John Corapi was a huge presence in Catholic media, with television, radio, and speaking appearances (drawing thousands of people). He was a charismatic and articulate preacher with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT). He was a darling of conservative Catholics. I listened to him on the radio on occasion and was always amazed at how he made difficult theology easy – not in a bad way either. He knew more than I did, and he made it sound easy. Being a theology/ethics student, I knew it was hard stuff. This guy was impressive, talented, smart.
Well, maybe too smart for his own good. Corapi has left the priesthood after accusations of misconduct. The Catholic blogosphere is abuzz. REALLY abuzz. Here is just a sample:
From Conversion Diary: too bad and so long…
The Deacon’s Bench
Even from The Huffington Post (of all places!)
New Media Catholic
People are feeling betrayed, and they are right to feel so. Corapi has betrayed his flock… or “fans” as he’s now called them.
Was it all a show? Was he ever telling the truth? That’s a lot of work to go through for a lie (like I said, the guy knew theology, he had to work hard for that). Or did he start out honest and have things come up that corrupted him?
About now everybody starts to say “You know, I always thought there was something a little weird about that guy…” And I honestly think they are correct to wonder about it. So here I’ll have no shame and chime in too.
I always wanted Corapi to be a good guy, but there was something always not quite right about him… He was too dramatic. Too theatrical. His life was too unreal (living in LA, hanging out with rock stars, getting on drugs, becoming homeless, reverting to Catholicism and becoming a priest, ordained by Pope John Paul II no less). Some people really do have lives like that; I’m not saying it was false. But it was weird.
What was weirder was that Corapi’s finances were insulated from the Church though his own media corporation. Employees had to sign non-disclosure contracts. He lived independently of his religious order, which prescribed a communal life. He had limited to no priestly duties. In other words, he made himself an exception to the rules, while preaching to others to follow the rules. There was something not right about that.
And he reacted weirdly to the allegations against him. Very passive-aggressive, too defensive.
And he seemed to have a contingency plan in order for in case his ministry fell apart, with an autobiography in the works, and trademarks for this new independent gig going back a year before the allegations surfaced.
Now, we’re all sinners, so it’s no big deal to me to look charitably upon the weirdities of the above. Maybe they are all just being misconstrued. But they were warning signs. So it should then have come as no surprise when Corapi’s bizarre video came out on the 17th announcing his leaving the priesthood.
In the video (with now over 113,000 views) a close-in view of a black-faced dog stares down some sheep with one eye and wolves with the other. Corapi narrates in the background. The whole video is extremely creepy and disconcerting. I have no idea why Corapi would think it was appropriate, except that perhaps he is having a breakdown of some sort and has lost his judgment.
The whole incident is extremely sociologically and ethically interesting, of course. Some people rally around their leader, no matter what. Others see the bizarre and slowly back up. Others run. Personally, I’ve run, not that I ever was there. I only really became interested in the topic when it all started to blow up with the misconduct allegations (darn fascination with self-destruction). He was a good preacher and knew his stuff. But no more.
I think it is now obvious, or at least should be obvious, that John Corapi has lost it. Hopefully he will get himself together again, but until that time, we can say thanks for the memories, but no thanks for the rest.
UPDATE: Just to clarify, Corapi is leaving the priestly ministry. Technically, he cannot un-become a priest, the mark is indelible. So I suppose now he is a “renegade” priest. Very unfortunate.