When a Priest’s Accused

I have no doubt that some of the priests who are now on ‘administrative leave’ have been falsely accused, and it is terrible to read some of the comments of those who have been gathering around in the wake of the Corapi affair like a pack of hyenas to fight with others for their bite of the corpse.  I’m not saying John Corapi is innocent or guilty. We don’t know, but everyone deserves a fair hearing and to judge the man too harshly for his recent decision is also unfair. We just don’t know the facts. We should step back and observe and pray and hope good comes from these events.

However, we should also take the opportunity to look again at the whole matter of accusations against priests. The standards we have for our priests are just about as high as they can get. At the same time the demands we make on their time and their personalities are just about as high as they can get. Furthermore, while the standards and expectations are just about as high as they can get, at the same time the complaining and gossip and back biting against our priests is about as high as it can get. The lack of co operation, lack of appreciation, negativity and criticism is also about as high as it can get. It’s basically like this: Father has to be Jesus Christ here and now, but not just Jesus Christ, but everybody’s particular understanding of Jesus Christ, and if Father should fail and let someone down he gets both barrels. Not just that: Father doesn’t have to even fail. He only has to be perceived as failing to get both barrels. Not only will the bad Father has done be used against him, but the good he says and does will be used against him.

Here’s an example from a priest I know. Father wants to buy a couple of beautiful new statues for the church. So he gets copies of the images printed up and he distributes them to the congregation for consideration. He’s being consultative. He’s trying to share his vision. He’s trying to inspire the congregation. He’s asking if they like these and want him to buy them. He asks for their feedback, and in the first day someone offers to buy both statues. Others say how much they like them. All well and good. So Father lets slip, in his enthusiasm, that someone has already offered to buy both statues. Next thing he knows the gossip mill has gone into overdrive and the message among the faithful is, “Father has already ordered those statues. The whole consultative thing was a sham. We don’t like the statues and he is imposing them on us.”

No wonder priests get fed up with the negativity, lack of faith, close mindedness, sour Pharisaical attitudes of their flock. Then when someone turns around and makes an accusation, no wonder the poor priest is devastated. If he’s innocent the pain is particularly bad. It is a real identification with Christ. All he can do is walk the way of the Cross, accept his fate and go the way of the sacrificial lamb.

But what if he’s guilty? In this present climate guilty of what? Some priests are now accused for the most minor of failures and they are treated like serial perverts. Maybe a priest has fallen into a relationship with a woman which was consensual and legal. He broke his vow of celibacy, but he didn’t do anything illegal or criminal. Still he is suspended and treated like a total outcast. Another priest is caught looking at porn. It is not kiddie porn and not illegal, but he’s demoted and added to a sex offender list and cast out. Is any of this fair or logical or compassionate? I think not.

Yes, priests should be totally clear and clean and nothing bad should ever happen, but if the present madness continues vocations will continue to plummet, good candidates will quit, priests will simply walk out. Those with get up and go will get up and go, and who will we be left with? The very ones we wanted to be rid of–the sly, the lazy, the corrupt, the drunkards, the scheming, the mediocre and the weak.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03774215903844646617 paul

    Extremely well said! I think we often forget that the person we see up on the altar or even on TV is a man with all of the frailties and weaknesses involved.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08383178253798427977 Anthony Brett Dawe

    'what's happening'on Twitterrather humourous of lateyou might find

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04287939951550374162 Theresa

    I don't agree with everyting in this post, Father, but I think you make a good point about the treatment of criminally-accused priests. And I am saddened by the way he is going about it, but I think Fr. Corapi makes good points on the subject also. But if anything good can come from the Fr. Corapi affair, I hope it is a re-vamping of how priest abuse accusations are handled. In so many cases, we hear of an accusation, and then are never told anything about it ever again. Priests deserve a fair and expeditious investigation. And we the faithful deserve it, too. We are often left sitting wondering what has happened to a priest who used to serve us but has been put on indefinite administrative leave. I hope the process is re-done so as not to continue to sell priests down the river. We need a process that has more concern for the human dignity of all involved: the priest, the accuser, and the rest of us. That is, with a concern for carrying out justice tempered with mercy, rather than protecting the church's liability insurance coverage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05423794317423373245 Allison

    I think you are right,Father, to call to attention how this may effect vocations.There's such a well-crafted attack being waged upon the priesthood. I don't know how to help other than praying at Mass and family rosary yesterday, again this morning . Reading this post confirms that prompting and keeps it heavy on my heart. Wish there was more we could do.I hope you write more about it. Maybe there's a book in it? A guide to being a good parishoner and priest supporter…seems to be a void on that topic.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09479406473813028616 Arnold Conrad

