Watch Out for Father Wonderful

Mark Shea has a good post here spring boarding on the now invisible Father Corapi.

I’ve written before about the temptation to turn priests into superheroes. By all means love your priest, support your priest, but don’t turn him into a plaster saint or you’ll be disappointed. Furthermore, you won’t be doing him any favors. Live with him and love him as a man and a friend. Respect him and honor his priesthood, but don’t idolize him. If you idolize him you’ll feed his ego and he’ll soon start believing the myth.

What happens is this: everybody needs to be loved. Priests too. Very often because of celibacy (and other complex reasons) they feel lonely and unloved. They love they get from the parish becomes important. If they’re not careful they’ll eliminate their critics and surround themselves with groupies. The people collude in this process because they want a priest like that. They long for the perfect priest to give them the love they need and to be the role model and ideal they are longing for.

It’s all like a sick, immature love affair in which the girl “falls in love” with a guy who will love her and the guy “falls in love” with the girls who will look after him. It’s a kind of sick contract in which both parties scratch each other’s back.

The way of true friendship is a way of unconditional love and acceptance. Taking people for exactly who they are and taking ourselves for exactly who we are. No whitewash. No phoney-ness. No false piety. No hero worship.

Love needs true grit, not starry eyed wishful thinking.

Read More: On Priests and Pedestals; Fr Jekyll and Mr Hyde;

 

 

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)

    “love needs true grit”- yes! and this is why we should fast and pray for our priests!

  • Sandra Lipari

    For a happy gray Monday, Fr. Longenecker and Mark Shea have spoken poorly and need to apologize to Catholics.
    Yes, much gets unbalanced by mere position that you so brokenly diminish and crumble for reason of a subject you NEED to write upon this Monday? We will be attacked and very virulently and violently are… Save it for those outside! Attacks within are bad enough too! Shut down! I am offended.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    There is nothing to apologize for. One of the worst things in any religious set up is for the leader to be put on a pedestal as if he can do no wrong. It leads to personality cults–which are havens for immature religious people and a breeding ground for abuses of all sorts. This kind of false religion is dangerous to souls and it is also a terrible witness to those outside the faith. I’m not knocking just Catholics here. I’m down on a certain type or religious behavior wherever it appears, and in contrast I support and uphold every sort of good, mature and whole type of religious life–and there is plenty of that in Catholicism, and for that I thank God.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    I once got the advice that if someone gushingly praises your sermon say to them: “Get behind me Satan!” I think that is good advice for there is nothing more corrosive of true Christian humility than words that feed pride and the ego.

  • Lank

    Does that apply to Bishops also?

    • John

      Not only does it apply to bishops it applies to the bishop of Rome as well as St. Paul shows us.

  • http://www.acts24.com/blog Father Maurer

    Good points, Father & Deacon. Its far too easy to begin taking compliments to heart, and thinking that I’m less of a sinner than I really am! Thanks for the reminders.

  • Thom Brady

    It is disappointing and disheartening to see priests, deacons, and religious “gang” up on a man (who is your fellow priest) who brought thousands back into the Church.

    Mark Shea does not have a good post. He has a post based on rumors and hearsay. Last I checked, no one idolized Fr Corapi. I hope that when the day comes when some crazed looney falsely accuses you, that the flock stands by and with you; and not stands on you and stomps on you like you do Fr. Corapi. You get a high calling him superhero and folk hero, etc. Are you jealous he is so well loved and respected that you have to resort to lies and name calling?

    Shame on you all who continue to tear our priests down!!! Stop it! That includes you, too, Priests!!!

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Why not take a deep breath and read my whole post and you’ll see I haven’t bashed any priests.

    • jeb

      I agree.with Thom Brady.

  • Frank

    Does unconditional love include the slanted seeking of love? Do I love the priest who is a threat to my chastity?

    I know I’m baiting but it seems odd to replace one fuzzy phrase (no pedestals!) with another (love unconditionally!)

    What does being a friend of a priest look like?

