Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fr. Corapi and the bigger issue

For Priests of my generation, Fr. Corapi has been a well-known figure. A frequent face on EWTN, we are used to getting his name mentioned to us by regular church-goers. "I love watching Father Corapi" is something we're all used to hearing.

Maybe that's why I've always had a small amount of resentment towards him.

It's not about his shows. I can honestly say I have never really sat through a Fr. Corapi TV show, but from what I have seen and heard his stuff is pretty orthodox. His voice has always seemed a bit "over the top", but no more than other Priests and Deacons I've known that have a "Mass voice" and a "Regular voice". The truth is his voice has always reminded me of the public speaking voice of Jim McGreevey, and I think anyone who has heard both of them speak from behind a podium will attest to this. What I resented about Father C. is probably the same resentment infantry soldiers have towards fighter pilots: While infantry soldiers are "on the ground" fighting for every square inch of ground to gain in the battle, the pilots take off from someplace behind the battle lines, fly over, drop a few bombs, then go back to land at the safe spot. To some extent, it's easy to be orthodox if you have gigs like this. You show up at an event. Your audience is almost completely those who feel the same way as you do, you make them laugh, get serious, tell Catholics what the liberals are doing wrong, say Mass, sign some autographs, and you're done and out of the town 6 hours after you arrived. Oh yeah, and you get paid, not only for being there, but for all the tapes, books, CDs, and DVDs people are encouraged to buy.

When this is all said and done, my hunch is that it's not going to be about sex, it's going to be about money. This guy lives on a ranch in Montana. Once I went searching for information on his website about the possibility of having him speak in a parish I was assigned to at the time. The fee was something like $3,000, beside his expenses (travel to and from Montana, which can't be cheap).

The latest blog entry I heard is that his religious superior asked him to stop living alone in Montana and live in community with other clergy. This Fr. Corapi refused to do, and this is where his abandonment of the Priesthood stems.

This is the Priesthood epidemic of our age: Priests owning property. Secular (diocesan) priests certainly can own property, they make no actual vow of poverty as those entering religious life do. Those who do have another place have it for varieties of very legitimate reasons: Perhaps they inherited the home or money when their parent(s) passed away. Some saved money for years and perhaps share ownership with another priest or with family members. Some were able to buy the place at a significantly reduced price from an older Priest whose health now prevents him from using the home. I don't want this in any way to appear as if I'm saying the Priest acquired the house through illegal means (that's a whole other conversation). I'm simply talking, in this case, about diocesan priests who own private property.

In my humble opinion, the danger is this: This situation is radioactive; it may not affect them at once, but little by little, over a period of time, it has the potential to do so. The house can slowly change the way the Priest thinks about his life as a Priest in the Roman Catholic Church. How does it show itself? A Priest with a private home doesn't want to be assigned too far away from that home, so there goes his flexibility in assignments. Suddenly, besides the normal considerations, the house is a factor in where to exercise ministry. Priests are allowed a day or day-and-a-half off. Is that enough time spent in their retreat? A priest who owns another home soon finds that his day off expands to two days, then more (I know of a Priest who would leave his parish after his Sunday Masses, and then return on Wednesday morning). Another question to ask: Do his neighbors know he's a priest? Not that he has to put a blinking neon sign on the door, but has he deliberately gone out of the way to hide the fact that he is a priest? Some of my brothers, I fear, see the house as an "alternate reality", one in which they stop being priests in their minds the moment they enter this house. This place becomes their "home", while the rectory and parish they're assigned to as a spiritual father simply becomes the place they "work". If Bishops want to tackle the next great problem, here's where to start digging. Find out how many of your priests own or rent a private home.

In their defense, a little honesty here. I actually do envy those who do have their own apartment/condo/townhouse/home. So much in our priesthood is out of our control. One never knows, when you're going downstairs for a cup of coffee, who will be sitting in your kitchen. Some Parochial Vicars (Associate Pastors) live with Pastors who make it abundantly clear that they are only "borders" in the house, and that everything from having guests, to putting things on the shopping list, to inviting people for meals, must be run past the Pastor. So much of what we "have" is not really ours. You can see how the idea of having a place that no Bishop can take us away from with one phone call is inviting; we Priests love to "nest". The danger is in how much of our time does it occupy? How much does it factor in our commitment to obedience? If we choose it over our Priesthood, then there will be more Father Corapi's down the road.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Priest on "Father's Day"

With Father’s Day upon us, I’d like to share a poem I read in a book of talks given by Archbishop Tim Dolan. This comes from his book, Priests for the Third Millennium. He concludes a talk on parish priesthood with a poem published in The Priest magazine, written about the fatherhood of the priest:

Who are you, man of Mystery, our Father?
By what arrogance do you approach the Holy –
offering your manliness to mate with Sacred Spouse,
and vowing with such singular abandonment
to wed yourself to Holy Mother Church
and so with her, in promiscuity divine, the seeds of Life?

Or can it be that, led by ceaseless calling,
summoned by the Matchmaker who serves the cause of Love,
pursued by the Relentless One, you have succumbed -
and so it is submission which, to unholy eyes, appears presumption?

How is it that, child-free, you are our Father?

Is it that you daily bear God’s children?
Is it that, with human voice, you speak a Father’s Word?
Is it that you, fasting and breaking fasts, call us to supper
and gather us at table for meal of Bread and Wine?
Or that you celebrate our rites of passage,
advising, chastising, baptizing us with water and with fire?

Is it that you lift us in prayer, holding,
embracing and blessing as only a Father might?
Or that you hear our calling in the dark
and come to take our hand and light a light –
Or, in your priestly parenting,
you come anointing, pointing the way past death to life?

Who are you, man of Mystery, our Father?
You’ve wed yourself to Holy Mother Church and, everywhere,
you sow with her, in promiscuity divine, the seeds of Life.
You bear and speak and feed, you shape and renew
and heal and bless as only a Father can do.
And so we, on this Father’s Day, your untold children, grateful, pray,
“May life and Holy Spouse and God bless you.”

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Tony Blair on children

I'm in the midst of reading Tony Blair's memoirs. This part made me laugh out loud:

"As things settled down a little, I took a break in Tuscany ... I had a great time with [his youngest son] Leo, able to spend proper moments with him. At five years old, he was getting to that fascinating age where you can almost see the brain sprouting forth. Except to the doting parents, babies are frankly pretty boring - sweet and cuddly, but still a bit inanimate, if you see what I mean. From about age three onwards, they get interesting and remain like that up to around twelve, when the dark mists of hell envelop them. Unbelievably, they emerge again as semi-civilized human beings around the age of twenty, you stop thinking you are a bad parent or there is genetic delinquency in the family, and realise they are still your children and you love them. There are exceptions, of course, but that's my experience." (pg. 525)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Reflection on the Priesthood by St. Norbert

Founder Statue of St Norbert in St Peter's Basilica

On the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood, Norbert said, "O Priest! You are not yourself because you are God. You are not of yourself because you are the servant and minister of Christ. You are not your own because you are the spouse of the Church. You are not yourself because you are the mediator between God and man. You are not from yourself because you are nothing. What then are you? Nothing and everything. O Priest! Take care lest what was said to Christ on the cross be said to you: 'He saved others, himself he cannot save!'"