I wasn’t planning to re-open this can of worms, but here goes. I couldn’t help but be shocked by what I discovered late today over at John Corapi’s new website.
At the top is the text of his now-infamous farewell to the priesthood — wherein he states, bluntly, “I am not going to be involved in public ministry as a priest,” and concludes by publicly removing the title “Father” from his name.
But the very next entry at the site is introduced with the headline: “Ordination Anniversary Sale!” You can get a special discount on some of Not-Father-Anymore Corapi’s inventory of DVDs and CDs. It’s the same stuff that was on his old website: “Commemorating his baptism and 20th anniversary of ordination, we are reducing prices on the entire inventory for the remainder of the month of June. We do not know how much longer this valuable material will be available so we encourage you to acquire it now.”(Santa Cruz Media’s original emphasis.)
Color me offended. The man publicly renounces his priesthood — received, by the way, at the hands of a pope just declared “Blesssed” — and his acolytes evidently have no problem hawking his wares as marketable relics of his abandoned vocation.
“Commemorating the anniversary of his ordination?”
As a footnote: Corapi’s final words in his farewell-to-the-priesthood address are “The Black Sheepdog” — the name of his new brand and his new website. But as anyone who can Google can discover, that moniker isn’t exactly new. According to this website, Corapi’s media company, Santa Cruz Media, trademarked the title over a year ago:
On Thursday, April 08, 2010, a U.S. federal trademark registration was filed for THE BLACK-SHEEP DOG. This trademark is owned by Santa Cruz Media, Inc., Kalispell, MT 59901. The USPTO has given the THE BLACK-SHEEP DOG trademark serial number of 85009403. The current federal status of this trademark filing is NOTICE OF ALLOWANCE – ISSUED.
There are a lot of questions around all this. A lot of ‘em. For starters: why’d they file that trademark a year ago? Also: for such a public priest to make such a public pronouncement — and to announce days in advance that he was going to do it — is a little out of the ordinary. So, why haven’t we yet heard from his superiors? Did this catch them by surprise? (I doubt it.) What about his bishop? And who, by the way, is his bishop? Back when this first broke, both Corpus Christi (where his order is headquartered) and Helena (where he lives) said he’s not incardinated in either of those dioceses. Where, then, is he incardinated? Who does he answer to? Anyone who goes looking for answers in any of the existing Corapi biographies online will be stymied: the primary sources that are cited, again and again, come from Santa Cruz Media or his website.
For all practical purposes, it appears that the source and summit of the John Corapi story is…John Corapi.
Strange? Just a little.
UPDATE: One of Corapi’s most ardent defenders, the bishop emeritus of Corpus Christi, Rene Gracida, has answered at least a few of the questions above at his own blog:
Father John Corapi does not belong to a religious order or congregation. He is not a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, he is incardinated in the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, a diocesan institute I established in the Diocese of Corpus Christi when I was the Ordinary of the Diocese. He has never held an assignment in the Diocese nor has he ever worked in the Diocese. Following his ordination in Rome in 1991 by Blessed Pope John Paul II he has ministered in many places, but not in the Diocese of Corpus Christi. With the permission of his superiors he established his media company in Montana and has lived there ever since. As a member of that Society (The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity) Father John is not bound by a vow of poverty. He is bound by a promise of obedience to his superior, the General Priest Servant of the Society.
In his blog, the bishop emeritus also praises Corapi’s decision to stop ministering to the public as a priest, saying:
Until his suspension is lifted, he is free from the Church’s prohibition on clerics participating in the political life of the nation. Given his past outspoken criticism of the current slide of our government to become more and more like the socialist governments of Europe, I think that we can expect to hear The Black Sheep Dog speak out more openly on the burning issues we will face in the election year of 2012. I know from my own experience that God sometimes “writes straight with crooked lines” as the Portuguese put it, and so perhaps God is using this new (unwanted) freedom from ecclesiastical restraint to permit The Black Sheep Dog to say some important things in the next 16 months on those burning issues.
I believe that he is justified in not seeking to clear his name through a canonical process; at the present time such processes are very flawed in most dioceses.
Also: a commenter notes the ‘Black Sheep Dog’ name has been part of the Corapi brand for a while: “Fr. Corapi announced months ago that he was working on an autobiography with the working title ‘The Black Sheep Dog.’ ‘Black’ referencing his past and his clerical attire. ‘Sheep Dog’ referencing his role as shepherd.”
UPDATE II: There’s a long and very thoughtful analysis of this over at Te Deum, which poses the question: “What if Christ had quit because of injustice?”