School for scandal: how St. Pio responded

School for scandal: how St. Pio responded March 23, 2011

More than a few people in comments here and elsewhere have  compared Fr. John Corapi to Padre Pio — most significantly because both men, while renowned for their faith and their piety, faced very public accusations of scandal.  Padre Pio, of course, was also charged with having multiple affairs and, like Fr. Corapi, had his priestly faculties suspended.  St. Pio also faced repeated allegations that his stigmata was self-inflicted.

I was curious: what did St. Pio do?  How did he respond to the accusations (which were later recanted)?

I found one answer in a biography, as recounted in the blog Te Deum:

After Vespers, Padre Raffaele summoned Pio to the friary parlor and read the decree received on June 11, 1931, without comment:

“Padre Pio is to be stripped of all faculties of his priestly ministry except the faculty to celebrate the Holy Mass, which he may continue to do provided it is done in private, within the walls of the friary, in the inner chapel, and not publicy in church”.

To that, Ruffin explains St. Pio’s initial reaction:

“God’s will be done,”…then he covered his eyes with his hands, lowered his head, and murmured, “The will of the authorities is the will of God.”

While this caused immense suffering for Pio, which was confided privately to his friend and former teacher, Padre Agostino, he did not complain or make objections, especially in a public way. Padre Agostino asked him how he spent his time and Pio replied, “I pray and I study as much as I can, and then I annoy my Brothers.” Pio went on to elaborate that he jokes with his brothers.  With regards to study, he spent much time in Sacred Scripture, and he especially studied the Fathers of the Church.

Two years later, on March 14, 1933, Pope Pius XI, sent personal representatives to see Padre Pio, who had been “imprisoned” without the ability to celebrate Mass publicly since June of 1931. Monsignor Luca Pasetto and Monisgnor Felice Bevilaqua. Bernard Ruffin continues in his book:

“They found no wild-eyed fanatic, no crazed neurotic, no embittered rebel, but a pleasant, humorous man. According to [Padre] Raffaele, Pasetto was very much impressed with Pio’s humility, his docility, and the whole of his conduct. He recognized Pio as a man of prayer and entirely godly.”

There’s much more at the link.  It offers a lesson for all of us.

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34 responses to “School for scandal: how St. Pio responded”

  1. It’s important to note that not all of Padre Pio’s detractors were anti-clericalists or spiritual slackers. The harshest words of criticism, that he was an “ignorant and self-mutliating psychopath,” came from Fr. Agostino Gemelli, OFM, a very dedicated priest in his own right. It just so happens that Fr. Gemelli’s scientific training had left him with a bias against supernatural signs.

    Yes, I know — pleading Gemelli’s good qualities before Padre Pio’s devotees is a little like reminding Jackie Robinson fans that Dixie Walker was a great outfielder. But there it is, anyway.

  2. Is this for real? Another scarcely veiled shot at fr corapi because of a comparison some of his supporters made? When will the vituperation of this man end? Was st.thomas more unholy when he defended.himself in the house of lords?

  3. “I pray and I study as much as I can…” … With regards to study, he spent much time in Sacred Scripture, and he especially studied the Fathers of the Church.

    Being suspended certainly has it’s positive side in providing a certain break from the demands of routine and some time for positive spiritual pursuits.

    God Bless

  4. I personally think this post is a bit unfair it its timing. Is it intended as a “read between the lines” posting? I think that whether intended or not, this post can lead some to detraction and therefore should be removed.

  5. Deacon Greg,

    Your analogy doesn’t hold up very well. Padre Pio had a community to which he belonged and in which he remained during his time of persecution. Even though it was in private, he was nevertheless permitted to say Mass daily.

    The same is not true for diocesan priests who are kicked out of their rectories and prohibited from saying Mass at all. They are treated as lepers. Perhaps if Padre Pio had been treated then as priests are treated today, cut off from his support and unable to function at all as a priests, he might not have been so docile and filled with good humor.

