An Analysis of the Holes in Fr. Corapi’s Story

I can’t blog much today. But I thought I at least owed it to readers to try to express (hopefully with a cooler head) my grave concerns about Mr. Corapi’s scandalous and manipulative behavior.

The grave concern is summed up in a brief conversation I had with a “fan” (as he now refers to his flock) of “Dog” (as she has dubbed him) in which she declared that she would follow Dog and not the bishop of Corpus Christi, since the bishop is in schism with Dog. That’s the problem, right there. And it is a problem that Dog is doing everything to encourage among his “fans”.

Let’s deal with some of the Legendarium “Dog” has constructed around himself, for the sake of clarity.

Let’s begin with the most obvious thing: “Dog” suggestively leads you to believe that the persecution of his superiors has forced him out of the priesthood:

There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone, and I shall be gone.

In fact, his superior has made clear that he wanted him to remain in the priesthood and come and live in community rather than in his self-imposed isolation on his extremely spendy Montana compound. His decision to abandon his vocation and vows is entirely his own and nobody else’s.

Next, there is the *reason* he has abandoned his vows. Much has been made of the alleged horrible injustice he is suffering. We are told he is being treated as guilty till found innocent, etc.

Ahem:

Doctors are suspended pending investigations

Police are suspended pending investigations

Lawyers are suspended pending investigations

Teachers are suspended pending investigations

Nobody says they are “guilty till proven innocent”. Everybody recognizes the prudence and common sense of suspending somebody pending investigation, while recognizing that nobody knows anything yet. And, in fact, nobody investigating Dog has said that Mr. Corapi is guilty of anything. Indeed, his superior went out of his way to make clear that

Father John Corapi is a priest in good standing with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

This, by the way, puts the boots on the spreading urban legend among the fanbase that Dog is “not allowed to be called Father” due to being on administrative leave and so is just humbly cooperating with his persecuting bishop and superiors by repudiating the title “Father” (on
Father’s Day, while holding a sale on his site in honor of his 20th Anniversary of his ordination).

In short, people get suspended for investigations all the time and yet are not “guilty until proven innocent”. It’s the prudent thing to do when credible charges are brought that somebody is somehow dishonoring their office in a serious way. Nobody had a problem with it when Dale Fushek was suspended. None of Dog’s “fans” moaned that Fr. Pfleger’s suspension was a case of him being treated as guilty till proven innocent. No tears of injustice were shed among the Dog’s followers for Fr. Cutie’s suspension. But (judging from the comboxes and FB traffic), hundreds (and probably thousands) of people who believe every word Dog says are, in compliance with the Ox Gore Principle, suddenly lining up to denounce his “satanic” bishop for doing this elementary act of due diligence in a perfectly justifiable investigation.

It reminds me precisely of the way that people defended Maciel from investigation till the bitter end. Shadowy forces of evil were alleged to be out to destroy a living saint. Failure to credit Dog’s story uncritically is labeled as “condemning and slandering him”. Conversely, enthusiastic condemnation of his accuser and his investigators (who have remain silent in the face of being labeled agents of the Prince of Darkness) is not labeled judgmental by his fans but instead has filled them with pride over their “courage” in Standing For Dog.

And Dog has egged this on from day one of the investigation, while feigning humility and a passionate concern for the truth. Case in point: Dog, without any evidence whatsoever, charges his bishop with blackmail and libel in one of the most passive-aggressive paragraphs ever written:

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.

We have zero evidence for this charge of blackmail and libel. Just Dog’s word. But on the basis of it, his “fans” have responded with venom against his “satanic” investigators and bishop. It’s as masterful a work of manipulation as this:

“My bishop is an honorable man. So are they all, all honorable men” is precisely the duplicitous message being sent by Dog. And the response of the “fans” is the same as that of the Roman mob.

Now, of course, it may be that the charge which provoked the investigation turns out to be false. Could be. Who knows? Indeed, as well shall see in a moment, now we will never know. For as has been the case from the beginning, the only one driving and manipulating the conversation has been Dog. Indeed, we discover now that Dog has been manipulating this particular conversation long before he allegedly “learned” of the accusation against him.

