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Corapi's departure from priesthood leaves questions unanswered

June 20, 2011

The stunning announcement by John Corapi that he is leaving the Catholic priesthood has raised a series of questions about the man who had earned national attention as a preacher.

Corapi, who had been suspended from ministry after being charged with misconduct, announced on June 17: “My canon lawyer and my civil lawyers have concluded that I cannot receive a fair and just hearing under the Church’s present process.” In a rambling public statement he denounced the absence of due-process protections for accused priests, said that he was leaving the priesthood, and promised to continue speaking out publicly under a new title as “The Black Sheep Dog.”

“My topics will be broader than in the past, and my audience likewise is apt to be broader,” Corapi said. He did not indicate whether he intended to continue speaking as a Catholic, or whether he would seek to appeal to a different clientele. The “Black Sheep Dog” web site had been registered nearly a year ago by the corporation that markets his books and tapes, and announced as the title of a forthcoming autobiography.

Father Gerard Sheehan, the head of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), of which Father Corapi has been a member, revealed that the canonical investigation into the misconduct charges had been complicated by Corapi’s decision to file a civil lawsuit against his accuser, claiming breach of promise. (Corapi charges that his accuser, a former employee, had received a settlement under which she agreed not to speak critically about his corporation.) Because of the lawsuit, Father Sheehan reported, key witnesses in the canonical investigation were unable to speak freely.

By leaving the priesthood, Corapi seems to have derailed the canonical investigation and avoided the possibility of a final disciplinary judgment by the Church. The nature of the charges against him has never been revealed. Although it is widely assumed by commentators that he was accused of sexual misconduct, it is also possible that the complaints included concerns about the handling of the considerable income Corapi derives from his public appearances, books, and tapes.

Father Corapi lives with his staff in Montana, in a diocese where—even before his suspension—he did not have faculties to minister publicly as a Catholic priest. Father Sheehan, his SOLT superior, revealed that the society had asked Corapi to leave his solitary business and live with the other members of his religious community. Father Sheehan remarked, “that would have meant leaving everything he has.”

In his surprise announcement, Corapi said that Bishop William Mulvey of Corpus Christi, Texas, forced SOLT to take disciplinary action against him. (A former head of the same diocese, retired Bishop René Gracida, indicated his sympathy for Corapi in a blog post.) While insisting that the investigation was unjust, Corapi said that he would defend the bishop’s right to take that action, and suggested that Bishop Mulvey was not ultimately the source of his problem. “There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone,” he said mysteriously, “and I shall be gone.”


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  • Posted by: Philopus - Jun. 23, 2011 4:32 PM ET USA

    Once a man is ordained a priest he remains a priest for all eternity. Holy Orders is one of the three sacraments that imprints an indelible mark on the soul. What the Church can give or remove is “faculties”, which authorizes the person to publicly administer the sacraments. Father Corapi is still a priest and very much a Catholic. I have benefited from his teaching for many years and believe him to be a true man of God. I also know that Satan and his minions hate anyone who preaches the Word of God so effectively. I would surmise that the vitriol heaped upon him is a sure sign of his dedication to Truth. Anyone who cares to think this situation through with an open heart should see this. At the minimum, a good reading of the facts is in order.

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Jun. 21, 2011 8:45 PM ET USA

    Oh, the fox is going to guard the sheep. This poor man is sliding away fast. The grandiose, angry, egotistical manner of this guy has been escalating for years. Not unpredictable. Lord

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jun. 21, 2011 1:29 PM ET USA

    Fr. Corapi has a devoted following that clings to his innocence in a way that reminds me of Fr. Maciel and the Legionaries of Christ. We need to reduce the time priests spend as public figures. It has to be a terrible temptation against humility and everything else that goes along with that.

  • Posted by: a son of Mary - Jun. 21, 2011 10:36 AM ET USA

    2004 in Iraq, found a Fr John cassette describing his (alleged) service as a Special Forces soldier. He never made it to SF but there was some Hollywood marketing hype which strongly suggested he had. Immediate turn off for me, kinda like the term "Vietnam Era veteran". So something happened, have no idea what occurred, and this "tough guy" rolls over, quits, and has lawyered up? I think it speaks volumes about him. Don't know him, maybe he's ok. Hail Marys and God's blessings for Fr John.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 21, 2011 1:11 AM ET USA

    I'm very disappointed in Fr. Corapi's misconduct in this matter. Him bringing suit against this person says to me that he cares more for his business than for his former order or the Church's authority. The wording of his statement screams disobedience. The way of Padre Pio while he was falsely accused would have done Fr. Corapi much better.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jun. 20, 2011 11:33 PM ET USA

    For argument's sake, if the process for accused priests were as Corapi described it, would it be a fair process?

  • Posted by: Pete - Jun. 20, 2011 8:25 PM ET USA

    This is very confusing and unexpected by me. He was one of the most powerful voices for orthodoxy in the Church. I'm sure he made many enemies--especially among the hierarchy who were "less than faithful" stewards of the flock they were to shepherd. The Devil seems to have won this round by silencing a strong voice in the Church. Unfortunately, the bishops are still not subject to the Dallas Charter and priests are unjustly accused with no recourse. Their bishop's often turned against them.

  • Posted by: rpp - Jun. 20, 2011 5:25 PM ET USA

    I am so very confused by this. I do not know what to think. He sued his accuser for breach of promise? What is going on? I think I will resort to prayer for all concerned. I hope that Father Corapi and his accuser will humbly do the same and humbly re-examine themselves.