    Father, in another posting you mentioned a report or rumor that all the seminarians for the Philadelphia archdiocese had decided to quit in protest at the treatment of the suspended priests. Is there any truth to that because I have heard or read nothing elsewhere about it?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14485618520177836909 soblessed

    Father: Yes! and more yes. I was so enthused when I joined the church 13 years ago. I just KNEW that every Catholic knew their privileged status, loved God, The Church and their priests. What's not to love? A man who dedicates himself and lays his life down so that we can receive the greatest gift, the most auspicious of gifts, the very presence of Him who created us. Naive? Oh, yes. It was very naive and there was no shortage of people to point that out to me. Priests are human and our expectations of them should be congruent with that fact. But it makes me literally sick in my stomach to see the way so very many Catholics, like those junior high girls of long ago, can't wait to jump up and join the whispering, the tittering, the finger-pointing, the speculation and the holier-than-thou attitude. Ugh.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01562944653624224107 Adrienne

    It is difficult for most Catholic's to separate the institutional Church from the Divine aspect. This Corapi feeding frenzy is beyond disgusting and does great harm to the Body of Christ. Guilty or not, most of the speculation is on events that are no ones business.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07215856728880521796 Baron Korf

    Agreed Father, priests have a rough deal these days.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10503510474554718305 Just another mad Catholic

    Too all Priest readers, I will pray for you and have Mass said for your vocations next week

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05336781734419554046 broken

    I know nothing of the Fr. Corapi ordeal. What I would like to address is the emotional pain I hear in this post. We live in a very unaffirming world. Where do the laity go for affirmation? The priest but the priests themselves are unaffirmed men and cannot give what they do not have. Oh they desire to affirm but they themselves are hurting. My humble advice to all would be to take time in the loving presence of our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration and know through your heart that you are a gift. Your very being is a gift to you from God. Let the Lord affirm you, let nature affirm you and find loving affirming people to be present with then the displeasure of others you will know belongs to them not you. Realize you are a human BEING not a human doing. Stop trying to affirm yourself by pleasing others. God loves you for who you Are not what you Do. This is all easier said than done. It takes years of practice. God Bless. May everyone have a lovely and peace filled vacation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10559996961941960060 Kirstin

    Father, balance is the key. Priests are people with their own failings and strengths. There has to be common sense about what constitutes an offense worthy of suspension and investigation. Surely, the Church can and will return to balance in these matters. The problem that has caused the imbalance now unfairly harming some good priests is, of course, due to another, previous imbalance in the other direction when many in the Church hierarchy unfortunately neglected to protect an even more vulnerable group of young people (mostly boys) who were being sexually harmed by priests. I guess the pendulum swung too far one way, and now too far the other. Hopefully, soon, it will return to the center and be stopped there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17284905121465747077 Steve

    Are things actually as bad — as biased against priests who have committed no crimes — as you portray them, Father? I would like to see you back up one of your claims: specifically, the claim about a priest being "added to a sex offender list" for looking at a type of pornography that is not illegal. Where has this occurred? Can you name the county and state (even if you would prefer not to name the priest himself)? I always thought sex offender registration was the result of a conviction (or plea deal) in a criminal court. Are you implying that priests get forced to register even if they're looking at something as pale as Playboy?Yes, priests are sinners just like the rest of us, and I have many logs in my own eyes; most of us do, and we need to be humble about them and compassionate toward priests who are just run-of-the-mill sinners, as opposed to criminals. But I'm wondering what the basis is for your suggestion that priests get harsh punishments without due process, especially when it comes to criminal courts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17691145638703824456 kkollwitz

    Our son is considering a vocation, and will live in the diocesan discernment house. His mother and I look at what in our opinion is the "guilty until proven innocent" policy, and are, well, let's say less than enthusiastic about it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17691145638703824456 kkollwitz

    I meant: "…will live in the diocesan discernment house starting in August."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06591215316708697735 scmachines

    I admire the work of God's priests and empathize with them in the hostile environment set up in this secular day and age. As far as the flock goes, I can't imagine anyone having a problem with how God chooses to move the beatification of our Parish forward. As many of us are living with tight budgets these days, the thought that someone would offer to buy both statues is wonderful! Priests need to be welcomed for dinner at our tables and thanked for the work they do. At least you can talk to them about religion and not get looked at like your crazy. Speaking for myself, I think some are just too shy to do so.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08383178253798427977 Anthony Brett Dawe

    that mo fo LeVada is historyi will warrant to the FBI

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06354592772973677609 The young fogey

    Well done, Father.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13338923360157533667 Cathy

