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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  • I’ve really found many problems with him — from questionable representations of his past, to false presentations of “masculinity.” However, I think the worst is what you bring out here, where he basically idolizes the culture at large — it is one thing to prefer capitalism, it is another to look at it uncritically and elevate it as he does. However, is it any surprise, when he is himself, as a priest (and in an order, so I am told), also is head of a company which deems itself as secular and so outside of the church’s authority? Nice.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    In a fit of masochism I went to the Youtube link for Fr. Corapi, and got a BBC press report on Spanish air traffic controllers. Could you please put in the correct link?

    • I think it is supposed to be this one:

    • R.

      I guess Henry is anticipating that your fit of masochism will recur.

      I for one wish you a speedy recovery.


    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

      Okay, he lost me when he lumped facism, communism and Islamic fundamentalism together as avatars of the over-arching evil of socialism. Clearly, he has no clue what he is talking about.

    • Should be fixed!

  • Matt Bowman

    I know we will not see eye to eye on things like this, so instead I am curious to understand your perspective more. Do you have similar criticisms of Fulton Sheen? I think Sheen was more scholarly but I can imagine someone believing his preaching has several of the characteristics you oppose in Corapi’s preaching.

    • I actually know next to nothing about Bishop Sheen, so will refrain from comment. I’m well aware that the approach to communism was an issue the Italian Church had to deal with in the post-war years, as the communists became quite successful at the polls.

    • Matt Bowman

      Well if your time is limited you might better enjoy listening to Sheen rather than Corapi anyway. Youtube has a decent variety of audio and video available. Here’s one on communism

    • Matt Bowman

      You might like this from Sheen discussing communism and capitalism:

      The Christian solution is to get behind neither Capital nor Labor exclusively; but to be behind Capital when Marxian Socialism would destroy private property, and to be behind Labor when Monopolistic Capitalism would claim the priority of profits over the right to a just wage.

      But again, someone who listened to talks by Sheen could well assert some of the kinds of criticism of style and tone and nuance that you see in Corapi.

  • I am so sick of this topic but for some reason I clicked in via my reader and so glad that I did. Very well put. You make distinctions that very much need to be made.

  • Bruce

    Well, I guess to each his own, but Father Corapi led me back to the Church with his passion for truth and a no-nonsense call to be obedient to Church teaching. Archbishop Sheen (Servant of God) said much against communism as well, and in no uncertain terms has Father Corapi taken much from him in his own orations against that evil. I have been listening to Father Corapi for years, and I have yet to interpret what he teaches as you have here. I neither own a gun, dislike taxes, nor misinterpret Rerum Novarum. It is also important to point out that the man is very well educated, in Rome, and holds several degrees and a doctorate. He is not ignorant of what he speaks, to say the least. Finally, whether or not he committed these acts is irrelevant to his talks and speeches, since what he has given us is not his own, but rather Christ’s own teachings. The truth and grace that flows from Christ and His Church does not depend on our holiness, thanks be to God. So, I pray for him, just as I pray for each of you. You may be turned off by his “macho” attitude in the faith, but let me remind you, the majority of men in the Church want to BE men and want our priests to stop being the limp-wristed, feminine wimps they have been for so long. Christ was no mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy therapist. He was tough, but always loving. That is what I want to be as well. Father Corapi may not possess all of those characteristics, but who among us does? Just because he is brusk is no reason to write him off. Similarly, just because another priest is a flaming liberal is no reason for me to write him off. We are all different and we are all sinners. Truth is truth, no matter where it comes from (whether macho or flaming), as long as it is the Truth.

    • the majority of men in the Church want to BE men and want our priests to stop being the limp-wristed, feminine wimps they have been for so long.

      priest is a flaming liberal

      Funny – in the past, the word “flaming” has been most commonly used to denote homosexuality, rather than being politically progressive. Your problem with contemporary priests seems to be not so much that they are “liberal” but that they might be attracted to other men. Or, is it that they can’t be all mincing and queeny, and must instead be “bears”?

      That aside: I’ve talked about this before, but there never really was a time when “goils were goils and men were men” in the words of Archie Bunker. The men who tried to live up to that archetype tended to become alcoholics and have unstable marriages. All of us have a mix of traits, some of which are usually described as “masculine” and some “feminine”. Some are more toward one end of that continuum, some toward the other; there is no need for men to push themselves as far as possible toward the masculine end just because they are men.

