Tuesday's article on Fr. John Corapi ("A Priest Forever: The Strange Case of Fr. John Corapi") set a record for the number of comments—356 as of this writing—on an article in the four-plus years that I have been running the About.com Catholicism GuideSite. Most of the comments, even from readers who disagreed with my analysis, have been both levelheaded and respectful, and I would like to thank all who took part in the discussion for their restraint.
(You can find full coverage of this story in The Case of Fr. John Corapi.)
A significant minority of commenters, however, insisted that I had "judged" Father Corapi and "found him guilty," despite the fact that I made it clear that I am in no position to judge the allegations leveled against him. I trusted the competent Church authorities to investigate the allegations; my article concerned Father Corapi's action—his decision to abandon his priestly ministry—which effectively ended that investigation and prevented the Church from determining whether there were grounds to proceed with a canonical trial.
While I think that those commenters' devotion to Father Corapi has led them to misread both my article and my intentions, I can understand and even appreciate that devotion. Unlike many of those who have commented on my previous piece, I have never been the recipient of spiritual benefits from Father Corapi's preaching, because I have not listened to enough of his preaching for it to have had an effect on me one way or another.
But there are other priests who have touched my spiritual life in ways similar to those in which these commenters say Father Corapi has touched theirs. And I am very grateful to those priests for what they have done for me. Their preaching and actions and spiritual direction have helped prepare my soul for the reception of God's grace through repentance and the sacraments. Their influence has helped draw me deeper into the Church and helped keep me there, and for that I owe them a debt that I can never fully repay.
But let's be clear: These good priests did not save my soul, any more than I saved my own soul. If my soul is currently in a state of grace (and, please God, I hope it is), it is in a state of grace because of the actions of all three Persons of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These priests may have plowed the soil, but the Holy Spirit planted the seed; they may have watered the ground, but only God the Father could make the seed grow; they may have fertilized the plant, but the food they fed it was the Body and Blood of Christ.
To say that is not to diminish the contribution these priests have made to my life, but to put that contribution in proper perspective. To say that "Father So-and-So saved me" or even that "Father So-and-So brought me into the Church" (in any way other than the technical sense of baptizing and confirming me) is to ascribe to men that which rightly belongs to God.
Non nobis, non nobis, Domine. Sed nomini tuo da gloriam. "Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory" (Psalm 115:1).
My heart aches when commenters suggests that they may leave the Catholic Church over the treatment of Father Corapi, or even just (just!) that they no longer trust the bishops God has given them as shepherds of their souls. From what I know of Father Corapi's ministry, up until these allegations were made against him he was always careful to do what every priest should: to point the way to Christ and to His Church, to lead his followers not to him but to the Lord.
And that is as it should have been, and as it still should be. If Father Corapi's message is muddled now—and, sadly, having read the statements of "the Black Sheep Dog," I believe it is—then look back to a time when it wasn't muddled. Hear the words he preached to you when he was not suffering from the pain and anger that clearly hold him in their grip today.
Put your faith in Christ and in His Church, as Father Corapi once told you to do, and you will have nothing to fear, no matter how Father Corapi's own story ends.
More on Father John Corapi:
- A Priest Forever: The Strange Case of Fr. John Corapi
- A Falsely Accused Priest Looks at Father Corapi
- Should Priests Live in Community? Reflections Inspired by the Case of Father Corapi
- Fr. Gerard Sheehan Drops a Bombshell on Father Corapi
- SOLT Release on Father John Corapi a Hoax?
- Father Corapi Responds to SOLT: "I Am Not Extinguished!"
- Is Bishop Gracida Distancing Himself From Father Corapi?
- EXCLUSIVE: Fr. MacRae Clarifies His Remarks on Fr. John Corapi
- Reader Question: What Should I Do With Father Corapi's Materials?
- What Has Happened to Fr. John Corapi?
- Novena of the Week: To the Sacred Heart
- Novena of the Week: To Saint Mary Magdalene
- Wordless Wednesday: Give Me Your Body, O Christ