    People’s analogies to teachers, etc… also miss the mark. Those working with children obviously need to be separated from them, as their alleged conduct is predatory, pathological, and criminal in nature. But they still receive their paychecks and are able to maintain a domicile and related living expenses.

    Priests today, especially diocesan priests do not enjoy such benefits.

    If the process of adjudication finds Corapi guilty, then the question is one of rehabilitation and restoration. Perhaps his very public ministry might be a near occasion of sin, much as walking past the bar is for an alcoholic.

    If the process of adjudication finds no merit in the charges, then a good man was needlessly trashed in public. Again, the presumption of innocence necessarily carries with it being treated as innocent unless and until guilt can be established. In cases not involving criminal allegations, this ought to be the norm.

    I’m not invested in the outcome here, but I think that how we go about the process says more about us than the accused, for good or ill.

  6. BTW, I realize that Father Corapi is not a diocesan priest, and that he is in community. I should have mentioned that. However, I think the application of the Dallas protocols in allegations involving adults are hardly as charitable as Pio’s arrangements.

  7. The road to sanctification is very difficult. I think the point of Deacon’s post is not to point out a direct correlation between Padre Pio’s situation and Fr. Corapi’s. Clearly, they are different, based in part on the times and how these incidences were handled. However, it is notable to take a look at Padre Pio’s reaction to the directive. Humbly, he accepted that the Church’s will is God’s will.

    I believe there is an amazing opportunity for any priest who undergoes this kind of trial, to offer up the incredible suffering from the situation for the sins of many. Whether the priest is guilty or not, the suffering can be redemptive. To submit in total humility in these kinds of situations is a gift to the Lord. In the case of a sinful priest whose allegations are true, the suffering is an opportunity for his own redemption and a humble move to seek mercy. In the case where the priest is not guilty and in fact may be under attack, humble submission to the process may be exactly what he may need, in God’s plan for his sanctification. Through humility, the innocent priest can do much for the kingdom through the bearing of this cross!

  8. Gerard…

    I’m not the one who made the analogy to Padre Pio. Numerous readers did. With so many people saying “This is just like what happened to Padre Pio,” I was curious to see how he confronted a similar type of scandal (albeit, under different circumstances, 80 years ago.) The sanctions imposed on him are the same as those imposed on Fr. Corapi (who may still celebrate mass privately.)

    With a community to support him, it might be argued that Fr. Corapi is in better circumstances than diocesan priests facing the same fate.

    There’s no question the Dallas charter is seriously flawed and that innocent men are being blackballed and their reputations shredded.

    But, until his name was cleared and the charges recanted, wasn’t that the same with Padre Pio?

    Dcn. G.

  9. I guess Joan of Arc was also off base to utter any defense of herself againt the accusations of Bishop Cauchon…. she should have gone to the stake silently and happily…

  10. Deacon Greg,

    Excellent post! Thank you for this. There is an important study in contrasts between the two reactions.

  11. I could not disagree more Mike. As a wise man once said, the saints are all wildly different, it is sinners who are the same.

    Corapi’s reaction was perfectly appropriate and respectful of Church authority and I literally cannot fathom the rush to criticize his every utterance.

  12. not sure if it has been posted, but here it is, EWTN statement:

    Official EWTN Statement Regarding Fr.John Corapi Dear EWTN Family:

    We are aware that many of our supporters are disappointed in EWTN’s decision to remove Father John Corapi’s programs from the Network during his administrative leave. We too are greatly disappointed that EWTN had to make this difficult decision. We can assure you that it was made with much prayer and careful discernment.

    The fact is that Father John’s own religious community has placed him on administrative leave and his capacity to function publicly as a priest has been suspended during the investigation of the charges against him. This was officially communicated to all of the bishops of the country in a statement saying that, “…Fr. Corapi has been placed on administrative leave and has had all of his priestly faculties removed.”