    • Neal

      Loving a Priest means doing the good for him regardless of the benefit/detriment to you. So if a priest were a threat to your chastity, the loving thing would be to create some distance.

      Fr. Dwight or some other priest might disagree with me (I am not a priest), but I would think unconditional love/true friendship to a priest would be much the same as how we love our close friends and such. Be honest with them, don’t flatter them, if they are out of line, pull them aside and express your concerns as a friend. I only wish someone in Fr. Corapi’s inner circle would have been like, “John, let me talk to you man to man, we have a few problems here.”

      Again, I am not a priest, but I was in seminary for a while and know a lot of priests, remember they are normal guys! Some of them are really smart, some are average intelligence, some are easy to talk to, some are abrasive. Like me, they can be a model of charity on a Tuesday and a complete jerk on a Wednesday. I would think a good way to be a friend of a priest is to invite one over for dinner, especially if you are married with children. For single people, it is better to have a group of other single people invite the priest over, to lessen the possibility of attachment which can hinder progress in the spiritual life. A good meal, a fine wine, good conversation and above all, prayer in common are wonderful ways to be a friend to a priest!

  • Bryan

    Completely agree, Father. At the same time, it would be nice if Shea could find a way to make his point with even a tiny amount of compassion for the people who were victims of a scam like Corapi’s — even if they brought it on themselves. I’d make the point on his site, but I think he doesn’t like to post people who disagree with him: there’s an irony there, I imagine.

    I think the guys who catch the hero-worship are going to tend to be “conservative,” since they are the ones who are seen as counter-cultural in lots of places. I bet that, prior to Vatican II, it was the liberal priests who caught the worship. Interesting and timely post.

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  • Arnobius of Sicca

    It is sad when a priest stumbles, and it is a good reminder that no matter how strong he seems to be, our priests need our prayers to sustain them in their ministries or, should they fall, to be restored to grace.

  • Meri

    I don’t understand the responses to this post. Where in his commentary is Fr. Longenecker attacking the Church or bashing priests?

    He is merely stating that when you feed a priests ego the way that some people do and put him up on a pedestal the way that some people do, he will inevitably give in to the sin of pride and start focusing on himself rather than our Lord. It’s simply human nature to behave that way. Priests are human after all and they are tempted just like us. Nobody should ever trick themselves into believing that our priests are perfect(superhero like) and nobody should ever allow the priests to know that they are thought of that way. That is not a good formula.

    Priests are special people in that they have been chosen by God himself to do his works on this earth. We owe it to God to protect these men. We can start by doing our best to protect them from the sin of pride.

    If you idolize a priest and they fall and disappoint you, you react by either giving up on the Church or denying that the priest has fallen and turn against the Church. Neither one of those responses is good for the Church or our priests. Nor is it good for the laity that will ultimately end up turning on each other over the fallen priest. Than the devil can have a good hearty laugh at our expense.

  • Joe

    Shea has always written with a sharp and unempathetic tone…no surprise there. I’d like to see him open up the Catechism in the inviting, clear, and yet reverent manner of Fr. Corapi. It’s easy to forget a man’s good works after a fall, but I agree nobody should be idolized.

  • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com Anthony S. Layne

    Yes, it certainly is a shame that that Johnny-come-lately convert Paul of Tarsus criticized Peter so vehemently in Antioch over that minor business of not eating with the Gentiles when some of James’ crowd was around … especially in the midst of persecution by the Sanhedrin! :^)=)

    Seriously, we are never too much under attack to engage in fraternal correction, although I agree with Bryan that Mark Shea can be too abrasive and touchy at times. (On the other hand, he does allow counterarguments on his posts; he just doesn’t let them go unrebutted or unrebuked.) Respect and affection for priests doesn’t preclude calling them out when they’re in error. Occasionally this does lead to “circular firing squads” … but better than than the pretense that all is perfect when it’s not.

