesn’t mind giving up the priesthood “because the sacraments aren’t all that important!”  WT#?!!

I’m crying just thinking about it.  This man has completely gone over to the devil.  Whatever he did or did not do with this woman, and I’m inclined to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, I have at this point come to agree 100% with his harshest critics, and his “supporters” or “fanbase” or whatever you want to call them–I call them cultish fanatics–are the main reason, but here are the reasons, laid out:

1.  I know Corapi has lied.  Both in March and over the past 4 days, his public statements on this matter have contradicted statements issued by his Order, Fr. Sheehan specifically and Bishop Mulvey/the Diocese of Corpus Christi.  As an English teacher, I teach my students about critical reading of sources, how to discern which source is more credible when you don’t have any third party verification.  One is to look at the agendas at stake.  Corapi’s supporters seem pretty content with their narrative that Fr. Sheehan and the SOLT want Corapi’s money and the Diocese of Corpus Christi is in the hands of the Devil.  This does not speak to Corapi’s own greed for his own money, the purported holiness of Bishop Mulvey, etc.    OTOH, we know Corapi is lying, or at least inveigling, becuase his own statements contradict themselves, and Fr. Sheehan has contradicted Corapi’s version of events.  And who in this situation has more reason to lie?

2.  Corapi has left the priesthood.  I’m enough of a traditionalist to say that’s a major black mark on any person’s record.  Some have compared him to Malachi Martin, but I’ve never been a particular admirer of Malachi Martin.   He announced his departure on the 20th anniversary of his ordination, even while having a “twentieth ordination anniversary sale” on his website!  Refer above to how unimportant the sacraments have suddenly become to him.  It’s shameful.  He stammers out that he’s “still a priest” on today’s statement, but Fr. Sheehan said in his interview that Corapi submitted a formal request for laicization.

3.  Fr. Corapi’s supporters are hypocrites.  They’re saying “Don’t criticize a priest” regarding Fr. Corapi then badmouthing Bishop Mulvey, Fr. Sheehan, the SOLT in general and the bishops in general.  They’re saying “don’t calumniate,” even as they calumniate Corapi’s accuser, based only on his word.  They’re saying “don’t judge” and “we don’t know all the facts” even while insisting on their judgements that Fr. Corapi speaks the TRUTH and that Fr. Corapi is “A Holy Priest.”  They reaffirm my old maxim that “judge not” works both ways.

There are a lot of similar themes in this discussion to the Medjugorje issue, and a lot of the same people on both sides.  One of those themes is “the corruption in the Church.”  As with Medjugorje, the only loose, much less substantial, charges of financial or sexual corruption are in Corapi’s court.

4.  Corapi’s supporters are proving everything that Shea, Scalia and others said on Friday, and that some of Corapi’s critics have said all along.  On Facebook, one of my FB friends who’s a Carmelite nun said in all charity that she didn’t think Fr. Corapi was cut out for religious life and might do better as a layman, after all, and Corapi’s fanatics attacked her, questioning whether she was even a nun, etc.!  I’ve seen priests and deacons maligned on their blogs and FB walls by these people, who are saying things like, “How can you malign another priest, you evil priest?!”

5.  Corapi has taught the wrong kind of spiritual warfare.  I’ve seen a whole list of people I admire fall down similar paths to Corapi: Bud Macfarlane (who did to his family what Corapi did to his priesthood); Fr. Euteneuer, and others.  One of the common threads is an overly militaristic view of spirituality, which sounds OK but after seeing so many people with that view going off their rockers, I wonder.  In any case, Corapi’s preaching blurred the line between authentic spiritual warfare–fighting the evil tendencies in ourselves while also trying to fight the ability of demons to tempt or torment ourselves and others–while a more Muslim view of it.  Over the years, many of Corapi’s critics have accused him of making too much of an “us-versus-them” attitude within the Church, and his supporters’ actions over the past few days have validated that concern about his preaching.  If you’re not totally 100% on Fr. Corapi’s side, they see you as an agent of the Devil.

I remember reading someone with a similar critique of Bud Macfarlane’s teachings on “spiritual warfare.”  Macfarlane popularized an idea called “E5 Men,” spun off Medjugorje’s extreme fasting requirements, whereby a man is expected to fast on bread and water every Wednesday for his wife, mother, etc.  Macfarlane referred to it as spiritual “special forces” and made an analogy about blasting the Devil with a heavy machine gun.  The priest who was critiquing Macfarlane’s metaphor said, “Is he talking about blasting the Devil with a machine gun, or his wife?”

Something similar was at work in Corapi’s teaching, and I’ve often read people suggesting it, but I thought they were misunderstanding him.  Now that I’ve seen the fruits of his teaching in people’s hearts, I see that his critics were right all along.

