The case of
this priest is certainly not unique in the United States. But Fr.
Corapi is a Catholic Star in the media world, and especially has
taken a hard blow at seeing himself barred from the Catholic
television network EWTN, which divulged his conservative sermons
March of impropriety and use of drugs, Fr. Corapi stressed that he
is innocent, but indicated frustration with a church judicial
process that he saw leading to "[leaving] me suspended
indefinitely and just [letting] me fade away."
Esteeming with his canonical and civil lawyers that this “administrative
leave of absence” would be prolonged, and that certain
ecclesiastical authorities were quite pleased with it, Fr. Corapi,
who refused to dispute the sentence, took the moot decision of not
considering himself as a priest, and to continue his lectures, a
de facto Catholic apostolate, under the name of John Corapi,
or better still, under his new pseudonym of The Black Sheep Dog,
which he says is his registered trademark.
declaration has been greeted with surprise and mixed feelings by
his large friendly audience. Was Father saying that the man who
has received the priestly mark, the sacred character of Holy
Orders, can have it erased, as if one endowed with the baptismal
character could be de-baptized? No, absolutely no, says Fr. Corapi
who went on explaining that he was on “administrative leave”
which in fact withdraws his ability to function publicly.
And so, when, for grave reasons, the Church authorities
reduce a priest to the lay state, not even this reduction can
“reduce” the priest to a non-priestly state: “once a priest,
always a priest.” And this is why, such a “reduced” priest would
still be absolving validly (and licitly) a dying person on the
side of the road and change his destiny for all eternity.
What is strange about the action of Fr. Corapi is that he
took the initiative of “resigning from public ministry”
indefinitely it seems, probably due to his frustration with
authorities. In other words, he did not want to wait for his
superiors to make final decision on him as their subject stained
with suspicion and therefore quarantined until his file is clear.
This process is the prescribed Church’s disciplinary policy per
the 1961 private directive for bishops dealing with such cases
authored by the late Cardinal Ottaviani. All this sounds obviously
Fr. Corapi’s argument is that of St. Paul’s ministry which
was firstly of preaching and not of giving sacraments, and that he
had received a similar vocation as told by his legitimate
superior, Fr. J. Flanagan, four years before he was ordained a
priest. However, this is neither a correct exegesis of St. Paul’s
apostolic life, nor good dogmatic theology of the power of
ordination given to offer sacrifice, bless and forgive sins. Nor
is it sound pastoral theology since it was the bishop in charge
who gave him his very specific mission, regardless of what his
early superior might have thought. Does the priesthood belong to
him as an individual or is it the gift of God which is to be used
at the discretion of the lawful authorities?
What leaves one perplexed is also the fact that “John
Corapi”, would technically be incapacitated to receive the
“apostolic mission” to teach the faith from his bishop, his only
lawful link to the apostles. So, here is the example of a Father,
who calls himself “ex Father” and yet wishes to act as a Father
with his televangelical preaching? Fr. Corapi wants to have his
cake and eat it? Or does this mean that he is going to be a
freelance, doing his own thing with no episcopal authorization?
And if this is the case, what difference is there between him and
the charismatic preacher pushing his ego-religion up front in the
mega church down the road!
It would be quite interesting to compare this behavior with
that of Cardinal Newman when in ceaseless difficulties with his
lawful superiors over trifles, and being the sensitive man that he
was, it was only by repeated acts of heroic patience that he went
on bowing the neck and letting time dissipate all doubts. See also
closer to home the other sterling example of the obedience of
Bishop Sheen who, newly ordained, was tested and sent to a remote
parish of his diocese to do plain apostolic work as a parish
vicar, seemly lost to all, before he was placed on the candlestick
to shine according to his God-given gifts.
In our critical troubled days of silent apostasy coming
from the top ranks, if it is encouraging to hear conservative
voices giving bread rather than stones, it is also perplexing to
see them roaming around utterly free from any superior authority:
“Woe to the man who is alone!”