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.


Mindy Goorchenko said...

Happy Father's Day. I just found your post while thinking and blogging about Corapi. I just want to thank you for giving up all you have in order to bring us Jesus.

Rita said...

Touché! Thanks for the info into what most people do not know!

Anonymous said...

I agree with all that you have said in your article. My wife and I have been watching Corapi's videos for a couple of years, especially during Lent, and have learned a lot about maintaining a good Catholic attitude in our daily lives. I have also had my druthers about his means and lifestyle; after all, there is this vow of poverty. I am not condemning him, and I am not condoning him. I learn what I can, as long as it is true and orthodox, and leave the rest alone. He is a good teacher, not like some of the protestant preachers who love themselves and other peoples money, although there is a little bit of that in Corapi's behavior. All we want to do is learn more about the Faith, use that knowledge to make lives better, and to be good enough to make it to Purgatory one day. Thank you for your vocation, Father Toborowsky. Peace and God bless.

ProudCatholic said...

Wow, Father. This is extremely honest and refreshing. I don't really believe these particular allegations against Fr. Corapi and I do admire the work he does but have to admit, getting to see him for the first time recently I was more than a little thrown at the amount of wealth he stated he had and found alot of his talk (pretty much more than that directed toward the faith) centered more on his ranch, his personal trainer, his "rock star" status which requires him to carry a gun. I can't help but feel he's brought on such attacks aimed at taking some of that wealth for themselves. It disillusioned me. Not to mention you can't buy any of his sermons as dvds or cd for below $300. The cost is blamed on the "independent" media corporation that supports him. That being said, what you are saying about priests owning of private properties is on the rise as you said and most certainly does affect their ministry and if priests think this is not noticable, this is not the case. We notice. How many times we've been told..well they didn't take a vow of poverty. It is most definitely having a negative affect on the church in more ways than we can go into here. Thank you, Father, for a very honest (and I'm sure greatly unappreciated) opinion on this.

Marie said...

Fr. Jay..
I see so much in all of this...and all is not good...I agree with what you said , but for me , it goes much deeper...
I think of St. Pio...All that he had to endure never made him leave his Priesthhod..He remained obedient... On the other hand, Luther did not...and we know the devestating fruit that brought to this day... Now Fr. Corapi is choosing the same path as Luther... I pray for Fr. Corapi to find peace and humility in obedience to his
superiors..Trusting our Lord with the rest...His choice will cause more division within the Church...but what gives us hope and peace is the promise that "The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church"...
Lord have mercy ...

the Egyptian said...

quote This place becomes their "home", while the rectory and parish they're assigned to as a spiritual father simply becomes the place they "work".unquote

Told to my face by 3 Sisters who refused to live free at the retreat house where they ministered, separate wing and all, rented an unoccupied rectory and proceeded to try to take over the parish in the process, all three of them. And rented out the apartment for an office space too boot.

(they have sold the retreat house and it is flourishing under lay management)

In our clustering process we were told the same thing, "priests do not want to live where they work, you will never have resident priests again so tear down the rectory and be done with it".

such a sad state of affairs

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

That makes a lot of sense. Being a priest is not something you can turn off by turning a key in a door to some other house--any more than I can turn off the fact of my marriage and motherhood. A sacrament is not like a water faucet in that regard. While I do not begrudge anyone--whether parent, priest, spouse or worker--a break from the demands their vocations require of them, I don't believe it's right or healthy to think that you can shut down who & what you are in that way.

D.A.Howard said...

With the corruption in the Church and so many homosexual priests (30% according to many studies) I cannot blame Fr. Corapi for wanting to live apart from them.

However, when his superior requests him to return to the community, he should duly consider it. If he ordered him back to his community, that is another thing all together. You said requested not ordered.

Tjoe1972 said...

Fr. Jay,

I read your post your article and have to hoestly say this whole Caropi story a bit of a mystery. I do agree with the epidemic of our age, but it's us laity too and the bishops. I wish we had more monastaries(sp?) to help us all get back to service and simple Christian living. Grant you monastaries need thier own "face lifts" as well. A healthy does of humility is needed. I hope one day the clergy and for that matter the laity can get closer together, not in power grabbs and meeting rooms, but really connect person to person.

Just my thoughts.....

With charity in Christ,

ProudCatholic said...

