Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kresta Commentary

Imitate Christ or Imitate the blacksheepdog, the priest formerly known as Fr. Corapi ?

This is the new John Corapi, the black sheepdog logo.

Prelude: John Corapi chose to deal with these matters in a public way and this invites our responding to him publicly. If he hadn’t made a big melodramatic public announcement, then I wouldn’t be making any public comment about it. I didn't say a word about the allegations when they first came to light months ago. But this is a different moment, a teaching moment and a prayerful moment. Also, there are complex juridical and canonical matters here as retired Bishop Gracida has so candidly pointed out. One last point, John Corapi is free to follow his conscience. We are free to respond to his newly crafted public image and the public statements he makes.

John Corapi has been one of the most effective communicators of what some have been calling “dynamic orthodoxy”. It’s really just basic Catholicism. But the truth has power and many people have been built up by Fr. Corapi preaching that truth. Others have returned to full communion with the Church, still others have come to know Christ for the first time.

So three months ago when a former employee alleged that he had behaved in a manner contrary to his priestly calling and his religious association removed him from active public ministry, dynamically orthodox Catholics grew dismayed. He may well be as innocent as he maintains. People do lodge false accusations. Children lie, women lie, men lie. He says he may soon release audio of this woman demonstrating her instability. I’m not looking forward to this trial by public opinion with only John Corapi providing the evidence. But only three months into the investigation, he claims that the process was stacked against him; that certain key figures had it out for him. And so he has resigned from active public priestly ministry and wants to be known as “the blacksheepdog” John Corapi. He says “My canon lawyer and my civil lawyers have concluded that I cannot receive a fair and just hearing under the Church’s present process.”

I am deeply disappointed. If imitatio Christi means renouncing worldly ambition and seeking salvation by deeds of private virtue, imitatio black sheepdog means

• splitting from communion with one’s confreres and brother priests.

• abandoning the canonical disciplinary process to injustice and incompetence so that others will be left to correct or be victimized by it.

• announcing that your "fans" (his word) can now stay in touch with you through social media and, BTW, offering one’s catechetical materials in a fire sale for fifty percent off.

I don’t see a renunciation of worldly ambition nor do I see the longsuffering that characterizes the saints. One thinks here of Padre Pio who was also subject to false accusations which he endured and for which we now call him St. Padre Pio. Rather, I see someone who, by Corapi’s own admission, is trying to expand his audience and the range of topics he will address. What is lacking is submission to the dying and rising that is the pattern of the Christian life. Where are his statements about joining his sufferings with those of Christ? I don’t see them.

It may be true that he has been wronged by the system. Many of us have watched and/or been the victim of diocesan administrative bungles. But even if sheepdog Corapi has been done wrong by the system, then, I think, he still bears responsibility for correcting it. We play the hand we’re dealt. We don’t fold and leave the table. Tossing over the chessboard is not a praiseworthy move in chess.

He claims that: “In the final analysis I have only one of only two viable choices:
1. I can quietly lie down and die, or
2. I can go on in ways that I am able to go on.”

No, the third viable choice is to stand firm, resist the evil one by submitting to the duly authorized authorities and trust God for the outcome. If necessary wouldn’t he do more for the life of the world by offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass as a penitent priest in some obscure monastery? Is talk radio or television more efficacious than the Mass? Perhaps this is too idealistic. However, we become followers of Christ in order to have our lives conformed to his so that his destiny becomes our destiny. This requires the passion. No crown without the cross. Thomas More knew this, Padre Pio knew this, Jesus Christ knew this.

I thought John Corapi knew this. Looking at his testimony story, he has overcome much greater hurdles than clerical incompetence. If John Corapi is anything, he is a survivor. His brother priest, Charles Murphy knew how to enter into the “humiliation of Christ”, as St. Thomas More puts it.

