A few years ago, my wife and I needed a retreat, and we heard about a conference being given in Atlanta by Fr. Edgardo “Bing” Arellano. I wrote about some of my reactions at the time. We’d never heard of him prior to this. Since then, we’ve seen him on TV. Though perhaps my favorite reference to him since then was on one of those Cardinal Arinze Q&As on YouTube. The person asks Cardinal Arinze a question about one of Fr. Bing’s teachings, but doesn’t mention him by name. He says “There’s a popular priest who’s an exorcist, and he says you should never eat at a Chinese or Indian restaurant because the food has been blessed with pagan prayers. What do you say about that?” Cardinal Arinze said, “I’d rather eat dinner with a Hindu or a Buddhist than a superstitious priest like that!”
Fr. Bing was probably my first foray into learning to mistrust the “Celebrity Priests” of the right. He professes to be both a canon lawyer and an exorcist, and he specializes in the same kind of sensational preaching as Fr. Corapi and Fr. Euteneuer, which anyone who knows me knows I am drawn to as much as anyone. We now know, in retrospect, that Fr. Euteneuer was practicing exorcism without a license, so to speak, going around the country accepting money in his own name (not to the dioceses he was visiting, not to HLI and not to his own home diocese, but taking checks made out to himself, which constitutes simony), and not getting permission from the bishops whose dioceses he was travelling to.
Well, apparently, Fr. Bing not only engages in similar practices, but we know from being there that he performs the entire rite of exorcism publicly at Mass over his entire congregation. He claims it’s licit because he’s a canon lawyer and an exorcist and knows canon law. Fine. Whatever. We definitely reaped some spiritual benefit from it, and the 2 boxes exorcised salt we got from the experience definitely have proved beneficial.
However, we didn’t get much from Fr. Bing’s actual teachings. Most of his conferences had nothing to do with spirituality and were rather long diatribes on conspiracy theories. When he did discuss spirituality, it was laced with clericalism and scrupulosity. For example, he claimed it was not enough to merely say, “Hey, I had sex with my neighbor’s wife 3 times last week,” but that you had to say *EVERY* form of sin involved in the act (“I broke the 3rd Commandment when I had sex with my neighbor’s wife 3 times because I was breaking my wedding vows before God. I had sex with her once on Sunday, and that’s violating the sabbath.”) The way the whole thing was set up, one of his other priests from his order was there to hear confessions in this little tent thing, with a long line, and he’d give the talks. It was almost like a bait-and-switch operation. The priest doing the confessions was *really* good, and he should have been giving the talks. I say it was like a bait-and-switch because, at the time, I was pretty low, and did have a lot to confess. It was just before Holy Week and the nadir of my annual Lenten Despair, and I really needed a good confession. After hearing Fr. Bing’s talks, and studying his Examination of Conscience guide, I decided I was doomed. According to him, I had *never* made a good confession in my life, I was still guilty of every sin I’d ever committed, and that just made me all the more depressed and ready to just quit on Catholicism.
When I went into the Confessional, with Fr. Bing’s book in hand, I started off, and the priest told me I was being scrupulous. He seemed to have a genuine gift and cut through a lot of my barriers and actually talked about stuff that was right on target that I didn’t mention, I said, “Yeah, you’re right,” and he absolved me, and it was one of my best confessions ever. Again, *HE* should have been doing the whole conference.
But other than a lot of scrupulosity, superstition and clericalism (a whole hour long talk was basically how we were all screwed to be laypeople and had very little chance of getting into Heaven as laity, since only very few canonized saints have been laypeople), it might has well have been a Glenn Beck or Alex Jones convention. Indeed, most of his material came straight out of Alex Jones. Again, the microchips were coming and we were all doomed.
So, anyway, one thing that struck me, though, was that I almost always get allergies in hotels, and the hotel we stayed at was particularly strong. The front desk lady said she thinks it’s the chemicals they use because she has the same problem. And I agree, because it wasn’t a particularly dirty hotel, but it did stink to heaven of chemicals. Normally, I get allergies if I spend more than two nights in a row at a hotel, and in that case, after the first night, I couldn’t breathe. I was sneezing all day on Saturday, with really bad sinus pressure. Well, at Mass on Saturday evening, Fr. Bing did the aforementioned exorcism, and I immediately felt better. My sinuses completely cleared.
Well, on Sunday afternoon, I was talking to some ladies. I had been reluctant to go to the conference to begin with because the flyer gave me a strong Charismatic vibe–I even asked the organizer via email whether it was Charismatic, and her reply was that Fr. Bing is a Canon Lawyer and right in line with the Pope. I should have realized that that reply meant, “Yes it is Charismatic.”
