If a legendary priest falls, and a lot of people don’t hear it, does he still make a noise?
I look at that in this week’s column, “All Things New,” beginning with an encounter the other day:
Mid-day Monday, I found myself by a bank of elevators, waiting to go to lunch. Two priests soon joined me, also heading out to lunch. One of them, a monsignor, smiled and said hello. We waited for several long moments in silence, and then I decided to make chit-chat.
“So,” I offered, clearing my throat, “did you hear the news about Fr. Corapi?”
He looked at me. The other priest looked at me. Somewhere, crickets chirped.
The monsignor furrowed his brow. “Who?”
I tried to explain. Both men, it turned out, had never heard of him.
We rode the elevator to the lobby in awkward silence. My mind flashed to another part of the Corapi statement, in which he bemoaned the process he must now undergo:
The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known.
Well, uh, maybe not.
Read the rest. Whether Fr. Corapi is known or not, what is happening to him right now impacts us all.
UPDATE: Check out this very good piece by Eric Sammons, which looks at how the media shapes our perceptions of people:
What I am most surprised by is how many people have strongly defended him (and attacked the accuser) in spite of only “knowing” him through his TV and radio shows. If we have learned anything over the past few years, it is that someone who is orthodox in his public preaching is not immune from personal failings and sins (which we should have known from our reading of the Bible – see St. Peter). Most of us don’t know Fr. Corapi (or the woman who is accusing him), so how can we know whether the accusation is true or not? Because he’s a good preacher?
Does this mean that whenever someone is accused of immoral behavior we should never defend him before all the facts are out? No, but it does mean that we should withhold judgement regarding people we don’t really know. If one of my good friends were accused of something like this, and he denied it, I would defend his good name until any facts contradicted his story. This is because I have built a personal trust that allows me to give him the benefit of the doubt. But if a stranger were accused and protested his innocence, I would wait until all the facts were in before forming a judgement. And in reality, Fr. Corapi is a stranger to me, as my only knowledge of him comes from seeing him on TV and hearing him on the radio. He is as much a stranger to me as the woman who made the accusations against him – so why should I assume that she is guilty (of slander)?
UPDATE II: EWTN has released a new statement on the matter. And there may be a lesson or two in how Padre Pio faced a similar scandal. Also, Our Sunday Visitor has weighed in, mentioning another name that a few people have raised, Fr. Maciel.