The first time Fr. Murphy was cleared of accusations that he improperly touched a minor girl, 25 years earlier, everyone who ever met him said they had never doubted his innocence. It was 2006. Finally, the archdiocese ruled the allegations lacked substance. The woman dropped her suit on the eve of the trial. He returned to ministry amidst great joy. Four years later, the lawyer who had lodged the first unfounded complaint brought another. It involved a male and went back forty years. This time it took nearly six months before the review board cleared him and Cardinal Sean O’Malley restored him as senior pastor. But this time the spark had died. He couldn’t bring himself to preach. He just deteriorated. Eventually, they brought Murphy to a hospice a couple of weeks ago after doctors determined there was nothing left to be done. There was no cancer, no apparent physical disease, just a broken 77-year-old heart that refused to mend.

And that’s where he died a week before John Corapi’s announcement, a wisp of the man he once was.* He died broken, clinging to his cross but vindicated and awaiting glory. He refused to climb down from his cross.

Corapi’s gifts and talents no doubt exceed those of Fr. Murphy but this is no reason to lay down the cross. As Kevin Tierney pointed out in a blog comment: “Implicit (and sometimes explicit) in many defenses of Fr. Corapi is that the Church needs his ministry, so much so that he is required to disobey. Many of his defenders would be horrified if anyone else said their priesthood wasn't that important to their life. Yet Fr. Corapi said precisely that.” What I just learned from John Corapi is that the way to solve the problem of obedience is to resign. If there is no ecclesiastical authority, there is no problem of obedience. Yes, I know that it is within his rights, but is it right? The priesthood is not about justice, it’s about love. This is what I find so disorienting in the former Fr., now John, Corapi’s actions. Men of great ministry hold it lightly because they know that doing Christ’s work can replace becoming Christlike. St. Ignatius of Loyola said he would fret all of 5 minutes if the Pope suppressed the Jesuits. This was a man whose priorities were properly ordered.

And to make matters worse: John Corapi has now insured that he will never be exonerated by any official tribunal. Once he leaves the jurisdiction of the Church, the investigation is not only moot- it’s probably over. Murphy died broken but exonerated; the black sheepdog is unleashed but the skies are still cloudy.

Comparisons are invidious but it’s just hard to see Fulton Sheen or Mother Angelica going off shelving the exercise of their office or charism, and inventing some new media identity say as “The Black Irishmen” or “Risible Rita the Righteous.” Both these great communicators had painful run-ins with the hierarchy. They fought it out. I feel as though I’ve seen a hideous mutation, a man-creature transmogrify from priest into entertainer.

His strange cold embrace of self-pity and self-reliance leaves the rest of us without the familiar warm hug of a priest many of us looked to as a model of imitating Christ. Now he’s the one who has given us the best reason to dismiss him with “yesterday’s garbage” as he puts it: he’s broken faith with the bishops, the successors to the apostles; he’s broken faith with his religious community; he’s broken faith with the imitation of Christ. When asked what the Church needed after the abuse crisis was revealed, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus said, “Fidelity. Fidelity. Fidelity.” This story seems to lack that theme. Many who have worked with John Corapi say that he’s always been a lone wolf so, I suppose, being the black sheepdog won’t be nearly the painful transition that he would have us believe. I may be wrong, I hope I’m wrong but the black sheepdog seems off on his own. Pray for him. Sheepdogs are only effective when they are in tandem with a Shepherd.

*The Fr. Murphy story is taken from Brian McGrory’s column, “Collateral Damage” in the Boston Globe (of all places) June 15, 2011.


  1. Al,

    I appreciate the time you have taken to put this together.

    One point of fact regarding the title, "The Black Sheepdog" which I learned by reading Jimmy Akin's blog 2 or 3 days ago is that Corapi began using this title well over a year ago:
    'I’ve received several communications by email pointing to the fact that Fr. Corapi’s business—Santa Cruz Media of Kalispell, Montana—applied for a federal trademark on the name “The Black-Sheep Dog” over a year ago. The filing was made April 8, 2010, long before the current situation developed.'

    As jimmy Akin says, 'That has implications for how one reads the name “The Black Sheep Dog.” Based on Fr. Corapi’s announcement, which did not indicate that this had been registered over a year ago, one might conclude that it has specific reference to the current situation, which would make it quite disturbing...When one realizes that the whole thing had been in the planning stages for over a year, though, a different light is cast on the subject'

    Read more:

  2. Al your "protestantism" is showing.

    Usually I hear "would you rather have the Gospel of Jesus Christ....or... the Gospel of the Catholic Church" from our protestant brethren.