    In EWTN’s thirty years of existence, the Network has never knowingly aired programming featuring any priest whose priestly faculties have been suspended. The Network has always responded consistently and immediately in such situations by removing such programs from the air. We are obliged to do so in obedience to the discipline of the Church.

    Father John has long been a friend of EWTN and many of us have worked closely with him throughout the years. He is a tremendously gifted preacher who has led many souls to Christ. We are doing exactly as he has asked and supporting him and everyone involved in the situation in the best way possible, through our prayers.

    It is also our prayer that this matter will be brought to a speedy resolution so that Father John’s programs can be returned to the airwaves.

    Thank you for your understanding. May God bless you.

    Read more:

  13. The life of St. Pio is really fascinating. There was a great movie made a couple of years ago from eyewitness accounts and historical testimony. It’s in Italian but there are subtitles. It traces his life from his boyhood and it does follow the dramatic process of meetings with his inquisitor.

    In a process of reversion to the faith, I watched the movie as I had been skeptical about the different things said about Padre Pio. While on the one hand, his spiritual writings seemed most encouraging, I had heard really mocking and derisive things said about him that made me wonder what the truth was. I challenged myself to watch this biography and came away, not being dazzled or distracted by all of the sensational aspects but being convinced of his saintliness for the way in which he handled the accusations against him. Total obedience, extraordinary humility. I think that his sainthood lies not in all the terrific remarkable things we all hear, but precisely in what he did to respond to what was said about him. It wasn’t just that the accusations were leveled, like a list of charges, but that he was continually baited by them, they were exaggerated and distorted and changed many times over. And it was a long ordeal and sometimes a roller coaster. Few of us would have the wherewithal to be able to maturely handle accusations that went to the core of our vocations, let alone show the dignity and simple trust that he showed. Given Padre Pio’s personality and temperament, it was very likely that much more difficult for him to choose, daily, hourly, the response he did. Pray for us, Saint Pio.

  14. St Pio didn’t have a website either. If he did, he would deny the accusations as well.

  15. Interesting thing about Padre Pio is that it took a bilocation to restore his faculties to hear confessions. The holy Cardinal, Merry da Val, had opposed Padre Pio due to many theologians doubting the truth of his stigmata, which he was not allowed to show inquisitors without a command from the pope. In any event, da Val was told by his friend, the holy priest, Don Orione, that he had seen Padre Pio praying in the crypt of Saint Peter’s at the tomb of Pius X. Da Val was Pius X’s secretary of state and close confidante. This bilocation moved Pius XI to restore faculties to the saint; still, however, he was never allowed to preach.

  16. Nobody is denying anybody the right to defend themselves in the proper forum. Not everybody has to be St. Gerard Majella, or the early saint he was imitating whose name I can’t recall. Everybody’s holy in their own way. But. Any Catholic in the public eye, anybody who runs a Catholic organization, has a special responsibility to act with decorum and with gravitas in the face of adversity, and to imitate Christ. You don’t want to look like a whiner or somebody passive/aggressive, because that’s not like Christ.

    Any priest who stands at the altar in persona Christi and derives his faculties from the bishops, who derive their faculties from the hands of the Apostles and Jesus Christ, has a special responsibility to be obedient. Again, like Christ, who was obedient unto death on a cross. Same thing with religious, because being obedient is an important part of their ascetic training to be saints. They signed up for that.

    Back to decorum and not whining, which apply to us normal people most. It’s very tempting in a digital world for even us nobodies to tell everybody about every time somebody’s mean to us, and to urge revolt against the idiots who grind us down. But sometimes it’s prudent not to speak, just as sometimes it’s prudent to keep talking. It’s okay to ask for help, but it’s not okay to plead for enablers to come and enable you. That’s why we need to pray for wisdom from the Holy Spirit, often.

  17. I don’t know if that would be true, Greg Hessel in Arlington Diocese, as there are well-known members of religious orders in this day and age who aren’t on the internet or have a bare bones presence which is informative about dates and events etc. but not interactive or personal. Mother Teresa’s order doesn’t seem to be heavily invested in the internet yet her words reverberate constantly. I suppose it depends on the charism and particular religious order.