    Brilliant! Thankyou, Father. You really put things in perspective.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13338923360157533667 Cathy

    Brilliant! Thankyou, Father.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00090648518528229468 David Ruso

    So well said Father. I have been so tired of some of these "Catholic" writers/blogs around the Fr. Corapi issue, that have been anything but Catholic in their approach to a priest of Christ who is suffering. How far have we come from Christ's words when some just can't wait to get the chance to kick a priest when he is down? I just don't get it.What you said about the standard that priests are held to nowadays virtually read my mind! Why is it that if a priest happens to fall into a somewhat common sin he is thrown under the bus by others who struggle with the same sin? If anything, priests are under more attack and have to struggle with things that the average person doesn't even have to consider.Keep up the good work Father. I continue to pray for you, Fr. Corapi, and all our priests.In Jesus & Mary.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02547538589902601667 Chrisiopher

    In my opinion Father Corapi is or was an outstanding Priest and Human being but we are now in a time of disorientation and confusion.message from Our Lady of Akita Third and the Last message on October 13, 1973:". . . if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests." "The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres (other priests). Churches and altars will be sacked. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord." "The demon will be especially implacable against the souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them." ". . . Pray very much the prayers of the Rosary. I alone am able still to save you from the calamities which approach. Those who place their confidence in me will be saved."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10713616744985615258 P.

    When someone in the world does something wrong, as an episode or a way of living, most people don't mind or even go to the point of applauding. But when is a priest…everybody throws stones.I don't know if Fr. Corapi is innocent or not, what I know is, because he is a priest, I see everybody with a stone in their hands.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16040553825059591114 Teresa

    Spot on Father! Love the common sense!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09561070172039384888 Barb Bathon

    Father, Wonderful post. I was sad to read kkollwitz' comments that they are "less than enthusiastic about their son considering a vocation." It is truly a blessing to the family, the parish, and the priesthood when a young man considers this vocation. I have been blessed that both of my sons spent time in the seminary. One has taken a break and is pursuing other possible avenues of life, and one continues in the seminary this fall. Both knew that when they made the choice to begin the discernment process, their lives would no longer be their own. Persecution of the priesthood has always been around, but with the immediate media attention to every religious detail of the world, it only appears more drastic. Our family just finished watching Ken Burns "The War" and Band of Brothers. It reminded me of how soft, whiny and ADHD our world has become. Even my teenage daughters could not believe that 70 short years ago, those teenage men had such an enduring spirit in the face of adversity. Our entire society could learn a lesson from that generation, and look to history to gain a proper perspective.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17691145638703824456 kkollwitz

    "I was sad to read kkollwitz' comments that they are "less than enthusiastic about their son considering a vocation."Oops, I meant to communicate that we were less than enthusiastic about the policy. We definitely support his vocation.BTW I'm in the same KofC council as Charlie.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16142633311407145793 Wine in the Water

    I can at least confirm that the rumor of the Philadelphia seminarians is not true. My old roommate was just ordained deacon last month and is still on track for priestly ordination next year.But the whole thing has been very demoralizing for them. I don't know if they have lost any seminarians, but it would not surprise me. They feel like those priests were thrown under the bus by a diocese bowing under pressure from a city that wants the Church to just shut up and be part of the political machine.It's been demoralizing for me too. One of the priests removed was a man that I consider the best pastor I have ever had. He helped me through a very difficult time when I had to live away from my wife and infant daughter for 6 months. He was a great homilist, had a profound pastoral insight, and was even a great parish administrator. I was sure that he was on a fast track for the episcopacy. I don't know if the accusations agains him are true, or even if they are true if they are serious. But I feel a profound sense of loss.I have no problem with removing accused priests from ministry. It is not a presumption of guilt, it is a prudent course of action. But the Church has not been good about supporting them, both in guilt and in innocence. The guilty are treated as pariahs rather than wretched sinners. The innocent are not given the support and signs of confidence needed to return them to their previous state. We do not treat cleared priests as innocent, we treat cleared priests like they are guilty priests that we just didn't find enough evidence for this time.We should keep removing them, it is how we restore them that needs to change.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09561070172039384888 Barb Bathon

    kkollwitz, I am so glad to hear that!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18410137254315237608 Cavaliere

    Thank you for Fr. for your thoughts and comments vis a vis Fr. Corapi. When you said you don't know if he is innocent or not you left it at that. Practically every other article I've seen started by saying that and quickly proceeded to condemn him anyway.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14485618520177836909 soblessed