    Your comment "Imitate Christ, or..." smells of bias and a sad excuse for Catholic commentary.... just like Akins et al.

  3. Fr. Corapi has never stated he is leaving the priesthood or seeking laicization, please stop spreading lies. He has said over and over that he is still a priest, he is not leaving the Church, and he is just not ministering publicly.

    Fr. Corapi has stated also that he is acting on the advice of some very faithful and intelligent Catholics: a canon lawyer, the Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas, Rene Henry Gracida, and at least two priests from SOLT, including the founder of SOLT. Be sure to read the blog posts of Bishop Rene Henry Gracida in support of Fr. Corapi:

    He is doing nothing wrong, the defamation and calumny against his good reputation is what is wrong.


  4. Poor dear Al. Do have any idea how *corrupt* the hierarchy is in the United States? Corapi had no chance for a fair trial in the Church. None. The lily-livered American bishops and Cardinals are bad leaders and bad shepherds. Men filled with fear, today they always side with the accuser. When the bishop or cardinal is a coward, when the wolf comes (here, in the form of a false accusation against a priest), the bishop obeys the wolf.

  5. We'll see how this plays out. He has said he is resigning from public priestly ministry. Of course, he remains a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. But he is trading in offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass for becoming a vendor of words... I like words, even his words, but I always assumed priests believed that a single Mass was worth all the preaching in the world. Or is Fr. Corapi a cryptic Protestant.

  6. Well said, Mr. Kresta. John Corapi has deserted his platoon he has turned turkey in a fight. I thought "Momma Mary wore combat boots". It seems that as the dust clears, "his boots are made for walking."!We needed him in the Church. He was a good standard for men. Unfortunately we now see that that he really was a shrewd ally cat in "Bull Moose clothing! Very sad

  7. Fr. Corapi made this statement yesterday, it's on his blog: "Please love the Church. You follow the Church. I am not against the Church, I am still a priest, just not ministering publicly."

    I know priests who are on leave and they do not minister publicly but they do still offer Mass privately on a daily basis, Fr. Corapi will no doubt do the same. He just won't be offering Mass or hear confessions, etc. publicly for now.


  8. Mr Kresta
    I know you like opinions, and it seems you like your own the most. Your should have at least some shame for siding with a "procedure" that has proven to be seriously flawed, and now seeing that Fr Corapi had the choice of being treated badly by very questionable action of a few Church leaders, or being treated badly by a few Catholic bloggers and talk show hosts. He has chosen the later, for in the end they will be overcome more quickly. God will handle the church, and your "fans" will handle your opinions in time.

  9. Like many people I enjoyed watching Fr Corapi on Saturday night on EWTN, I was surprised but not shocked when I heard he was accused of inappropriate behavior, knowing as Christians we will be subject to persecution, false accusations, even death...what saddended me was how he chose to handle this..I too was accused in my job falsely, I prayed and put it in the hands of Our Lord, I was never exonerated, and it still hurts, but the Lord and I know the truth, I guess I thought Fr Corapi would say "fight the good fight, put on the whole armour of God!" I is disappointing

  10. How about a new rule.

    Those who want to defend Fr. Corapi say who they are, and if they have a blog, link to it.

    The whole anon thing really gets a bit annoying.

  11. The thought that came to me when I learned of this mess shall judge their works by the fruit. I say we should not judge the man, but look at the fruit that has resulted from his work. Continue to pray for him and that God's will be done.

  12. Don't judge but look at the fruit. Where have I heard that before? Oh, that's right. For 10 years while those who chose to blindly listen to the Legion's baseless defense of Maciel. There are so many parallels here it is ridiculous.

  13. Let me echo what Kevin said. Somehow identify yourself.

  14. I've at least opined on what it might mean if Fr. Corapi was just to act as he did. I think you can access my blog if you click my name. Yesterday, I wondered aloud if folks like Bishop Gracida would have voiced their opinions about the impoverished canonical process in many diocese. And was Fr. Corapi's action responsible for bearing that fruit?