Here’s a passage from the statement he released when the investigation began:

On Ash Wednesday I learned that a former employee sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women. There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed “credible” in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure, which was in recent years crafted to respond to cases of the sexual abuse of minors. I am not accused of that, but it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints. I have been placed on “administrative leave” as the result of this.

I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty “just in case”, then through the process determining if he is innocent.

Note again the duplicitous (and in the latter highlighted quote, as we shall see, false) language. He “learned” about this on Ash Wednesday. One is led to believe this was a bombshell from nowhere for him. He reiterated the same strategy in his most recent statement, painting a Kafka-esque picture of mysterious anonymous accusers whom he does not know and cannot fight, aided and abetted by his blackmailing and libelous bishop. He complains:

1. The identity of the accuser is not revealed. You can guess, but you don’t actually know. Nor are the exact allegations made known to you. Hence, you have an interesting situation of having to respond to an unknown accuser making unknown accusations (unknown to the accused and his counsel).

This is calculated to wring our hearts with pity.

Only, here’s the thing. Dog knows perfectly well who is bringing the charges against him:

The present complaint that you have heard about is, as far as I know, from the one person that I can honestly say I did more to help and support than any human being in my entire life. I forgive her and hope only good things for her. I am not going to get into a back and forth or argument with the Church or anyone else about this matter.

More than this disconnect, however, is the fact that Dog wants you to believe that he has been driven to this desperate pass by the manifest injustice of the process over the past three months. In other words, had this investigation (which he promised he would “certainly cooperate with”) not begun, he would never have chosen to leave the priesthood. It all started three months ago, when he “learned” of this shocking betrayal by this Judas in a skirt, this “demonstrably troubled” woman, whom he humbly forgives. It only got worse with the persecuting investigation, which finally forced him to make this desperate move:

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 problem with this narrative is twofold. First, Dog has not only not cooperated with the investigation, he in fact, trademarked his new brand as the Black Sheepdog in April 2010. He’s been planning this move long before he “learned” of his accuser’s letter. Why, it’s almost as though he knew that the investigation was coming, would not end well for him, and so resolved to ditch the priesthood a year ago, should he fail to prevent or successfully hinder the investigation.

And labor to hinder it he has. Dog talks as though the investigation is dragging on forever because of the shadowy forces of evil out to destroy him:

My canon lawyer and my civil lawyers have concluded that I cannot receive a fair and just hearing under the Church’s present process. The Church will conclude that I am not cooperating with the process because I refuse to give up all of my civil and human rights in order to hold harmless anyone who chooses to say defamatory and actionable things against me with no downside to them. The case may be on hold indefinitely, but my life cannot be.

In fact, however, the reason the investigation was going slowly was because Dog has chosen to sue his accuser in civil court, not for defamation, but for breach of a non-disclosure agreement.

Now he has now completely short-circuited and destroyed the investigation by defying his superior’s request to leave the self-imposed isolation of his spendy Montana compound, come live in community, and remain in the priesthood. Instead he wrote to his superior and blindsided him by informing him he was leaving the priesthood–and then turned to his fanbase and told them “There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone, and I shall be gone.”

Bottom line: his promise of “complete cooperation” was false. He left the priesthood and is pursuing a civil suit, leaving in his wake a trail of baseless accusations against his accuser and investigators, and a diminished but more concentrated and ardent fanbase of people who, like my reader above, are ready to believe every word he says and to regard his bishop as “schismatic” as they follow him into rebellion.

A couple of final points.

This affair, like any divorce, tends to elicit all the family dynamics one sees in a divorce. There is the anger over the betrayal (still struggling with that one personally). There is the tendency among the children to choose sides (and to try to act as peacemaker). There’s the competing tendency to want to practice moral equivalence and try to figure out a way to say that the spouse being betrayed is “just as bad” as the traitor. There’s just the simple need to vent (that’s why I have mostly let folks in my comboxes have their say, not only in their anger at Corapi, but at me–only drawing the line at mere insults that contribute nothing to the conversation). People gotta let it out sometimes. But, once the emotion dies down and the facts are looked at squarely, I think the basic outline is clear here:

Whatever the merits of the charges against him, Dog has been planning to rebrand himself as “John Corapi (once called “father,” now “The Black Sheep Dog”) since April 2010, long before he allegedly “learned” of the charges against him or any investigation began.