    Another interesting aspect is the fact that in St. Pio’s case, many around him in the clergy, the Church authorities, accepted the accusations as true and proceeded on their assumptions in their investigation of him. I doubt there was much incentive or encouragement to level accusation, whether true or not, towards a priest in those days as it was a different time and place. But for St. Pio the Church pretty much adopted the charges as true and they proceeded against him on that basis, with a concerted campaign, trying to drive him out.

    One allegation concerned the stigmata, whether it was real or not, or made up by St. Pio to get attention to himself. Obviously the comparison to what is going on now doesn’t work on that one.

    Whereas in this instance the Church authorities are communicating that they are complying with the procedures which require administrative leave pending an investigation, triggered by a complaint. One hopes that within those same procedures are minimal or basic provisions for due process.

    When it is said that an accusation is not credible that is sort of a legalese tip off that there are likely factual inconsistencies or clear evidence that what is alleged could not, for whatever reasons, have happened as stated. No one is saying the accuser is lying, who knows what is going on with that person. But that doesn’t mean that the story, whatever it may be, patently adds up either. In this situation I think it is fair to read between the lines and take confidence from that.

  18. Brothers and Sisters,
    As Saint Padre Pio would say, “Don’t spend your energies on things that generate worry, anxiety and anguish. Only one thing is necessary: Lift up your spirit and love God.”

    And as our Holy Mother told us at Akita, Japan, “With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and 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 bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars 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.”

    We are at war with Satan and his followers. We must turn to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and ask for strength, courage and guidence. We must pick up the weapons He has given us and Fight!! Go to holy confession and holy communion. Put on the armor that God has given us to wear (Brown Scapular, Miraculous Medal). Listen to the Holy Church. Pick up the weapons God has given us to defend ourselves from the evil ones (Our Father, Hail Mary, The Rosary) and fight. Pray that God the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit upon the Earth. Pray that Mary is permitted to strike Satan with her foot and crush him.
    And remember that the devil will take a yard for every inch you give up. Don’t give in.

  19. Deacon Greg,

    I see your point about not being the author of the analogy. My apologies for missing that.

    I also see your point about Padre Pio not lashing out under similar circumstances, but I don’t think that a calm, placid demeanor in the face of false allegations of this sort (if indeed they are false) is less than saintly. This is so especially in light of the abuses arising from the Dallas charter.

    I’ve been to the ordinations of friends, and note the moment when the candidate kneels before his bishop and places his folded hands inside the bishop’s and promises to respect and obey him and all of his successors. Cardinal O’Connor also used the occasion to describe how the newly ordained were his spiritual sons and he was their spiritual father.

    Speaking as a married, biological father, I would never treat my son or daughters in the barbaric manner that innocent men have been treated under the Dallas charter. I, as their father, am entitled to a certain degree of divinely commanded honor in the Ten Commandments. But beyond that, respect from my children must also be earned. It is earned through my fearsome protection of them from all predators, and through my fairness and equanimity in my dealings with them and in my governance of their dealings with one another.

    When fathers are abusive toward their children, it provokes rebellion. Betrayal has a way of doing that.

    As spiritual fathers, I expect my bishops to act like fathers with their sons. They aren’t. So when they don’t I believe a reaction such as Father Corapi’s, who sees himself as another in a lengthening list of casualties hung out to dry by their “Father” , is normal and even healthy. He is submitting to authority, but decrying the shredding of his good name by the author of the letter and by his superiors.

    This, more than the allegations, is having a horrendous effect on the morale of our priests. They made their act of submission on ordination day, and their bishops are acting shamefully.

    Not every innocent man is as fortunate as Padre Pio to live to see the false allegation recanted. It is a wicked absolution of the bishops’ cowardice (as I’ve seen written elsewhere) to then claim that this is their martyrdom to be suffered stoically for the sake of the Kingdom.