    I haven't made definitive statements that Fr. Corapi did the right thing. I still think more results from his action are forthcoming. And part of my hopes and would not be surprised if that came in the result of a purer pastoral pedigree in the United States or beyond, even if Fr. Corapi ends up being....well....the black sheep.


  15. Agree with you Sam. I too hope the process sheds more light. I only post as another anon because I don't know how to do those url things and such. But then, I guess I could sign my name as Al or anyone. Identify yourself? Tell the accuser and the bishops who run the mess to do that Al. Not just those who don't agree with you.

  16. It never ceases to amaze me how people hide behind anonymity with such sophmorish ways making their point.

    I was a regular Corapi "fan", having listened to him on TV and radio. He was very helpful in 2005 when I took my faith seriously and was looking for answers. But in recent years, I became more concerned about the shift in his talks, which seemed to become more boastful about himself, his works, and his capabilities. I became less interested, but never thought much of it.

    Truly, listening to his audio, "unleashed" at his blog, which I have done several times, I am convinced that the accusation brought against him is the least of his problems. For me, it has flushed out into the open a man who needs help in many ways.

    Listening to "Unleashed" for about the third time, his speech slurring at times, I was very disturbed, sometimes by what he said, other times by the disjointed manner in which he was putting things together (or not together).

    In "Unleashed", he says he is not out of the Church, and that sacramentally, he is still a priest – that cannot be taken away, but his faculties can be removed - the ability to publicly administer the Sacraments. His particular mission has been to speak, write, teach – “not so much within the sacraments, but outside of them, in conjunction with them.” He then goes on to say that he did not do much of that in the 20 years that he has been a priest. 90% of what he did in the past did not require ordination. He says that the talks he did through various means – speaking, TV, radio, DVD’s – “that’s not public ministry”. He then explains that what he is going to be doing in the future involves wider topics and he won’t be speaking just on religious matters.

    He reveals, it seems, what was most important to him. Most priests I know will often tell me the most important thing they do every day is to celebrate Mass.

    If the Church failed him in any way, it was by leaving him "out there", doing as he pleased without any kind of checks and balances.

    The way he denigrates his accuser, the authorities, and so on is just so contrary to anything we've ever seen out of Our Lord, or the saints whom God has set before us as examples. It's not unusual for a priest to become a victim, in the worst ways as many priestly saints show us. What matters is how a priest responds to it. God does not give anyone more than they can handle and while being falsely accused and being left out in the cold is a tough one to swallow, the graces are there waiting to be acted on.

    This last part in "unleashed" warrants direct quoting as he says that he will be doing, “pretty much the same as before except my topics will be broader, and my audience will be [pause] broader. I didn’t start this. A very, very sick woman, with an axe to grind, filled with hatred, started this. The Church chose to believe her. They threw me under the bus; threw me out like yesterday’s garbage. Well…. I’m not bitter about it. [very contradictory to the bitterness and choice of words]. I’m not going to be bitter about it. But I am not going to roll over and die. Indeed, the Black Sheep Dog is not ready to be extinguished. I’ll keep being a promoter of truth, [fanfare music begins], of justice, and of hope. We aren’t finished just yet, so stay with us. God bless until next time.”

    One of your callers made an interesting observation. There is a kind of narcisism coming out. Everything he says is all about him.

    He really needs some prayers and some help by the sounds of it. All involved need our prayers and we need to continue to pray for our priests and bishops.

  17. Al,

    I am sympathetic to Father Corapi's negative outlook on the canonical process because I know personally of a priest that has been waiting almost 4 years(!) for his good name to be cleared and to be returned to public ministry after false accusations were made against him. Even though it did not take long for the allegations to be shown to have no merit (from another troubled individual), to this day the local archdiocese has not assigned him to any public position. How can the Catholic Church treat our priests this way? Do you understand that at this point this poor priest has suffered much more at the hands of "the canonical process" than from the initial accusation?

    Now, though I too am troubled by Father Corapi's handling of this situation, I am hopeful that what he is doing is bypassing this disastrous canonical process and seeking a more expedient means of clearing his name, i.e., his defamation suit. Maybe, just maybe, Father Corapi is trying to find an alternative to a "slow death by canonical limbo". If so, I pray to the Lord that he is successful.