      • Bruce

        I’m not sure why you seem to have something against men who are different than you. That may certainly be an impediment to a rich faith life in Christ. Also, your generalizations are no better than mine, and smack of hypocrisy. What are you looking for? I don’t vote for Republicans or Tea Party people. But I also do not believe homosexual unions are marriages, nor that abortion is ever justified. I prefer men to behave as men behave, and sometimes that means they might be macho, but mostly it means that they mimic Christ, who was tough, loving, and gave His life for all of us. He was not some overly macho man, but He was also not a flaming liberal either. He was fully man, and He loves Father Corapi more than you and I combined. Perhaps we both need to try a bit harder. What say you?

        • I’m not sure why you seem to have something against men who are different than you.

          Not sure what that means…

          He was also not a flaming liberal

          Again with the “flaming liberal” thing. Christ was not gay, no; neither was He politically progressive or conservative; His mission wasn’t political in nature (though His early disciples really, REALLY wanted it to be.)

          “Tough”? Well, he was unflinching in His condemnations, yes (mostly of people who presumed to sit in lofty judgement of others) but he was also capable of incredible tenderness. He wept at Lazarus’s tomb. Last Sunday’s Gospel reading (the Samaritan woman at the well) reveals that Christ could be remarkably sensitive and delicate when dealing with sin.

      • Bruce

        This is a reply to the one below, but as for your description of Christ, I agree 100%. As for my initial statement, perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems as though you do not like men who are “manly” for lack of a better term. As for the “flaming” thing, I am not referring to homosexuals, though my choice of word could obviously be construed in that manner. I typically (and probably wrongly) use it to refer to those acting in a flamboyant manner, regardless of sexuality. I apologize for not being clear.

        • perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems as though you do not like men who are “manly” for lack of a better term.

          You are mistaken – look at this old post of mine, or this one, or the one I linked to earlier. I’m described by the people who know me as toward the masculine end of the continuum.

          But the thing is, I realize that that’s just me. I have plenty of male friends and acquaintances who are all along the masculine/feminine spectrum, and see absolutely no problem with any of them. Men naturally have all sorts of ways of relating to the world – some in ways traditionally identified as masculine, some more feminine, and it’s all just fine with me.

    • Ronald King

      Bruce, After reading what you have written it is clear that you are ignorant of what a therapist does.

      • Bruce

        I’m not so sure, since I’m licensed. Perhaps the State is mistaken too.

  • Idol Basher

    Shame on EWTN for a lot of things, including building up people like Fr. Corapi and giving him a platform for a personality cult.

    • Bruce in Kansas

      Fr. Corapi has brought many people to Christ and His Church. I’m sure EWTN and Vox Nova have as well. As fellow laborers in the Lord’s vineyard, publicly calling shame on each other is beneath us. I think some folks schooled me on that here at Vox Nova.

      Catholic social teaching has criticized socialism and communism (Quadragesimo Anno) as well as capitalism and Marxism (Laborem Exercens, Centesimus Annus)

      How about praying for Fr. Corapi? Anyone? Buhler?

      • Ronald King

        How about Fr. Corapi praying with us on a cross-country Rosary walk until there is national healthcare and millions of dollars raised for single mothers and their unborn children?
        All the preaching in the world will not stop wars, poverty and abortion. We must stop the world.
        What would a real man do?

  • Ronald King

    I watched the whole thing. Very disjointed and histrionic. Those who are already fearful would love him. He resonates with the extreme right but implies that he is in the middle. I would say he is in the middle of the extreme right. All I heard were condemnations of what is obviously wrong in the world but he offered nothing to remedy the situation, except one thing, don’t let them take away your guns.

    • Ronald King

      One other thing. I read on line that he is CEO of Santa Cruz Media.

    • Bruce

      Are you against anyone having weapons?

      • Ronald King

        You do not write like you are licensed. Your question indicates that you have taken my statement out of context. By the way, do you practice where you have a license?

  • Cindy

    100% of gun related deaths are ‘gun’ related. – Tosh.0
    If Tosh gets it why can’t priests?

  • Bruce

    I guess, at the end of the day, I would like to know why it is wrong to like Father Corapi’s recordings? As I said earlier, they were a major reason why I came back to the Church after many years. Have I made a mistake and should I now reconsider?

  • I prefer men to behave as men behave, and sometimes that means they might be macho, but mostly it means that they mimic Christ, who was tough, loving, and gave His life for all of us. He was not some overly macho man, but He was also not a flaming liberal either.

    I really don’t think we can say how “macho” Jesus was or wasn’t, and I don’t know how we can possibly conceive of what a “flaming liberal” would have been like in first-century Palestine! We don’t know the first thing about the physical impression Jesus made on people. “Macho” men have no monopoly on bravery. For all we know, Jesus may have been effeminate by our standards. He may have been limp-wristed and spoken with a lisp. Presumably Jesus was charismatic, but charisma and masculinity don’t necessarily go together.

  • Ronald King

    Bruce, For what purpose? It is interesting that you have a license.