He has left the priesthood entirely of his own will and volition and against the desires of his superior, not because he was (as he says with immensely manipulative self-pity) “thrown out like yesterday’s garbage”.

He has made grave and unsubstantiated charges of blackmail and libel against his bishop calculated to foment hostility toward his ecclesiastical father, while duplicitously pretending humble submission to him.

He has effectively destroyed the investigation against him while falsely pledging complete cooperation.

For just one of these reasons, I would caution any Catholic in his five wits to steer far far away from this guy. Some will (rightly) speak of their gratitude to him for helping them understand their faith better in the past. That is meet and just. But it is one thing to be grateful to him and another to form a faction or schism around him. You must not be of Peter, Paul or Apollos, but of Christ. Dog is not Holy Church. He is not a prophet. He is, rather, Tertullian: a guy with the gift of the gab who is on a trajectory toward complete rebellion against the Church he claims to love and defend. God grant that he repent and come to his senses and that his “fans” not follow him into rebellion.

One final point: a number of people ask me what I make of Bp. Gracida’s gracious remarks in response to Dog’s abandonment of his vocation as priest and his transmogrification of his flock into “fans”. Briefly, I think it is a gracious, pastoral and merciful attempt to strengthen what remains of the ruins of Dog’s priesthood while passing over in silence the matters discussed above. I also think it makes clear that Bp. Gracida intuits pretty clearly the same message I thought Dog was sending–that he is abandoning the priesthood so that he can pursue a career as a member of the Right Wing Noise Machine and get more political in his new (and exceedingly strange and creepy) persona as The Black Sheepdog:

Now, 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.

Bp. Gracida is entitled to his opinion and I can’t fault his desire to keep holding out the hand of mercy to a teller of proven falsehood, a traitor to his vocation and his flock, an unsubstantiated accuser of his bishop, and a fomenter of rebellion against Holy Church. That’s what the Father of the Prodigal Son does and Bp. Gracida is a father. In addition, he wrote before we knew many of the facts mentioned above. So I, for one, commend him on his gracious and irenic attempt to bring back this straying sheepdog.

But speaking strictly for myself as a layperson, I think any person who follows or defends Dog’s betrayal of his office from this point on, knowing the above facts about his behavior, is not merely an enabler, but a participant in his sin. I speak, in particular, to his “fans” as they are know regarded by him. It’s exactly the same thing I say to “fans” of Dale Fushek or Alberto Cutie: don’t join this man’s rebellion against Holy Church.

People will undoubtedly complain that I’m sitting in judgment of Dog’s soul. That’s false. I am sitting in judgment of his words and actions, as Jesus tells us we should do when he says to examine the tree for good or bad fruit. The fruit of Dog’s words and deeds stinks like a week old fish and anybody capable of minimal prudence can see that. I have no idea what Dog’s culpability, psychology, or destiny is. I do find it hard to credit the perpetual claim that he is in anguish when his own website bubbles, “A member from his media team shared “this is a very exciting move for John and his fans, as for the first time, in a long time, John will be directly in touch with this fan-base by way of social networks.”

So I merely state that, based on what he is saying and doing, I do not trust him as far as I could throw him and I pray for John Corapi that he repent. For my part, I forgive him for his grossly scandalous behavior and selfish wounding of the Body of Christ. I hope in Christ that he repents and humbly returns to his senses. But I neither trust nor believe him and I will oppose his manipulations of public opinion and his rebellion against Holy Church and pray that his rebellion not infect others.

Update: The Black Sheepdog continues to destroy his credibility.

Update: Dog now pledges to commit detraction against his accuser by putting private recordings of her up on the web for the delectation of his fans and her public exposure and humiliation. Apparently those non-disclosure agreements are a one way street. Even his fans in the comboxes are shocked and pleading with him not to do it.

  • I M Forman

    If this matter is currently being litigated civily then Corapi’s silence is no big surprise. He had a private corporation, which is different from non-profits because non-profit status could always be pulled by the IRS if criticism becomes deemed political. He had employees with contracts. He also has lawyers. Did he have enemies in the religious media? I can tell that he had at least one, and still does. I don’t know any details of his situation and don’t pretend to. I let sleeping dogs lie. I hope you get over your obssesions with sheepdogs soon.

  • Linden

    Very brilliant article.


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