    (I might also point out the inherent self-contradiction of falsely attacking Fr. Dwight for falsely attacking Fr. Corapi … splinters and beams.)

  • Ben

    Deacon John, I can see the danger to humility from complimenting a cleric for a homily, etc. Yet if no one ever compliments him, the only side of the story the priest or deacon would ever hear would be criticism…which might be rather demoralizing! And he would be sure to start thinking – maybe quite unjustifiably – that he had to change the way he did things. Someone might say that the cleric should get any affirmation he needs from God…and yet, that very expectation puts him on a pedestal already. We all need human support, which helps to make God’s affirmation incarnate.

    There are the supposed ‘Fr Wonderfuls’ who might be in danger of becoming the centre of a personality cult. But I don’t think this is the norm – the average priest is in so many ways a typical human being who needs a bit of affirmation from time to time.

    So I would say, keep the compliments going, if appropriate and true, and always of course in moderation. This really applies to complimenting any person, not just clerics. It is primarily up to the person complimented to deal with the side effect of temptation to humility that might result.

    • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

      Ben I particularly put the word “gushingly” praise in my comment to denote there are some who overdo it. A priest (or deacon) who delivers an excellent homily should get some positive feedback to encourage him and to help him with future endeavors. But I have heard some pretty bizarre and over the top praise given to some preachers. Stuff like: “They ought to make you a bishop!” Or “You know more than the pope!”
      It is fawning , overblown, almost worshipful praise of anyone (priests, deacons, sports figures, politicians) that can be so morally damaging to its recipient. In such cases the gushing praiser is doing Satan’s work.

  • http://irishpapist.blogspot.ie Maolsheachlann O Ceallaigh

    I wonder if there is not more of a danger than a priest will be neglected and unappreciated rather than treated as a superhero. I know that sometimes I have complimented a priest on his homily, but it was because I felt people were shuffling and sighing in the pews and I thought he might need some encouragement. I also sent an email complimenting our university pastor on his sermon for pretty much the same reason, because I felt he really makes an effort and the congregation seems very inattentive. I hope I wasn’t tempting them to egomania!

  • http://patheos.com Phyllis Shea

    The first thing I thought when I read Mark Shea’s blog was why bring this up now? Father Corapi has been out of the news for quite some time, and those truly interested in Father Corapi would not go to Mark Shea to find out. Then he threw Michael Voris into the mix, and I realized that this was just a hate post. I suspect that Mark was bored, and wanted to mix things up abit. Father Corapi’s followers and his followers (I know, I know Mark doesn’t have a cult following, wink wink.) go after each other, and he sits back and enjoys the show. Is there really any other reason to bring Father Corapi up now? Father, you yourself said he was now invisible. There really was no reason to bring him up. Father, I don’t believe it was a good post. It was a mean-spirited post, and Mark Shea was just being mean.

  • Julie C.

    Father, I must admit that I am a bit confused and, perhaps, dismayed by this post. I have read it several times and still don’t “get it”! I see nothing wrong with complimenting a priest or deacon on an excellent homily. You are a priest yourself! I am sure that 95% percent of the congregation may not comment on a homily, but wouldn’t a priest want to know that their words really got through to someone, hit home with someone, inspired someone. Perhaps a homily has made a distraught person rethink suicide, or divorce, or adultery, or inspired them to offer up their pains and problems. A priest needs to know that someone is listening and their words and work are getting through. You are an author. Would you have continued to write if you received only negative feedback on all of your books? Your books have changed lives. Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing, has changed lives. If you had never heard from any of these people whose lives have been impacted, would you have continued to write or would you have eventually become discouraged and given up? Can’t a priest just take a compliment for what it is and be happy that they have received this gift and have been able to make a difference for someone in pain? Priests are men, just like everyone else. I believe that a priest that lets everything go to his head, would be the same no matter what profession he entered. We all have to combat pride every now and then, but it is certainly not the fault of the honest person giving the compliment. The fault lies within!