    Finally, though I have great respect and admiration for your ministry Al, I am also saddened by what I see as your lack of Christian charity toward Father Corapi. What if your ministry was taken away from you overnight because of a false accusation, and you had to wait silently for 4 years like this poor priest I know without being able to take any measures to clear your good name? What if in that situation you could not find within yourself the idyllic long-suffering attitude that, granted, some remarkable saints have been able to demonstrate? Would you want to be treated with compassion for your weakness or with the suspicion and harshness of a Pharisee?

    Perhaps it was God's will for Father Corapi to suffer silently as the priest I know, or perhaps it is God's will that someone finally stand up and defend priests against false accusations. Which is it? Do you know?


  18. I am praying for all involved, including those who are defending his recent actions. Obedience is ALWAYS the best way for priests, and for lay men and women, for that matter, when in comes to Holy Mother Church. Christ's peace.

  19. I would like you to go to EWTN YOUTUBE and listen carefully the homily of Fr.Wade Meneses last 20th (4 days ago) and understand what the message is all about and to whom it is addressed. If anyone could be 100% honest and really recognize oneself as a sinner will never doubt the truth that GOD is also a "HEARER" to everything said. That is very true. I couldn't help but cried and felt how God can get so close to our heart, that we just take it for granted or we just conveniently like to be blind or deaf and exclude oneself as a sinner.The humility that Jesus shown is not even enough for us.It is really sad to know this kind of truth in us. I will always pray for all of us for Mercy. Peace.

  20. Mr. Kresta,
    I am unsure whether your on-line comments about John Corapi and critical listener responses have any better alignment with Scripture and Church teaching than John Corapi's self-defense. Our culture expects tabloid coverage of every spectacular controversy, but should not those of us who wish to follow Christ refrain from imitating the secular news culture? Is it imperative that you or other Catholic critics discredit John Corapi? Hasn't his past service to Christ and the Church, not to mention the US, earned him benefit of the doubt from other Church members -- at least until he is proven culpable?

    I'm unsure where John Corapi obtained his new moniker, but I know that he was formerly a Green Beret as I was. I regard him as my brother, and I will support him, trust him and forgive him because he has earned my respect.

    There's a great quotation from an essay by Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman that is appropos for this discussion: “The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours....Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports, in camouflage fatigues, holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, 'Baa.' Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.”

    Every Catholic, not only John Corapi should seek continuously our Shepherd, whether or not any of us is a sheepdog. John Corapi seeks Him continuously. I can attest from at least some of the same life experience that John Corapi has had that nothing is more painful or discouraging to the sheepdog than when the sheep abandon him or her to the wolves -- something for all of us to think about before we judge too hastily or too harsly.

  21. Michael Nolan: You demonstrate how many have false impressions about Fr. Corapi, as he was an Army stenographer and was not a Green Beret member. Those that defend his military record indicate that he never claimed he was Green Beret, only that he had wanted to be and received some certain amount of training and an accident prevented him from finishing. He's indicated that his entire class that did become Green Beret were all wiped out, so that it was fortunate that he was spared. Are you aware of which group this might be that was entirely wiped out? Probably not.
    Father Corapi has become relentless in his attack on the bishops, particularly Bishop Mulvey. Per Father Corapi's account, Bishop Mulvey forced the order to suspend him or he would make public libelous and false statements. It's become hard for investigators to determine if the statements are false, since Father has apparently brought a civil suit against the accuser for violating a non-disclosure agreement.
    I have wondered whether Father has been without priestly faculties even before the publicly announced administrative leave. He's now admitted that his ministry has little to do with priestly celebration of the Sacraments, as is shown by the fact that he has not publicly celebrated the Mass for sometime. If he has not had faculties in recent years, then this was covered at last August's San Antonio conference when he had his friend Fr. Anthony Anderson of SOLT celebrate the Mass in his place. This would be the same Fr. Anthony Anderson that is the one SOLT priest that has apparently been in contact with him relaying advise from Fr. Flanagan and Bishop Emeritus Gracida's, the ones who gave him permission to set up his ministry in the manner he did and which seem to be outside of the canons for Societies of Apostolic Life. His recourse has been that he had a prior agreement with Fr. Flanagan, and Fr. Flanagan seems to say nothing about that agreement.