6. While simultaneously insisting on how Fr. Corapi is important because of all the good he’s done for the Church, and because he’s a voice for “the Truth,” his supporters are denouncing in his name many others who have done good for the Church: Bishop Mulvey, Fr. Sheehan, Mark Shea, Jimmy Akin, Patrick Madrid, Al Kresta, various bloggers, including priests and nuns and deacons.  They’re even talking about trying to shut down EWTN to protests permanent cancellation of Corapi’s programming!  The Devil is certainly at work here, and it’s not among Fr. Corapi’s critics.

7. Speaking of “right all along,” there are a number of issues people have been concerned about and talked about since before this story broke in March.  One is Corapi’s mysterious alleged illness and disappearance from public view for a couple years.  Another is the fake suntan and dyed Goatee which he’s been sporting since his return to the public eye.  Another is the question of his finances.  None of these things indicate a man of humility and poverty.  Fr. Sheehan has said that on several occasions he’s tried to reach out to Fr. Corapi to get him to come back and live in community with the SOLT (which is not an order but still trying to achieve that status.  When Fr. Flanagan original set the order up, he gave the priests a lot of leeway and did not require a vow of poverty.  The society’s 1994 constitutions changed those terms).

Then there’s the question of his priestly faculties.  The Diocese of Corpus Christi claimed that Fr. Corapi never even had faculties in their diocese.  He lives in Kallispell, Montana, and yet has had no faculties granted to him by the Diocese of Helena.  This is most important, because a priest cannot administer sacraments in a diocese without the bishop’s approval.  It doesn’t matter where he’s incardinated.  Even if he’s incardinated in Corpus Christi, he can’t administer sacraments in Montana without the approval of the local bishop.  Ordinarily (no pun intended), this requirement is delegated to the local pastor.  A priest who’s just visiting town is really expected to check in with the local pastor and say, “Hi, I’m visiting!  Can I have faculties while I’m visiting your parish?”
But we’re talking about where he was *living*.  So, his whole day to day situation was thumbing its nose not only at the usual norms of religious life but at Canon Law itself.

Some who are more honest have said that the themes and tone of his conferences have changed in recent years.  Others say they don’t like the “Rock Star” persona he has developed.

8.  Speaking of being a bit too militaristic in his spirituality, I had recently come back to listening to him regularly for the last month or two before this whole ting started.  It had been a while, since I got to the point where I figured I had heard all he had to say.  Well, given how my own thought has gone over the past few years, I was extremely uncomfortable with the literal militarism of his talks–I was uncomfortable with that before, but more willing to give it a pass.

9.  The “Black Sheepdog” Metaphor, which has apparently been at work for quite some time, since it’s the title of his autobiography.  It’s kind of creepy, as many have said.  I understand his alleged reasoning, but the problem with a sheepdog is that the sheepdog needs a shepherd: otherwise, it will eat the sheep.  The graphic is creepy.  The metaphor is creepy.

10.  Ex-priests are not really supposed to write or speak.  There are things an ordinary layman can do that an ex priest cannot.  An ex-priest cannot do anything that falls under the ordinary duties of a priest.  He cannot serve as an EMC, lector, cantor or usher.  He cannot serve as a catechist or theology professor.  Exceptions are sometimes made where ex-priests are permitted to teach in Catholic institutions in places where they were not known as priests, so as not to cause scandal, but the general rule of thumb is that a priest is an ex-priest for a reason.  In Corapi’s case, he has already sown a lot of disobedience against the hierarchy by his speeches of 6/17 and 6/20.

So, in obedience to the Church, I will *not* be following the “Black Sheepdog,” at least not as a “fan” or “admirer.”  I strongly advise others to steer clear of his new “ministry.”  God, as I said yesterday, does not “need” another pundit or speaker.  God needs holy priests who are praying and administering sacraments, even if only in private.

This is a horrible tragedy.  Yes, Corapi deserves our prayers.  No, we should not “throw stones” at him.  However, we should also not enable him in his rebellion against the Church, a rebellion he engages in while protesting his loyalty to the Church.  I urge you, in charity, as a brother in Christ, to stay away from this man.  He may have the sugar-coating of apparent truth, but the substance of his message is poison to the soul.

