To Fr. Corapi: Bupkes; To John Corapi: Concern and Sympathy.

I’ve got to hand it to John Anthony Corapi — once called ”Father,” now, as he announces today, no longer to be involved in public ministry as a priest — he knows how to keep ‘em guessing.

In a voiced-over video running just shy of nine minutes, which appears on blacksheepdog.us, apparently his new website, Corapi is both effusive and coy, magnanimous and accusatory. He claims that the canonical investigation into allegations of his sexual misconduct with a former employee is hopelessly biased against him. According to Corapi, cooperating with authorities would mean giving up “all of my civil and human rights in order to hold harmless anyone who chooses to say defamatory and actionable things against me.”

Full transcript here:

He says the call to investigate came from the bishop of Corpus Christi, TX. In his statement, Corapi fairly seethes, even as he concedes the bishop’s right to act:

I did not start this process, the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas ordered my superiors, against their will and better judgment, to do it. He in fact threatened to release a reprehensible and libelous letter to all of the bishops if they did not suspend me. He has a perfect right to do so, and I defend that right. Bishops aren’t bound by civil laws and procedures in internal Church matters. I agree with that, and would defend to the death the Church’s right to proceed as they see fit. He is the bishop and he has the right to govern as he sees fit. It isn’t an easy task. Many forces besiege him, including pressure from other bishops.

In reviewing his options, Corapi combines an expression of self-pity with a declaration of self-reliance:

I will not try to fight this irrational and unjust situation for the simple reason that I don’t want to be placed in an adversarial posture against the Church. For 20 years I did my best to guard and feed the sheep. Now, based on a totally unsubstantiated, undocumented allegation from a demonstrably troubled person I was thrown out like yesterday’s garbage. I accept that. Perhaps I deserve that.

I can’t do what I can’t do. I can only do what I can do. I shall continue, black sheep that I am, to speak; and sheep dog that I am, to guard the sheep—this time around not just in the Church, but also in the entire world. I am, indeed, not ready to be extinguished. Under the name “The Black Sheep Dog,” I shall be with you through radio broadcasts and writing. My autobiography, “The Black Sheep Dog,” is almost ready for publication. My topics will be broader than in the past, and my audience likewise is apt to be broader. I’ll do what I can under the circumstances

The man is deeply distraught — that much is obvious. I’ll also venture the guess that he’s either over-medicated or — perhaps worse — under-medicated. He strikes too many discordant notes, sends too many mixed signals. Corapi is a very polished and very experienced public speaker; in his right mind, he’d know the importance of consistency. Perhaps he was under some sort of pressure to put out this statement in a hurry. But even if he couldn’t recognize the bizarreness of his message, you’d think somebody close to him would step in and say, “Say, John, don’t you think we ought to tweak that?”

Makes me wonder whether he’s getting bad advice, or more likely, is getting good advice, but disregarding it.

Corapi’s a survivor. He said so in almost exactly those words, and that’s a good thing. But what terms is he going to survive on? He’s got a history of addiction and a grandiose notion of himself — not a good combination. With his whole world caving in on him, I don’t think it takes a Jewish mother to wonder whether he’ll return to old habits. After all, he no longer has any superiors to answer to. He’s his own man, with exactly as much rope as he’ll need to hang himself.

Did he sleep with his accuser? I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did. Is he treating religion like a business, playing the faithful for easy marks, Elmer Gantry-style? You betcha. But I’m not convinced he’s been purely cynical from the start. As he said himself, he’s been a priest for nearly twenty years, and was in the seminary for some six years before ordination. That he saw the formation process as a path to riches and women, first and foremost, seems a little farfetched. There are quicker routes to those rewards, especially for a man with Corapi’s presence and gift of gab.

As a priest, he was never my style — too big a blowhard, frankly. But now that he’s just a person, I find him very easy to sympathize with. Even if he deserves reduction to the lay state, he also deserves protection from his own frailties. And in that spirit, I’m going to send him up some prayers.

Update: Am shutting down comments for the evening. Before I do, I want to thank all my respondents for posting so decorously. This could have been a lot worse.

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