    @cavaliere:Excellent point. Yes, it disturbs me that Father Corapi is going down this path. That, however, is about the only thing I really can say right now. Anything else is based on my opinion or speculation. Anyhing else I say will most likely need to be retracted or modified in light of further revelations.There's been much talk about Father's actions scandalizing the faithful. In all honesty, what scandalizes me every bit as much is the eagerness with which "faithful" Catholics rush to condemn him. I guess the "I don't know BUT…" that proceeds so many blogger posts is the caveat that keeps them from presumption even as they go on to blast him in thousands of words. Even as I struggle with my own thoughts regarding what (little) we know, the willingness (need?) of so many to pass judgement on Father is competely disheartening.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05477541734518550697 Judy

    I definitly thing that a priest should be put on leave for a bit, getting some treatment for looking at pornography, since it is so addictive and messes up ones mind. Not added to a sex offender list, if that is really true, as that is so, so wrong. Sadly, once addicted to porn, it is something that must be worked on for the rest of ones life.Our prayers are with all priests these days. The money grubbers have been after the church's money and corrupt attorneys have been very willing to help, leaving the gate wide open for false accusations, since they know the Church will just pay.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05342713528373741011 Anne

    This is like Catholics acting like Roman soldiers casting lots for Our Lords vestments. People come to your senses!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00858195676825602917 Bill Meyer

    Would that we might all be perfect! But alas, we are not. So many have chosen to cast the first stone, and it is disheartening in the extreme. The same day as Fr. Corapi's initial statement was published, I was finally baptized at the age of 62, and after nearly five years of delays from the annulment process. The announcement cast a pall over the joy my wife and I felt for my baptism, and for our both being confirmed that same evening.It is indeed a feeding frenzy we are witnessing, and sad to note, some of my preferred bloggers are themselves gorging.I shall continue to pray for Fr. Corapi, for his detractors, and for his enemies.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12697020477754729610 maeve

    Your post is "spot on" Father. Thank you for putting into words what many of us are thinking. I pray daily for ALL priests throughout the world, as I realize they are under a microscope right now, and being persecuted unfairly in some instances. I believe that what Our Lady of Akita said in her third appearance is truly becoming reality here and now. Woe to all of us if this continues. ANY priest could be "thrown under the bus" for anything at all given the circumstances of this day and time. Jesus have mercy on us all, I pray. God bless all priests everywhere for all they do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18190677195600293017 Katy

    I am very unhappy about this state of affairs. Everyone should be treated with respect. My sympathies are with your statements, Father, but I have no idea what an ordinary Jane parishioner can do about it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02677700018308197978 truthfinder2

    Before I became Catholic, I heard it said that "Christians are the only ones who shoot their own wounded." Judging from some posts on other blogs, this is still (sadly) true. Thank you for your blog posts. We need to increase our prayers for our priests.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13733916328634922570 Curtis K

    Father,Very good post. Priests are definitely over worked and under appreciated. Your story about the statues reminded me of the verbal abuse our Pastor took for remodeling our church.Fr. Corapi needs our prayers regardless of what happened. Can you imagine if we as lay people spent as much time praying for our priests as we do criticizing them and searching for missteps? We could be talking about how saintly members of the clergy are instead.Lord, please bless our priests abundantly and guide them in their ministry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09322135500288738561 Bender

    The problem is that, in this area, those in positions of authority in the Church have totally forgotten about this thing called forgiveness — that you go into the confessional, you confess your sins, you receive absolution, you do your penance, and then . . . you move on with your life.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13164037888701658032 Jimmy

    Father Dwight,Thanks for that comment. We all need to wake up to the reality that if we don't fix this mess that good priests are so easily "fixed" in and neutralized, it won't take too long we'll all be sitting in Masses like the ones they had in "Frisco" I think it was, a few years back. Honestly Father, I don't think neither one of us is going to look that good in pancake make-up, heavy lipstick and eyeliner, not to mention those phony nuns; habits that the drag queens wanted to wear, and did, to the Holy sacrifice of the Mass.Yeah, okay, I know that's pretty far out. But just saying, let's all look real hard at what's been happening over the last few decades and what's happening now to our faithful, orthodox priests.God bless you, Father Dwight, and have a great time with the family this week. And then get over to that other post of the 17th or 18th June, and take that St. Pio comparison off there in regard to Father Corapi! ;*)Blessed Mother Mary, protect your priests! Amen

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09354066252979273490 Jeff

    Father,I recently read in Stapleton's "Explanation of Catholic Morals", chapter 44, that a priest that happens to sin against the sixth commandment does not break his vow of celibacy. According to Stapleton, the vow is only broken when the priest attempts marriage.Would you clear up the apparent contradiction between what you wrote in the second to the last paragraph compared with what Stapleton wrote?Regards,Jeff


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