  20. Thank you Deacon Greg. Excellent Post! Let’s continue to pray for Fr. Corapi and offer our daily sufferings and prayers for him.

  21. The thing in common these priests have is they are the voice of the church, one after dying, one while living.
    Let us pray His bride is not silenced.

  22. I will repeat what I wrote yesterday. Fr. Corapi has taken a vow of obedience to the Church as represented by his Bishops and the Superiors of his order which always means that one recognizes the authority of the Church in every instance. BTW religious vows of obedience are expressly as vows of obedience to God Himself as represented by one’s superiors which includes Bishops. Fr. Corapi went viral to defend himself and relating much of the info that is being discussed. He himself opened this can of worms by doing so.

    His Bishop and his Superiors made it clear in their statements (after his own) that this was intended to be an internal affair under investigation. Fr. Corapi appeared to take exception that the Church’s representatives were investigating while putting him on administrative leave. Granted this well may be resolved quickly to his good but he has not been silent re this, unlike the Bishop and his Superiors. Let’s give the process a chance to work. Best to clear it up quickly and quietly. Fr. Corapi made the latter impossible by his rush to judgment against the Church’s rightful authorities giving excuse to divide the Church faithful. The Bishop and the Superiors of any religious order have the obligation to defend and protect the Church which is the Bride of Christ. That is their primary obligation – always has been and always will be. A priest obedient and humble has nothing to fear.

  23. Sam, Your points are generally well-made, but you are missing something here. In the current political climate, a sudden and silent departure is a neon billboard advertising a scandal. People immediately suspect charges of pedophilia and the rumor mill swings into high gear. If Corapi’s superiors can’t see this, then it causes one to wonder what planet they’ve been living on these past eight years.

  24. I was thinking of Padre Pio and his suffering as a priest, not only his stigmata but the false accusations made against him. I guess Fr. Corapi is going towards saint hood in a powerful way by taking on so much persecutions from the people. I just pray he has the strength to overcome these ugly, nasty, evil accusations. God bless this holy, loving, and hard sacrificing priest. We all love you and pray for you.

  25. In the olden days(my parents time) when the Church gave you an order, especially if you were a priest, you did what you were told. My mother was the type to go to one doctor and never get a second opinion either, she had complete trust in the one. But now we don’t have to ‘take it on the chin’ we can open our arms and get support of our friends and family. We don’t have to suffer alone, even Jesus had his Mother and St John at the foot of the cross.

    Father Corapi do anything unusual only asked for us to pray for him and his accusers. I am sure Father Corapi also got a second opinion when he had his heart attack, this doesn’t make him a bad priest nor a bad man. The world is different and he did exactly what I would have done under the circumstances.

  26. I look forward to the truth in this matter coming to light. Either Fr. Corapi is a scoundrel or he will be confirmed from Above as the premier evangelizing American priest of our generation, having survived a demonic attack. Time will tell which alternative is true.

    Meanwhile the bishops’ hypocrisy calls to Heaven for vengeance. One newspaper found that 2 of 3 US bishops serving during the Crisis engaged in coverup while pervert priests numbered 1 in 25. Somehow the average priest gets tarred while these most unworthy overlords live the life of Reilly.

  27. There is a long history of saints with false accusations — some even taking on the accusations as if they were true, as acts of humility. See, for example, St Gerard Majella.

    Fr. Corapi has not done himself any good with his rash statements. I can understand being defensive — but by acting like the bishop is doing wrong by following prudence, by following prudence which has historical precedent, he really seems to be causing scandal to the Church. That is sad. Hopefully he is innocent, and he will apologize for his rash actions. But I would recommend people not to follow him in rashness.

  28. The Office of Bishop has authority to be respected. That being said the men who hold that office need to apply the Dallas protocols to themselves and we will see how quickly they amend them. Many not all Bishops are compliant in sexual misconduct still. They protect each other and those of their ilk. It is time that they were exposed. Otherwise the “moral authority” of the Office of Bishop is mute. It is illogical and sinnful itself to equate a priests sexual misconduct with an adult woman to that of the seduction and rape of an adolescent or child.

