Saturday, June 18, 2011
When the Man Becomes Larger Than the Mission -The Tragedy Of Fr. Corapi
I have no intention, as I mentioned earlier, of speculating about the guilt or innocence of Father John Corapi. I do think this saga warrants a pause in the action and a need for all priests to reflect on their ministries. Father liked to tell a good story. The one about him risking his life to reclaim a Carmelite nun who left the monastery to return to her life of drugs was a particularly compelling one. The image of Father being awakened in the middle of the night by anxious Carmelite nuns, concerned about their wayward lamb, breaking into a drug-house like a commando to rescue the sister from the jaws of death, is the kind of stuff you just don't hear priests doing every day. There were others but I don't want to get into that. I want to say that there is an inherent problem when priests make themselves larger than the Mission they serve.
There are lot of things about Father that he could and should have left out about himself when he was preaching. I wonder if this debacle he's in would have happened to him had he taken a more humble stance. I was also troubled about the way he preached about the abuse scandal, as I am about all priests whose primary concern is themselves and not the children whose lives and faith were taken from them by impostors posing as priests of Jesus Christ. I would submit to you that this deflection of blame only worsened the crisis and heightened suspicions about all priests by virtue of their collar. Something Father said has always stuck with me, just as some of the very helpful spiritual advice he gave has stayed with me. Once when discussing the abuse scandal, he referred to a woman who had accused a priest friend of his as "a nut job." Whether she was or she wasn't isn't the issue. It's the reference to someone whose guilt or innocence he does not know with certainty in such dismissive and derogatory terms, any more than we know with certainty his situation, that bothered me. I had the feeling he just didn't get it, just like the superiors who turned a blind eye to the abuse didn't get it.
Believe me when I say I am in no position to tell anyone else how to live their lives, but the world is not safe for priests in a way unlike it was at any time in the church's history. The Father of Lies, like a cornered rat, is lashing out with a particularly vicious frenzy at all those who defend the Church. He needs a portal of entry and the last thing any one, especially a priest should do is give him one. How? By engaging in a life that is not meant for priests. Whatever else is true of Father Corapi, I have no difficulty in saying that I think he made himself larger than the Mission and lived more like an adventurer than a hermit.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is meek and humble and we pray for Him to give us that same humility. Could Father have gotten his message across without puffing himself up as some super action hero? I have no doubt he could. And I think if he had lived a life more in imitation of Christ than he did, he wouldn't be in this predicament. His fall, whether the accusations are true or not, should make every priest stop and evaluate their lives. I pray for priests every day and I feel compelled to raise the following questions, so I apologize to any priest who may be offended. I'd rather hurt your feelings and have you annoyed with me than sit in silence and observe the following:
-Is my day off so important to me that I don't offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for my parishioners that day? When you're a parent, no day is ever really a day off. Why do you think we call you "Father"? I am outraged that some churches have a Communion Service once a week because that's Father's day off. Jesus healed the sick on the sabbath. Nuff said.
-Do I dress like a lay person when I go out to dinner or run errands? And would I have something to say about that if a nun did the same thing?
- Do I do the bare minimum in my parish because I don't really enjoy being a parish priest? Have I refused to provide some devotion because it will be too much trouble, such as hold a public Holy Hour for my parishioners once a week or month?
-Do I drive a sportier car than most of my parishioners? Yeah, I said it and I'll tell you what: I'm driving a plain vanilla vehicle with no frills so A) I can live a more simple life in service to Jesus and B) I can give more money to my parish. I have to shake my head when I see the rides some priests are driving. A vehicle does not have to be flashy to be serviceable, dependable and long-lasting, which is what most parents look for in a car.
-Do I promote devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary by publicly engaging in those devotions? Do I allow my parishioners to see me in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, or is that one of those " do as I say, not as I do" recommendations?
-Do I hear confessions at regularly scheduled times, or would it be easier to have an audience with the pope than finding me in the confessional box?
-When a lay person has the effrontery to bring these subjects up, do I angrily point my finger and say: "What about the sacrifices I have made to become a priest"?
Dear and Reverend Fathers, you get to offer a Sacrifice every day that only you can. Hopefully, the ability to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is what attracted you to the priesthood. Never forget what a privilege this is. Every vocation in a life committed to Christ has its own sacrifices and the grass is always greener on the other side. When you're lonely, perhaps you think about what it would be like to go home to a family each night instead of an empty rectory. I can assure you there are those of us who think about what it would be like to go home to a quiet rectory or convent instead of a house full of insanity. These are the trade-offs we make in life. It's how we carry our cross.
I have read that some think Father Corapi was "brought down" because he's an orthodox priest. I don't know about that by if you want to do something interesting, Google his name and see the attacks on him as a "Novus Ordo" priest from the extreme orthodox side of the church.
I pray that the same Blessed Mother who plucked him from the gutter will keep him under her mantle and guide him on the right path.