  22. Perhaps Michael Voris is referring to Akin, Kresta and others who "comment" on Fr Corapi...

    Give a few minutes to consider his point.


  23. Michael Voris gives a rather sanctimonious self-righteous broad-brushed condemnation of Catholic Media other than himself. "They" apparently all receive pay from the bad Church that he attacks, while he is apparently an independent for-profit. Exactly how is he describing the actual bishop involved, Bishop Mulvey? Not at all apparently, other than through innuendo.

  24. Dave,

    Are you referring to the video in which Mr. Voris criticizes the "tone" of those who disagree with Mr. Corapi's decision to abandon public ministry and then proceeds to call those people "disgusting" "disingenuous" "hypocrites" "back-biting" and "hate-filled"? Is that the video? Just clarifying.

  25. I don't like this. The commentary and opinions are too far reaching and the conclusions too hasty. I anticipate at some time in future he will be Fr. Corapi again.

  26. Like many of you I listened to John Corapi's message on Father's day. I could really feel the first sorrowful mystery this Father's Day.

    I don't know if you're right Al, but your points, as always, are thought provoking.

    If John Corapi is after just defending his reputation then he is dead wrong. If, however, he is after defending the priesthood he could be right. So many want to bring our priests down. If an accuser realizes that a priest "can stop being a priest" and seek civil retribution the accuser(s) my be less likely to attack(?).

    Isn't it fair and good to defend the church?
    The Swiss Guard defend the pope, the crusaders defended the church.

    Because so many of us respect you Al it would be stimulating to hear more of your thoughts on John Corapi. In the meantime lets all join in praying for John Corapi.

  27. Diane Korzeniewski, OCDS, offers a very credible perspective. Significant "cracks" in the image that John Corapi built up for himself and marketed are increasing. The Stolen Valor false claims of having been a Green Beret, alone, ruins his credibility as a man of truth and destroys his claim on his audiences' trust in him as a man of "good will."

    Now, his change of persona from faithful priest-preacher to theatrical BlackSheepDog, with a logo of devilish dog eyes sighting in on a flock of sheep, points to something "bad-wrong." Walking out on the Order that sheltered him and thumbing his nose at the Bishop who is sheltering that Order points in the same direction of something "bad-wrong."
    Choosing a life in the fast-lane of preaching-teaching marketing of "not only religious topics" instead of fidelity to his earlier choice of magisterially faithful priest-preacher -- a change which he indicates he quietly started a year ago, and which builds on the reputation he laid using Catholic orthodoxy -- this also points in the direction of something "bad-wrong."

    Did the start of BlackSheepDog coincide with the change in his personal appearance and some of the slurring of speech? ... with his questionable closeness with the disgraced former HLI priest?

    Help of more than one kind would seem indicated for Corapi. He has cultivated a cult-status, and it would compound the tragedy if his followers follow him over the edge. However, the many prayers being offered for him are sure to bring the help of grace to the situation.

  28. Daniel, you write with great clarity. I was surprised to read Mr. Nolan's comments. I thought everyone knew he was never a Green Beret or Special Forces of any sort. I defended him in 2008 against his accusers who said he had lied about being a Vietnam veteran and a Green Beret. He didn't from what we (five researchers) found after hours of scouring. Here is what we found: he never actually said he was SF on tape or in literature. He may have allowed advertisement that said it and stage introductions but he never said it directly. However he did state very clearly he was at Ft. Bragg and Panama Canal Zone and his records do not back his accounts of being there. There is a three month gap that may be when he had these adventures but I think, as one who knows these schools, it is unlikely he was ever in them. Therefore, it is probable that he lied about
    the whole account and never even trained to be SF which then makes his Vegas and Malibu stories suspect as well. His also saying he was airborne is not supported by the records we have. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I lovingly wrote asking for help and clarification in this matter in 2008 but was left hanging. I just prayed! I hope Fr. Corapi will defend himself in this matter now that Mark Shea has written about it great detail.