So, we were talking, and I started to explain about my minor miracle of healing, beginning with how I get allergies in hotels. “Well, I used to be a nurse,” said the one lady, “and allergies are 100% psychosomatic.” Then she launched into a discourse on how I must not have been paying attention to Fr. Bing because allergies are caused by all the horrible food additives and such, and I need to buy Fr. Bing’s book on Organic Food, etc.
So I got a bit indignant and started explaining to them about my Marfan syndrome. I used my “31 (at the time) with a life expectancy of 20” line. Of course, I always use that in a *positive* way, meaning God is keeping me alive, but some people don’t take it that way, and they didn’t. “Oh, that’s a horrible attitude to have!” I said how I used to pray every day to be miraculously healed but that I realized I was being ungrateful to God by wanting to give back the Cross He gave me, and I should embrace suffering in union with Christ.
“Oh, that’s just what people say who have no faith,” the woman said. “It’s very common for men not to believe in God’s power to heal.”
I reiterated that I believe in God’s power but I know from the teachings of the saints that God chooses to do miracles on His own time and for His own reasons, and not to expect it, etc., and that I believe every day I’m alive is a miracle because I live in constant danger of sudden death.
But I got to thinking tonight about the way that woman said, “It’s common for men not to have that much faith,” and it gets back to the whole Corapi situation. I have been trying to decide whether to share my thoughts about the latest developments or not. Maybe I have and forgot already (it’s been a tough couple days).
But when his latest release came out on Friday, and this time his first video since January, he was wearing an expensive leather Harley Davidson jacket. I determined his die-hard supporters were clearly off their rockers when I saw them talking about how good he looked in the jacket and how “he was always a leather jacket sort of guy, anyway.”
It has increasingly struck me how most of his die-hard supporters are female (or, as a FB friend of mine put it, men who are acting like women).
Yet there’s something I used to laugh in his talks, even while it made me a bit uncomfortable. He used to always brag about how men generally couldn’t stand him. He would talk very proudly of how women love the sound of his voice and men hate it, and how women around the world will listen to him for hours and write to him about how their husbands can’t stand it. I also know that a lot of people who said they didn’t care for him before this whole thing started were men, and a lot of them said they found him very annoying. Of course, to Corapi’s followers, these statements indicate that the people who found him annoying did so not because he was annoying but because he was making those sinners uncomfortable.
And that brings me back to the lady at the Fr. Bing conference. And then it brings me to the other EWTN Celebrity Priest Conference I went to, when Fr. Groeschel came to Columbia.
I’ve been wanting to do this for the past few weeks. One thing I’ll grant to Fr. Bing was that most of his “entourage” were other priests, deacons, brothers and seminarians. There was one woman selling his books who was apparently on his staff. When Fr. Groeschel came to Columbia, he was accompanied by 2 or 3 CFRs and a couple laymen–and I mean lay-men. He was always surrounded by men and kept a cautious distance from the ladies. He did not have his own operation, either. The local Catholic bookstore did all the merchandise sales, and it was all set up to sent the proceeds to charity. The Fr. Bing conference looked like an elementary education conference or an English teacher conference: about 1 man for every 10 or 20 women. The Fr. Groeschel conference looked like any other parish mission, with a wide variety of people. I’ve never seen Fr. Corapi live, but I’ve watched a lot of his videos and been on the FB pages and seen enough photos and stuff to know that most of his attendees seem to have been women–and in any case he admitted as much–and he seemed to always surround himself with female staff members.
More importantly, Fr. Groeschel’s talks were deeply spiritual and deeply practical. He wasn’t ranting about conspiracies or damning everyone to Hell. He was talking about how to be a more loving and prayerful person, and talking about Catholic apologetics and what makes Catholicism special and how we can appeal to the good intentions of members of other faiths. He talked about his ecumenical works–which get many people labeling him an agent of Satan–but doing so in the point of “this is how to win over the hearts and minds of non-Catholics.” “I get all my hate mail from ultra-conservative Catholics,” he said. “The liberals wrote me off years ago.”
I used to see Fr. Groeschel and Fr. Corapi as paralleling each other in many ways but with distinctly different styles. Now, I’m almost seeing them as polar opposites.
In any case, I think that comment by the nice lady in Atlanta sums up one of the mentalities at work behind a lot of women in the Church, fed into by these “Celebrity priests.” They’re preaching, “Wives be Dismissive Of Your Husbands,” not “Wives be Submissive to Your Husbands.” “My husband doesn’t like Fr. Corapi. it’s probably because he’s guilty of something horrible, and Fr. Corapi makes him feel guilty.” “You just say that because you don’t have any faith. It’s very common for men not to have any faith.” Yeah, they’re not making rash judgements.