There seems to be a big discussion among lay people regarding the homosexuality of priests. I don't understand it. To me a priest is celibate and it does not matter what tendencies they might have had or maybe still have as long as they remain celibate. It should not even be a point of discussion in my opinion.

With regard to Corapi, I loved Father Corapi and the message he spread but he is no longer a good example of the life of sacrifice and that is sad. To hear him say at his NJ talk, if you write a million dollar check to the radio station he was raising funds for that he'll match it with a personal check right here threw me for a loop. When you couple that with the amount of money they charge for any of his merchandise which should be made available to people in spreading the message of Christ and he would only meet with you personally if you paid for $1000 dinner, it just boggles the mind. This is not how God intended him to use this great gift,that is for sure. So Father Jay, it is priests like you that do ultimately have our greatest admiration.

It just makes it all the more clear how blessed we are to have priests who "live the life" of sacrifice. This is a beautiful thing of our church. It should be protected at all costs. It is a grace very few faiths have and it was the model presented and lived by Christ himself. Why is it so few people, even older Catholics, refuse to believe it is possible or healthy to give up everything for Christ. To me, anyone who gives up so much, gives me added strength to sacrifice to follow Christ's example as much as I can as a lay person. Our priests need to know that there are those of us who respect their sacrifice, support it, love them for it and see them as one of our greatest gifts God has given us. I thank God everyday for our wonderful priests and the royal priesthood. I hope and pray God gives these men and our Church the continuing grace of this gift that means so very much to the world and to us.

William said...

Father, give us, please, a good run-down on the differences between regular and diocesan clergy. Also, cite those religious congregations and associations that do not require a vow of poverty from their priest members (there are a few out there to be sure). Not all monastics are priests and not all priest are monastics -- spell this our clearly for your readership. And not all clergy sport their own coats-of-arms!


Fr. Tim Moyle said...

Fr. Jay: There is much that I agree with in your column. Alas I think you paint too broad a stroke when you say that Diocesan priests should not own a home. I myself am a home owner, having spent all of my free money and time over the past 20+ years converting a cottage into a small home into which I will hopefully someday retire.

Very few dioceses are so large that a private residence is not within a reasonable drive. Personally, there is no place in my diocese where I would be more than 3 hrs distant from my parish. It is quite simple to travel back and forth and enjoy the place on my regular day and a half off... as it is for many of my brother priests in the area who own cottages or private homes.

Granted we deny ourselves the winter vacations that many if not most of our brother priests take - assuming you're located somewhere that experiences winter I assume it's the same where you are stationed. Our salaries do not permit our both owning a property and traveling on foreign vacations... but as one who obediently and respectfully lived those examples of 'assistant hell'you so accurately described, I can assure you the sacrifice was well worth it in allowing me to grow and thrive as a holy diocesan priest. Sitting as I am now looking out over the beautiful Ottawa River here in Western Qc., I do not regret that first decision to use the gifts I received at my ordination as a down-payment on a simple cottage rather than replace my old car.

To accomplish my goal required no more discipline than does praying the Office, daily celebrating mass, or living a chaste life in ALL areas of my priestly life.

I appreciate that you intending no insult to we who have through our own hard work and sacrifice have decided to care for our future as well as our present needs. I simply wished to express to you and to those who read your blog that (at least in Canada) it is indeed quite feasible to remain faithful as a diocesan priest and own/rent a small private residence commensurate with our state of life.

Fr. Tim Moyle
St. Anne's Parish
Mattawa, Ont.
Diocese of Pembroke

Kelly said...

Our parish changed the rectory to a parish "resource center" since our current pastor owns his own home in a nearby community. He will be reassigned in a year or so and the parish council is considering selling the house. What about other priests who do not own property? They will have to maintain residence at diocesan properties that are all at least 30 minutes away. So now our priest must work 10 hours a day AND commute. The church preaches that our priests are serving in a vocation but they are treated more and more liked hired the superiors and the flock!

Repentant Pharisee said...

We're all stunned to some extent. But when I read the news about Fr. Corapi leaving the priesthood, it was not quite as shocking as I would have imagined.

Fr. Corapi did a one-day talk/seminar at a local Catholic high school, which I attended with my family; and the very first impression was of Father entering from the wings to just grab a few items before starting, and people hooting and cheering. And immediately I thought, "Uh oh".