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I must not have been clear. There’s nothing wrong with complimenting a priest or criticizing a priest as long as it is genuine and real. What I’m criticizing is the tendency some people have of investing too much in a particular priest and building him up into something greater than he is. Some people do this because they are creating in their own mind this ideal person they can look up to. In the meantime, some priests are happy to go along with the process because it feeds their ego. Good, honest friendship and genuine relationships are what is needed.

      • Julie C.

        Glad to hear this, Father! Since I have complimented you on your homilies before, I was a little afraid that perhaps, as I enter church, you are envisioning horns protruding from my forehead.

        For years, as soon as I leave Mass with my children, I tell them that the first one that can talk for 5 minutes telling me about that day’s homily and their reflections on it would get to choose what I cooked for dinner that day. I must admit, we have heard some priests that even I had no idea of what the priest was trying to say. Their homily may have been filled with nice words and feelings, but there was no substance and certainly nothing to be retained…….and I have also heard some excellent homilies that really “stood things on their head” and made me see something in a very different light, God’s light and I am forever changed. It is then that I pay a compliment.

  • FW Ken

    The mix of respect and criticism with which Catholics treat the priest is a constant source of entertainment. We are sort of like teenagers who love their parents but also love to pick. But we eventually recognize that our spiritual fathers are a lot like our earthly fathers: imperfect but doing their best. When we quit trying to find a flawless daddy, there its room for love.

    As to Mark Shea, his Reform background comes through a lot. Puritanism is hard to shake. Which is fine: 25 years on, I’ve got a lot of Anglican in me yet.

  • Paul

    Hello Father. I guess what troubles me is Mark’s post and, by extension, your approval of it as a “good post.” I loved listening to Father Corapi’s Catechism series for its clarity, fervor, and simplicity. His fall has saddened me but I can’t really bring myself to be angry or hateful with him or those who continue to defend him. I think many of his followers are filled with pity for him. Your posts are consistently level headed and well thought out. Mark, on the other hand, can, at times, come across as very sarcastic and petulant. There’s a big difference between “I had my suspicions about this person and I am saddened to see that my suspicions were true.” and “I knew he was a crook all along and the dupes that fell for his scheme sure are mad now.” While your comments have fallen into the feeling of the more charitable example, some of Mark’s comments come across like the latter.

    Text, however, can a terrible method of communication. We often don’t get the real emotion and intent behind someone’s words when all we see is the text without the voice. Perhaps that’s the problem here.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      While I don’t always agree with Mark’s style I usually agree with his content.

  • Paul Rodden

    Father wounds.

  • Neal

    Father Dwight,

    This is soooo right, you are so smart, and really great, and a snappy dresser. I sure wish other Catholic priests were like you, rather than those conserva-liberal bishops who want to be sedevacontist protestants. Fr. Dwight for President/Pope!

    seriously though, good post. I should think it would help to remember that even a priest who does everything right, and IS a saint, is simply doing what Christ told him to do. What’s a saint other than someone who more often than not did what was asked of him, instead of (like me) hitting the snooze button on our spiritual life and going back to the pig slop for seconds.

  • Gina

    I think of Mother Angelica, Johnette benkovic and other devout Catholics who were inspired by Father Corapi’s retreats/mission talks. He was invited to speak as a guest on Some of EWTN shows because by the grace of God he spoke the truth. As a cradle catholic I had never heard about the catechism until I Stumbled onto Ewtn and his show. God used him to open my eyes. He has made a grave mistake and I pray for him. Saint John Vianney and Saint Padre Pio had people flocking to them for confession, for prayer intercession and to hear them say Mass. We have so many immoral examples who lead this world I think it’s hard for people not to fall into the temptation to want saintly priests to follow.

