Deacon Checks Corapi’s Math

Deacon Greg Kandra does a splendid of of explaining why John Corapi’s attitude toward the priesthood could stand a little fine-tuning. (He quotes Herman Melville, too, which I think is pretty cool):

Of all the bizarre comments contained in John Corapi’s rambling speech on Monday, there was one that struck me as especially strange, and particularly sad.

Near the beginning, when he makes clear that he’s not actually leaving the priesthood, but only suspending his public work as a priest (and dropping the title “Father”), he shrugs off the impact this will have on his life. Nothing much will change, he says, explaining that he really had little to do with the sacraments, anyway—saying mass, hearing confession, anointing the sick.

“I didn’t do very much of that quite honestly in the twenty years that I did minister,” he says, adding, “90 percent of what I did in the past did not require ordination. Speaking through social communication—radio, TV, so forth—that’s not ministry, strictly speaking. My particular mission was speaking, writing, and teaching—not so much in the sacraments, but outside of them, in conjunction with them. So what I’m going to be doing in the future is pretty much the same thing.”

Well. I have to appreciate his candor. But off the top of my head, I can’t think of any priest I know who has so effectively and completely marginalized—even minimized—the most transcendent aspect of his priesthood: celebrating the sacraments. Any one who has been given the great gift of Holy Orders knows that ordination is not strictly about what we do, but about what we are, and what we become. And yet, a priest becomes, by sacred ordination, alter Christus, another Christ. Fundamental to that is grace—the grace to Nwreconcile the penitent, anoint the sick, baptize new Catholics and, most humbling and overwhelming of all, transform bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ in the sacrifice of the mass.

Corapi was far from the only priest who devoted the better part of his career to non-sacramental duties. Benedict was a scholar, Pius XII a diplomat. Even John XXIII, whose most ardent admirers praise his pastoral qualities, got most of his pastoral experience in posts where administrative and diplomatic matters would have preoccupied him. Nevertheless, Corapi’s mathematical separation of the strictly sacramental and non-sacramental aspects of his ministry would seem to require an unusally pragmatic turn of mind.

A couple of years ago, when I caught my own case of collar fever, I made an appointment to see my pastor. His religious order, the Order of Preachers, happened to be the order I imagined myself joining. Knowing of the vocations crisis, I expected the man to slip chloral hydrate into my coffee and spirit me off to the seminary, or at least block the door until I’d signed the enlistment papers. To my surprise, he received the news of my vocation with a bland lack of enthusiasm. After accepting that no congratulations from him would be forthcoming, I got down to business and asked what qualities the province vocations director might be looking for.

“Well,” he answered. “he’ll probably want to know your attitude toward the Mass.”

It was like hearing a joke and not getting the punch line. The Mass? I’d prepared a presentation of what I considered my most sacerdotal qualities: some published writing, some facility with foreign languages, and some overseas teaching experience. What on earth could my attitude toward the Mass have to do with anything? How many attitudes was it possible to take, anyway? He had a bumper sticker on the wall of his office, reading: “WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?” so I didn’t think he meant for me to froth at the mouth over the Novus Ordo.

My bafflement must have been showing, because the pastor added, “He’ll want to know if you go every day, for example.”

It now occurs to me that he was offering an unrecognizably dumbed-down version of the lesson Deacon Greg teaches: as long as a priest has a proper appreciation for his sacramental role, then there’s a good chance he’ll be able to survive burnout, dead-end assignments, episcopal displeasure, and whatever other occupational hazards his kind faces as a matter of course. If reminding yourself, “Hey, at least I get to say Mass” can turn a bad day bearable, than you might have a calling after all.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that Corapi’s anywhere near as clueless as I was — and probably remain — on the subject of the Mass and its centrality to a well-balanced priestly life. It seems more likely to me that he’s trying to console himself in the manner of a man who’s just been served with divorce papers: “I only lost 10% of my job”; “That hag only put out 10% of the time.” Like the best bullets, both men would appear to have a hollow point.

Lent and the Lame Evangelist
Monday Mourning Coming Down
Valentine’s Day: For Some, 50 Shades of Blue
In Support of Deacon Greg
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  • Sure Enough

    Reminds me of Chicago’s very own Father Flieger. Would leave the priesthood if he couldn’t preach any more. I’ve heard Corapi say it many times, without priests we would have no Eucharist. How can either of them put the Eucharist on the back burner is unimaginable.

  • Manny

    “A couple of years ago, when I caught my own case of collar fever…”

    Collar fever? LOL. You have a way with phrases. I would have never guessed a “wimpy catholic” would have desired to be a priest. Actually now that I think on it, what exactly are you wimpy over?

  • Holly in Nebraska

    Thanks Sure Enough for the Fr. Flieger reference. I had forgotten about him but there are similarities. I am always amazed at people who to threaten to leave the church (or in their case the priesthood). I remember a story of parents whose child, being gluten-intolerant, wanted them to received the body under a rice wafer. The church said NO, and that the wine contains the body and blood just like the bread contains the body and blood, so receiving under wine was just as good. They left the church, thereby insuring that they never received either ever again. I don’t get it, unless they really didn’t believe in the first place. Maybe leaving the priesthood is no great shakes if you didn’t believe in it to start with. Fr. Corapi is looking worse and worse by the day.

  • jkm

    I posted this clip on the Dog’s website, and asked him to take a lesson from his good twin, Fr Corapi, who despite many weirdnesses did seem, at one point, to Get It: Of course, that was before the makeover. Do you suppose all those chemicalphobes are right, and hair dye does rot the brain?

  • jkm

    Oh, and PS: Dominican wouldn’t suit your coloring, anyway.

  • Rebecca

    The irony is, Fr. Pfleger recently submitted to the bishop. He told the bishop he did not want to leave the Church or the priesthood, and that he would agree to change assignments. Perhaps he could explain a couple of things to Fr. Corapi.

  • Rebecca

    You’re right, in this case Fr. Pfleger does resemble Fr. Corapi. But Fr. Pfleger recently submitted to, and reconciled with, his bishop. Today, he is the better priest.

  • Anonymous

    Are you serious? The Dominicans wear the two colors that go with everything!

  • jkm

    C’mon, you’re clearly an Autumn. Earth tones. Definitely Franciscan. Only not so much Capuchin, because of the beard reluctance you just posted about.

  • Anne S.

    I just started reading your posts in the last month and I am enjoying them. Good writing and very insightful (imo).

    I love your writing in this, particularly the last 2 sentences. I find myself repeating them to myself a number of times in the last day, and laughing each time!

  • Holly in Nebraska

    Thanks. I didn’t know that. It’s good to hear.

  • Anonymous

    The bishop in this case was Cardinal George — a man with whom Pfleger’s never seen eye-to-eye. Following the Cardinal’s orders can’t have been easy, but Pfleger managed.

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