  • grega

    It is really sad to witness how the good Father ropes his commercial interest into
    the mix. One can not just advice to read the Catechism – no that is so yesterday -one has to by a DVD boxset at ~$299 – really sad that this sort of thing works –
    These guys make it almost too easy to not take them seriously.

    It is really nice to see the purity of Vox Nova in this regard and I hope VN can keep this up.

  • jh

    I really wonder if this the time to tear a Priest down that is now under such a heavy burden. Heck there are Priests I disagree with but I have some common decency at times not to kick them when they are down.

    Sometimes I think the internet encourages this behavior and we are all fall into it.

    • Bruce in Kansas


  • Thank God for Father Corapi, his good example, and his clear and orthodox articulation of the Catholic faith.

    • I thought you knew better than that.

      • The majority of Father Corapi’s ministry has been teaching the Catechism to people who know nothing about the faith. It is lamentable that you have isolated this one video from youtube and used it as an excuse to demonize the man, when his actual ministry has much greater depth than you suggest.

        This is a shameful post.

    • brettsalkeld

      What, exactly, constitutes his “good example”? That strikes me as a strange claim.

      • Father Corapi’s conversion story has given many people hope. His profound reversion to complete devotion to Christ and His Church has influenced many people and has demonstrated the God’s power to save us from ourselves.

  • “Isolated this one video”? On the contrary, this one video provides an accurate summary of both the tone and content of much of Corapi’s message. In it, he is directly misinterpreting a core area of Catholic social teaching (just as George Weigel and Michael Novak mis-represented Centesimis Annus). He is leading so many people astray, as this is the area of teaching that Catholics know least about. The fact that his ministry is directed mainly toward the under-catechized (as you claim) makes this worse, not better. He has an added responsibility to portray the teaching correctly.

    Some of us actually think that is rather important. I’ve a funny feeling that if a priest defended something like women priests or same-sex marriage, you would not have the same attitude. You would not be complaining about drawing attention to “isolated statements” that misrepresent the good he has done or the power of his “conversion story”.

    • Bruce

      Are there any priests or bishops who you consider to be the best teachers and/or representatives of Church teaching, and if so, can you please name them? I would like to know whom you approve of, so I can examine his writings and orations as well.

      • brettsalkeld

        I can’t speak for MM, but here’s a list that, in my view, is much closer to the heart of the Church than Father Corapi on many issues:
        Robert Barron. James Martin. Roch Kereszty. Tom Rosica. Timothy Dolan. Francis George. And, uh, Joseph Ratzinger.

      • Bruce

        Thank you, Brett. I am familiar with Father Barron, and I do love his work. I am also familiar with Archbishop Dolan, Cardinal George, and the Pope, and I do love their efforts as well. I admit that I do not know the others. So, thank you for your response. It is nice to see that there is common ground after all. I abhor politics, left, right, and center. I understand its importance and influence, but that does not mean I have to enjoy or love it. All that being said, there are several talks given by Father Corapi which do not deviate from Church teaching in the slightest, while there are others which are subject to his theological opinion. I am not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and just as I can find common ground with very liberal theologians, I can also do so with very conservative ones. There is only one who is perfect, and that is Our Lord Himself. The rest of us all have flaws.

    • You’ve never been able to understand what CST is and what it isn’t. Father Corapi, on the other hand, does.

      • Bruce

        I wouldn’t say that people here do not understand what CST is, but simply emphasize certain things over others. This is not unlike those on the other side of the “fence” who emphasize other parts of CST over the ones typically pushed here and elsewhere. There is a place for Catholics, faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ, who have a particular affinity for a whole host of issues. If one accepts all the teachings of the Church, but has a special place for poverty, war, and disease, there is nothing wrong with pushing those issues as long as they do not eclipse or overrule other teachings in the entire deposit of faith. Similarly, one can go overboard on pro-life and marriage issues and ignore the suffering of the poor and immigrant peoples. The way I see it, and I believe the Church sees it this way as well, is that it is always a “both/and” way of thinking instead of an “either/or”. All Church teaching is important, and nothing can be sacrificed, but some things can certainly be emphasized depending on the person.

  • Ronald King

    If we lived the Catholic social teaching we would not be debating on the internet claiming we know CST and we sure would have a national healthcare program without all the bickering going on today and people living in poverty would have hope and there would be a lot less abortion. Most people would rather do mental masturbation–is that lust?

  • You’ve said that before. Many times. Never have you made an argument one way or the other. And your own blog is full of un-nuanced tired old Americanist liberal talking points, so no luck there. If you want to come here, have the the courtesy to make a real argument.

    • Bruce

      I’m confused, probably because I am not sure how this comment software is supposed to work, but was this in response to me?