No, EWTN is not airing Fr. Corapi – UPDATED

For reasons I will never understand, when it comes to this ongoing issue with Father John Corapi, my encouraging a “wait and see” attitude has translated (for some) as meaning “Mean Lizzie hates Fr. Corapi and cannot wait to see him destroyed, bwwwaaaahahahaha!”

Which, as I have said before, is crap. But people believe what they want, and that’s human nature, I guess.

So, a couple of hours ago, I get one of those “you hate Fr. Corapi” emails out of the blue, this one from a woman named Gloria: “Anchoress, EWTN is airing Father Corapi again, what do you think of that? I wonder if you’ll be so quick to put that up on your blog and admit you’ve been wrong…”

That was the nice part of the email. The rest of is was an odd combination of nasty suspicion, weird smugness and proclamations of love for some, and hopes for vengeance upon others.

I confess, “Sinner, fry in hell” rhetoric sometimes comes my way from Protestant visitors — I always take the time to look up the chapters and verses they cite in their condemnations too, because I like to learn things — but I’m not used to seeing it from Catholics; there have been more than a few of those sorts of missives this year, so that’s an interesting development in Ecumenism, perhaps.

We are living in very anxious times politically, spiritually, materially, and the world seems upside down — I almost dare to call it “diabolical disorientation” — and I think it has contributed to what has been a challenging and distressing Lent for all of us. I’m going to assume that’s why the emails are so umm . . . frothy! :-)

Which reminds me, for some reason, of a scene from one of the Marx Brothers films, where Zeppo (playing Groucho’s secretary) comes into the office exclaiming, “Sir, Mr. Jennings has been waiting to see you for an hour, and is waxing wroth!”

To which Groucho responded, “Well, let Roth wax Jennings for a while.”

Oh, laugh, for crying out loud; life is short.

Anyhow, I then noticed folks on Facebook saying that EWTN is “back to airing” Corapi, along with some speculation about it. Knowing that EWTN does not mandate what its affiliates air — it simply provides them with free content — I suspected this was about individual affiliate programming, more than anything.

Information is better than speculation (and it seems like the Corapi story has had aspects of opaqueness and obfuscation from the start) so I wrote to EWTN for clarification.

EWTN’s Director of Communications, Michelle Johnson was kind enough to respond:

“EWTN is not airing Father’s programs. If local EWTN radio affiliates wish to air programs to which they have the rights, they certainly may.”

For those who are still stymied about why EWTN or other outlets may not be airing Corapi’s work, this statement from Relevant Radio is really very helpful – here is an excerpt:

1) No cleric carries out the sacred ministry in his own name. He ministers at the will of his proper ecclesiastical authority, the bishop or religious superior as the case may be. The mission of the priest is to assist in teaching, sanctifying and governing. He has no right to do this on his own.

While the principle “innocent until proven guilty” still holds in canon law, it would be a mistake to hold that any cleric ever has a right to exercise the public ministry without his Bishop/Superior’s express permission, which can be withdrawn for prudential reasons.
Canon 822 §3 addresses the special duty of those involved with the media in this regard:
a. “All Christ’s faithful, especially those who in any way take part in the management or use of the media, are to be diligent in assisting pastoral action, so that the Church can more effectively exercise its office through these means.”
“To assist in pastoral action” means to cooperate with the proper ecclesiastical authorities. In the case of Fr. Corapi, Catholic media outlets will assist the process by supporting the indications and intentions of his superiors with respect to his temporary suspension from the public ministry of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. By continuing to air his programs claiming that he is “innocent until proven guilty,” a Catholic media outlet may unintentionally undermine the authority of [Fr. Corapi's] superior by leading the faithful to conclude that the superior unjustly put him on “administrative leave” because the allegations were not credible. It is entirely up to the proper ecclesiastical authority (bishop/superior) to determine if the complaint has merit, or the allegations are credible. Any dereliction in this duty would either harm the community or the defendant.

I get the sense, from my email, and from comments left here, at facebook and elsewhere, that EWTN, Relevant Radio and other outlets are taking a financial hit for being obedient to the process, and consistent in their response to these sorts of investigations.

It seems very odd to me that people who have always appreciated and supported Catholic media that has demonstrated fidelity to orthodoxy and ecclesiastic authority are suddenly deciding to close their wallets on the issue of this one priest. If you are one of those folks, ask yourself this: what happens when Catholic media outlets have to close their doors and shut down operations because you’ve stopped donating to them, in a fit of pique? Where do you go, then, for your orthodox and faithful programming?

Catholic media has an obligation to help the church be clear and credible, and its consumers need to be able to rely on Catholic broadcasters — to know that when they flip the dial to their station or their channel that they’re getting the truth delivered by priests, sisters and layfolk who are in “good standing” within the scope of their offices. It is not really reasonable to expect them to broadcasts priests who are currently without faculties or embroiled in controversies as priest-in-good-standing and authoritative — or for that matter, nuns who are outside of their vows as “sisters” in good standing.

Would you really, for instance, want to turn on EWTN and find them replaying old tapes of Fr. Francis Mary, who has since left the order? He spoke the truth, that’s true. But since he is no longer a Franciscan priest, don’t you think that would be confusing to viewers, and a misrepresentation of who he is?

I expect I’ll be accused of malice and hate, some more, but this all just seems reasonable to me

Let this investigation come to its conclusion; if all is well, Corapi will be back. If all is not well, well…that bridge gets crossed if it is encountered, and it may never get that far, but for heavens sake, don’t deprive the Catholic media outlets you love — and that you know bring you the reliability you crave — because you don’t like the fact that a favorite priest is undergoing investigation. That seems like cutting off the nose to spite the face.

And again, it seems to me the devil is having a great old time turning Catholics against each other. So much more fun and effective than just turning the press against the pope.

UPDATED: I see this is in comments already but as Deacon Greg notes it’s Friday, and every Friday brings further heat but no more light. I think I will resist answering this particular pavlovian bell.

For those of you in need of a Fr. Corapi fix, got this from his website:

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