http://www.thecatholicpost.com/post/PostArticle.aspx?ID=1968
http://www.ncregister.com/father-corapis-bombshell.html
http://www.devinrose.heroicvirtuecreations.com/blog/2011/06/18/gentle-bishop-mulvey-of-corpus-christi/
http://fatherjoe.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/father-corapi-priest-or-black-sheep-dog/
http://bloggerpriest.wordpress.com/2011/06/18/father-corapi-not-sheep-dog-but-black-wolf/comment-page-2/#comment-720
http://www.patheos.com/community/deaconsbench/2011/06/20/corapi-unleashed/
http://www.patheos.com/community/deaconsbench/2011/06/19/corapis-superior-we-wanted-him-to-come-back-to-the-community/
http://www.patheos.com/community/deaconsbench/2011/06/19/following-the-black-sheep-dog-down-the-rabbit-hole/
http://www.patheos.com/community/theanchoress/2011/06/20/dog-day-afternoon/
http://www.ncregister.com/fr.-corapi-has-lost-it.html
http://www.patheos.com/community/theanchoress/2011/06/19/the-corapi-investigation-what-it-is/
http://www.patheos.com/community/theanchoress/2011/06/20/ewtns-statement-on-corapi/
http://markshea.blogspot.com/2011/06/analysis-of-holes-in-fr-corapis-story.html
http://marysaggies.blogspot.com/2011/06/i-will-not-defend-fr-corapi-i-will.html

Does God “Need” Us?

If you haven’t heard yet, John Corapi has announced his intention to make his suspension as a priest permanent.  The details of his plan of action are not clear.  He may be saying that he’s not going to remain silent in spite of suspension, which he already said 3 months ago.  Many have argued that the piece simply means he’s going to keep talking in spite of his suspension, just not as a priest.  But he insists very clearly that he does not want to “fight” his suspension, and the tone indicates that he is voluntarily resigning from the priesthood rather than continue and “fight.”  Several commentators have offered varying interpretations of his statement.  It’s all a bit mess now, filled with the usual hysterics.  Some are being accused of detraction for offering negative views of this public statement Corapi has made.  Some are  saying this validates long held concerns about his seemingly egocentric ministry.  Then there are the people who say, “Shut up and pray,” which I think is kind of funny since a) that’s what some of us are saying Fr. Corapi should be doing and b) he’s the one who made a public statement, obviously in order to elicit a public outcry.  One basic tactic of rhetoric is to get people to do exactly what you want by saying the opposite (i.e., Lincoln insisting in the Gettysburg Address that no one would remember what he said, or how often politicians are “pressured” into running for president).

My own “take” on the situation is that, while I still want to believe Corapi (he says not to call him “Father” anymore) is innocent, and while I’ve said from the beginning that this situation would likely not end in his exhoneration, barring a miraculous intervention, and while I totally sympathize with his reaction, I think what he’s doing is exactly the wrong thing.  I would probably do the same thing in his shoes–and that’s one of the main reasons I never bothered trying to become a priest.   At the same time, I know that silence, humility and obedience are the marks of holiness, and I think he’d have done better to announce his complete departure from public life and voluntary retirement to a monastery or hermitage.

That gets me to the point of this post: “God needs me,” “God needs him,” “God needs you.”

No, He doesn’t.

God don’t “need” anyone.

God created us out of love, for love.

This gets to other situations which tend to involve hysterical women: the Great Lila Rose Lying Debate, for example.  “God wants abortion ended,” people told me.  “It’s important to end abortion, no matter what.”  “Does that include shooting abortionists” I’d ask.  “Well, no, of course not!”  And then they’d go on to accuse me of being too worldly and not spiritual enough for being more concerned about personal moral rectitude than about ending abortion.  It’s all very baffling.  And it struck me then how many of those people really have no faith in God.  Their God is a weak idol who needs human beings to achieve some end.  They have the same God as the liberal Catholics whom I rejected growing up for the same reason.

I grew up being taught, in CCD, in homilies, in Catholic school, etc., a sort of Catholicism where the *primary* goal is to do good works for others.  God was going to judge you when you died on how much you did for the poor (that’s true in a sense, but only part of the picture), and if you weren’t “doing stuff” you were a bad Christian.  To me, unable to “do that stuff,” this was very distressing.  One time, a Carmelite priest online told me it was important to listen to people like Archbishop Weakland just as much as people like Mother Angelica.  So, not knowing who he was, I read Weakland’s manifesto he wrote as a reflection on his 1997 ad limina visit to Rome.  It really shook me up a bit.  The internal logic was so sound, I said, “What if I’m totally wrong?”  Then I read my assigned Carmelite readings, and there was a passage from John of the Cross saying that the ultimate goal is contemplative union, and everything else is a means to that end.

Of course, over the years, I’ve learned that there’s a similar attitude on the Right as well as the Left regarding “God needs you,” only it’s about speaking out against heresy, ending abortion, etc.  A constant theme running among Fr. Corapi’s supporters is, “he’s the only one speaking the truth.” That’s an inherent condemnation of the many good priests who are out there, including the many good priests on EWTN, in the blogosphere, etc.  Is Fr. Corapi a great preacher?  Yes.  Does he have an amazing story?  Yes.  Is he the sole arbiter of God’s truth?  No.

