John Corapi Deserts the Priesthood

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 National Catholic Register

From Mark Shea: A series of great roars!

From Conversion Diary: too bad and so long

From Jimmy Akin: crazy guy part one and part two.

The Deacon’s Bench

The Anchoress

Even from The Huffington Post (of all places!)

And More:
New Media Catholic

Making Things Visible

Y I’m 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.

5 responses to “John Corapi Deserts the Priesthood

  • Ben

    I had tickets to see him in IL when the scandal broke out just a few days before the event. I confess….I miss the sound of his voice.

  • Brian Green

    He had a great preaching voice. One of the things that makes his fall so hard for some to believe is, I think, that he seemed like such a natural. It’s a real shame.

  • David Johnson

    I am deeply sorry about the whole situation. I was and still am a great admirer of Fr.Corapi’s and loved to listen to his lectures on TV. He is probably the best preacher/teacher I’ve ever heard. Listening to him preach significantly enhanced my understanding of God’s purpose in my life and His Glory. Very impressive indeed!

    I find the whole situation very disturbing, confusing and difficult to believe and accept. I’m invite all Christians everywhere to let us pray that the Lord in His love, wisdom & compassion will retrieve Fr. Corapi from wherever he has gone and restore him to His fold.

    I would love to get a collection of his lectures; especially the ones relating to Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
    Can anyone tell me how I might be able to obtain them? I have not been able to find and download from the Internet.

    In Christian Brotherly love,

  • Brian Green

    Hi David, I think we can still appreciate his work, but always with the knowledge that the person delivering it was seriously flawed… in other words just like everyone else!

    But in Corapi’s case I think the level of flaw is still unknown, and could potentially ruin the whole body of work beyond repair. Was he good and then corrupted? Then his earlier stuff is more authentic and acceptable. Was he deviously planning this as a money-making scheme from the beginning? Then I think we need to seriously consider whether we should listen to it any more.

    I’m not sure exactly why I think this, it is an ethical intuition on my part that the intention of the speaker is important. Was he always intending to deceive when he was speaking or was he honestly telling the truth at one point and then lost his way? If he was always being deceitful then we cannot trust anything he says, even if he happens to be telling the truth it is still with an evil motivation to tell the truth in order to gain money and power. And even perfectly true things can be re-framed and recombined into things that are false; evil can get really complex and hard to disentangle from the truth.

    It is all very disappointing. Until it is fully worked out what Corapi’s motivations were I’m not sure his stuff should be listened to, which is a real shame, as I’ve said before, because he was such a good teacher and preacher. Again these are my ethical intuitions, but if evil is to be strenuously avoided, then we should avoid it.

    Christan brotherly love to you as well. We should all pray for each other and remember that even bad things can be turned towards good through God’s grace. I sincerely hope that happens in this case.

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