The real problem with Fr. Corapi

The real problem with Fr. Corapi March 29, 2011

I believe that private sexual misconduct is not a suitable matter for public discourse. I have no comment on the allegations surrounding this particular EWTN priest, because I don’t know anything, and it’s none of my business. But I do have a serious problem with Fr. John Corapi’s public ministry. Frankly, the more I see of him, the less I like him. I find it rather unseemly that a priest would take such an arrogant and aggressive tone of machismo in all of his deliberations. I understand that, in a culture that worships the military and sees violence as therapeutic, many people applaud this nonsense. I understand that, in a Calvinist culture, the desire to demonize the enemy is always seductive. But on so many issues, Fr. Corapi’s tone and teachings are leading people astray. For a priest that loves to attack “dissent”, he comes dangerously close to encouraging it – by emphasizing the values of American liberalism over the values of Catholic social teaching.

The best example of this is his attack on “socialism” – see the youtube video linked here (no, I am not putting this on the front page of Vox Nova, go click on it yourself if interested!) I admit, I didn’t get through the 27 minutes. I couldn’t stomach it. But here’s the gist of it – Corapi is attacking the great evil of socialism, with the implicit implication that this is an issue in American political discourse right now. He spends a lot of time quoting Rerum Novarum – out of context. I never hear him explaining that Leo XIII, and all popes after him, condemned American-style laissez-faire liberalism equally with socialism (Pius XI’s “twin rocks of shipwreck”). Of course, Corapi is really winking at the extreme right, which believes that Obama is some kind of socialist. This is the point of his video. I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks that Obama, who is more to the right that the average European social democrat, is somehow a radical socialist simply does not deserve to be taken seriously, and definitely does not understand Catholic social teaching.

Socialism is about the collective ownership of the means of production, not the welfare state that Corapi derides on individualist grounds. It is certainly true that an overly-centralized welfare state could harm human dignity and violate subsidiarity. But this argument seems far too subtle for Corapi. If he wants to see a Catholic example of a welfare state, one that twins both solidarity and subsidiarity, there are plenty of examples. Germany is one, with a model supported strongly by Cardinal Marx of Munich. Basically, the welfare system funded by the state, but managed by subsidiary mediating institutions in a fully autonomous manner. And this system spends far more on social spending than the United States, and has far lower poverty and inequality, as well as universal healthcare. Corapi cannot escape the American individualist mentality, with is Calvinist and classical liberal undertones. He forgets about the wider, vibrant, Catholic world out there.

I gave up in the middle of the video. At one point, Corapi started equating gun control with tyranny. After all, Hitler took away people’s guns! In a culture of such violence and death caused by firearms, how could a Catholic priest make such a demonic argument? I never paid any attention to Corapi before. But when I did, I found him worse than I had possibly imagined. Shame on EWTN for giving him a soapbox (even if he is the company of dissenting torture-supporters like Arroyo and Sirico).

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