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.