It may surprise people to learn that I don’t like writing about myself.  I don’t mind using an anecdote or two from my experience, but I really don’t want to write about myself.  I’m constantly being told to write about my life–just the other day, my cardiologist said I should write an autobiography to share my trials with Marfan syndrome.  When I submitted to _Inside Catholic_ (which, if you haven’t noticed, is back to being _Crisis Magazine_) last year, the *last* thing I wanted to do was write another “about me” piece, when every other publication credit I have, other than my encyclopedia articles, is either about living with Marfan or meeting Mary online.

Every time I sit down to write down an autobiography, though, a) I can’t focus on a particular theme, and b) I feel the whole process is very narcissistic.  I’d rather abstract it into fiction, and then that has its own complications, but in any case, writing “about me” always makes me uncomfortable.

People have told me my whole life, “God has a purpose for you.”  “God has you here for a reason.”  “God kept you alive for a reason.”  They mean well, but it’s a very burdensome thing to be told, and I’m not really sure they know what they’re saying.   Does God have a purpose for me?  Yes, to “know, love and serve Him in this world and to be with Him in the next.”  It’s the same “purpose” He has for everyone.  If by “purpose” they mean some great worldly achievement that I and only I am capable of doing, well, I don’t know about that.

On the other hand, I’ve already done a lot of good for a lot of people, and my constant prayer since I started seriously praying around middle school has been to be an instrument of grace to everyone I meet.  I know I’ve helped a lot of people in different aspects of life.  I know that even when I was a kid I helped a lot of people.  I’ve heard through the grapevine (or even directly) that different priests whom I thought were profound influences on me say that I was a profound influence on them.   Last year, I was talking to my grandfather about some of my doings, and expressing my hope of finally making it “big,” and he said, “John, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve already made it big.  I’ve never had an article published in a magazine or been interviewed by the Washington Post.”

Which is not to toot my own horn but to say, “everything is important in God’s eyes.”  I have four children who would not exist if I weren’t here.  I’ve already made a huge impact on their lives, both by loving them and teaching them.   They know things about the faith and just stuff in general that I’ve taught them.  I feel frustrated that I have so much talent, and I worry about disappointing God by not using it, but I also realize that if I could get by just raising my children, and didn’t have to worry about finances or other issues, that I would still be doing profound work for God.

I know that my own prayer life, however meager and feeble it is, has proven very powerful for others.

Bl. Teresa of Calcutta famously said, of worrying about other people: “In the final analysis, it’s between you and God; it was never about them.”  I’ve always taken great solace in Mother Angelica’s story about the NBC executive: “What are your ratings.”  “I don’t know.”  “You don’t know?!  In this business ratings are the Gospel!” “No, that’s your problem.  If just one soul is saved by my network, the whole thing’s worth it.”

The fact is, God does not “need us” to “do” anything, though it’s important we do everything we can.  God has made very clear throughout Scripture and the Saints that He values obedience and humility most of all.  So many saints have been tested with that very thing.  I usually refer to the incident recounted by St. Faustina that, early in her life as a nun, Jesus asked her to ask her superior for permission to wear a  hair shirt, eat nothing but bread and water, and scourge herself.  The superior denied her permission to perform those extreme penances.  Jesus said something like, “Good.  This was a test to show you that I value obedience to the Church more than penances or more than following these messages.”

It’s amazing how many times I’ve been told I’m evil and a bad Christian for referring to that scenario and saying obedience is important.  I’ve spent much of my life holding the notion that we absolutely cannot trust bishops and priests because so many of them are corrupt.  I still recognize their corruption, but I also realize that Jesus appointed Judas, and Jesus told His followers to listen to the Pharisees because even though they were hypocrites, they were still in legitimate authority (“Do as they say, not as they do”).

St. Teresa of Avila wrote most of her books on obedience.  She insisted there were already too many unnecessary books on prayer and theology.

I really admire Fr. Corapi’s preaching.  He has been a great influence on me, and I had hoped that this situation could find a resolution that would not cost the body of work he’s achieved, but his own announcement undermines that hope considerably.   We’re often told about the false accusations against St. Pio and St. Gerard Majella and St. John of the Cross, and how they dealt with them.  People are still comparing Fr. Corapi to these saints: yet they dealt with their accusations in silence and prayer and humility, sometimes waiting *years* for exhoneration.   Fr. Haley has been waited 10 years; Fr. Buckner for 4.
Then there were others who were never exhonerated, or perhaps who were actually guilty, or who lost public offices of the Church for purely political reasons.  We’ve had popes who resigned, after all.
They went on to live out their lives in monasteries or hermitages, becoming great saints not so much because of their great deeds earlier in life but the humility they showed in accepting their loss of status.  We have forgotten the spirituality of the desert.  St. Jerome famously wrote a letter to another desert hermit who was planning to accept a position as a bishop in the city, telling the man that he was being too worldly and renouncing Christ by renouncing the desert for that position.

For Corapi has been offered the desert and said, instead, “I want to go back to the city, even if it means giving up being a priest.”  What would St. Jerome say to him?