  29. One more idea. Unconditional love. for Fr Corapi. I lean very strongly that Fr Corapi is innocent, not to ignore the fact that we are all capable of wrong, given the right circumstances.

    I was one who immediately thought of the parallel with St Padre Pio.

    I read one commentary that mentioned – clearing his name. A career cop once told me he never stopped a female for traffic because all she has to do is accuse you of impropriety and you’re guilty and the entry of an accusation in your record will ruin your career for life, whether or not your name is cleared. Well, unless you are a politician!

    God Bless Fr Corapi, strengthen him, console him, have mercy on him in his hour of testing.

  30. ‘religious bloggers’ are really quite full of themselves, give yourself another award, deacon…

  31. I always kind of thought that when Fr. Corapi wore his habit and had a liitle hair and a beard that he resembled St. Padre Pio. I think it is very wrong for Father to be basically suspended from his priestly ministry over an allegation that no person seems to know what it is and her name is hidden. Also, I got the impression that Fr. Corapi does not get any financial support from his order, the S.O.L.T., including housing support or paid Health Care. I have heard he is responsible for all of the expenses of his life on his own always. I can’t hardly believe a Religious Order does not in some way financially support one of its Priests. I can understand not supporting his media presentations, but does he ever even receive a stipend from the S.O.L.T., or am I mistaken? Thank you.

  32. Deacon G.K.,
    Food for thought… The justification for posting this comparison between Fr. Corapi and Padre Pio is that it was writen in response to an analogy which readers had come up with… Regardless of how you felt inspired to post this article, perhaps a more suitable question would be, what is the purpose of publicizing this comparison???

    To argue that it is to inspire Father Corapi or others in a similar position is a bit absurd… If this was the intention, write a letter to Father Corapi himself… I can’t help but think the only result of this post is for Joe Bag of Donuts to be swayed into thinking Father Corapi is guilty…

    Perhaps we should leave that judgement to someone else.

  33. As Christians we are ought to keep a higher standards in either accusing or in giving justice to the defender (Mathew 5:20). The secular world says “You are innocent until proven guilty”. Well I don’t know much religious text. Deacon, you should be religiously educated much to come-up with something much better.

    I do believe that the bishop has every authority given from heaven to act as needed when such an accusation is made. What is the appropriate way to act in such circumstance, let us leave it to God and Fr. Corapi and Bishops. If he acted in God’s Will (either his accuser is right or wrong) to leave the priesthood, he is right.There are saints who runaway from persecution and there are those who fought back and there are those who endured it in humility. If humble submission to the Bishop is always right, then all the Saints in the Eastern Churches are inherently devil’s saints. It is good to refer to Gospel in that. Jesus himself didn’t stop a person who was not physically following him, but His disciples wanted to stop the man from preaching.

    Authority given to Bishops does not make all the decision they make as right just like Fr. Copri’s decision to leave priesthood. John Paul II had asked forgiveness for the sins of the church. It is to see that century after century books after books were wrote accusing Martin Luther, and at the end John Paul II asking forgiveness for the way Church acted, that resulted in its division. All the issues that Church face in a secular world today is due to all that went on in the past from the Church Authority.

    Either Fr. Corapi is innocent or not, it is un-Christian to judge him. He may be acting now in God’s will.

    Jesus himself called the Pharisees, “scorpions” and whipped them out of the temple, at one time while at another time he submitted to all that they did to him. Someone mentioned Joan of Arc.

    So leave it to God Corapi and Bishops. Let us believe the Bishops acted in God’s will and John Corapi acted in God’s will and stop accusing both the other way, until one part is proven wrong.

    It is God’s will that matters! nothing more nothing else! Neither how St. Padre Pio acted nor how Fr. Corapi acted (in leaving the priesthood). Neither is justified unless it was God who willed it. And it will be God who will justify it(or not).

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