  • Gina

    I just read Mark Shea’s blog again about Father Corapi and I am not at all sure his blog is worth referring people to. First, Father Corapi may be a priest in grave sin but he is still a priest and deserves prayers not arrogant criticism. Mark only listened to Fathers political talks and obviously not the ones on the catechism. Father was invited on EWTN to discuss the obligation Catholics have to vote pro life during the 2008 elections too bad so many Catholics agreed with Mark and thought Father and the church was too “conservative.” We shouldn’t idolize any one but God and its sad for the people who left Jesus and his church to follow Father Corapi. They are in my prayers along with Father Corapi because he is still a priest. The pope never condemned Father’s talks so why does Mark feel entitled too? I hope and pray God sends a saintly priest my way perhaps like St. John Vianney so when I attend Mass I get the truth and not watered down homilies that make people feel good.

  • FW Ken

    Shea’s columns in the Register are generally quite good. The blog does go off the rails, although like Fr. L, I usually agree with his points.

  • Mary Beth

    Everyone should respect and honor a priest because he is doing God’s Holy work, but this priest is also a man and a human being. Therefore, put the priestly duty up on that pedestal, but look at the man for what He is. Everyone has faults. Everyone has good in them. Does this man live by what he preaches? Has this priest truly given back to God? Does the man make time for others? Most of all, does he really show that he loves God above everything else? If you can answer “yes” to all of these questions then say Thank You God for giving me a great spiritual leader to bring me closer to YOU. This man who happens to be a priest is a gift. Isn’t “God” what it’s really all about?

  • jeb

    I saddens me that Catholics like Mark Shea and priests here on this website are so scornful and hardhearted regarding another sinner. I loved Fr Corapi for preaching the truth and defending the Church. I am sad for his fall and pray that he goes to confession and repents. Have any of you never sinned?

  • TraceyP

    Um, wow. I don’t think anybody made Fr. Corapi a “superhero” except jealous peers who didn’t like what he had to say. I don’t know what Father did in his personal life ***any more than you do***; I know Father Corapi denies the charges of this drunk accuser to this very day, and that the Bible says you look into such charges if TWO OR MORE bring charges against the priest. In Fr. Corapi’s case, there was ONE witness, and a specious one at that. And then his own brothers turned on him nearly as one unit, with charges they claim to have known about for years (why didn’t they bring those up before the drunken, former employee’s charge). And that Fr. Corapi was shut down by the Diocense of Corpus Cristi. Just as many FAITHFUL priests who have been shut up, unable to defend themselves, leaving the laity primarily with priests who publicly and openly DEFY the faith: ones who don’t believe in the Resurrection (want NAMES?), who don’t believe the Pope is anyone to be respected (again, want NAMES?), who believe most of the Faith is “sorcery” and “black magic”. The American Catholic Church is in DIRE STRAITS; we laity may be “wrong” to flee to traditional services and traditional priests, but we, the sheep, are HUNGRY.

    Why is it that, even if every single charge against Fr. Corapi were upheld, he is so easily stripped of his ministry, but KNOWN PEDOPHILES AND “bishops” like Mahony are simply moved to other dioceses? Seriously. ANSWER ME THAT.

    You say we want to put Fr. Corapi (or Fr. Groeschel?) on a pedestal? NO! We want a priest who believes what he’s saying! We want the PEDOS and unbelievers OUT, and the solid priests IN. Fr. Corapi is a solid priest, faithful, who can be judged by his fruits.

    The ones who shut him up will ALSO be judged by his fruits. *crickets*

    (That is: they HAVE NO FRUIT.)

    I may be simple laity, but that’s what the Church and the Bible says. Fr. Corapi was thrown under the bus, and those of us who [do our duty!] in supporting his ministry are also being thrown under the bus for praying for him; for correcting falsehoods that are repeated in the media about him.

    Think about it. Visit some parishes and THINK about your post.

  • Paul Rodden

    This article’s now old enough for me to vent my spleen without too many, if any people viewing it, so…

    Why am I getting sick of Scott Hahn and seeing his endorsement on the back of nearly every book I read? Is he the new, global, Censor Librorum?

    My head and my gut are going different directions on this one, and he and his followers are beginning to give me the creeps, even though I have no evidence of anything untoward whatsoever…


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