The "uh oh" was not necessarily about the "rock star" entourage, but the fact that he evoked from people a "rock star" response just by passing through the room. When people approach a truly holy man or woman, they are humbled because HE OR SHE IS HUMBLE. Bragadoccio evokes cheers. Humility evokes silence. That's when I began to doubt his mission and whether he was merely working from the sidelines and gathering profits and adulation.

I hoped I was wrong. I still listened to his wonderful talks. But it was always with the nagging thought that there was too much self-glorfication in his demeanor.

My additional concern, is that the same applies to the myriad Cathlic bloggers who are becoming household names. Humility begs more for anonymity than the limelight, and there are many bloggers who I believe have begun reading their own ComBoxes and decided "they" have a special mission. We all have a special mission. The Church teaches X,Y, and Z. As individuals, we always have to be keenly aware that WE, per se, are not spreading the Gospel, but the Holy Spirit working through us. All we should be praised for is agreeing to be that vessel. And Fr. Corapi is the prime example of how there is really no room for "celebrity" in spreading the Gospel without constant attention to praying for supernatural humility.

James H said...

Father your question is interesting as to if Priest should buy houses. I would say yes!! Or if at least invest in Real Estate.

In some Dicoese where there is a huge vocation upswing I notice a fun problem. Some Priests used to living alone are having a another Priest live with them. Sometimes that does not go well.

There have been some suggestions even by the Vatican that Priests (secular) could live in community. From what I saw that went over like a ton of brick. If I wanted to live in community I would have been a relgious was the response I saw. Well good point

Regardless the day is going to come when you retire. While it might be the Bishop's idea of hey go live in this nice retirement home or perhaps live with these Priests well you might have legitimate other ideas.

In other words having a home or house (even if you rent it out) is a good idea for the future. You might reach 70 and realize darn wish I had invested earlier.

But the rea; problem is with that line in your closing paragraphs. That "one call away". I think actually that should be examined a lot more. From what I have seen what happens to Priests when there is even just an accusation and that itself seems criminal. Get your stuff and be out by 3 pm today and sorry we have no place to put you. THIS JUST HAPPENED IN PHILLY.

If the Diocese Office is not going to care and if the lay Catholic is not going to care what can you do. So until we can get some balance here about that "one call away" and procedures for bed anbd board I say invest in something. If I had a son who was a Priest I would tell him YES.

I realzie of course there is a difference between a RANCH and townhouse. And I think your concerns are valid . Thats why I would think some rental arrangement would be best for a Priest as he lives in the rectory. Still I thinka Priest owning property is a good investment no matter what.

mg said...

Great insight! Our family attempts to live in voluntary poverty and have found the attempt to help us grow in graces of humility, compassion, patience, prudence the list goes on...
I know if I had a private ranch in Montana, my thoughts and desires would soon wander from God and living God's will in my life.

ignorant redneck said...

Fr. Jay,

I have lots of opinions, about lots of things. This is your blog, so I'm not going to hold forth too much, except to say i think you are correct.

Fr. Corapi, as a member of a religious society, probably should never have owned property in the first place. let alone lived outside of community.

SOLT erred in their correction by inviting him to return to community life. They should have ordered him to. Then when he didn't, there would have been a very clear canonical issue, and a way to preserve the Society, and the Church, from accusations of railroading.

"Follow the Money" is always good advice when trying to resolve a scandal,a crisis or an obscure situation and that seems to be a relatively clear path in this case.

Dean Baldwin said...

I remember several years ago I wrote to a Priest-friend who was complaining about the struggles Priests encounter being single, etc. etc. etc. I wrote to him..."actually, I understand, for as a married couple, we have the same temptations and have the Grace of the Sacrament of Marriage to get us through temptations, and you, dear Father, have the same Grace that comes from the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Never heard from that Priest again......

Cynthia said...

my parents live in Massachusetts(i grew up there but live in Tx.for past 30 years)Such changes have occurred in Mass.-shortage of priests,retirement investments of priests that have been lost due to payments for abuse. My parents said that their diosesian priets now have to work during the week to save money for retirement as there is none for their parish priest, has a degree in marriage counseling, and goes to his office in a different town and does this during the week-gets paid for it, and says Masses on weekends. So the church is having difficulty taking care of the priests so they must pitch in now as well.

it is a different time we are in. they continuously need our prayers and support-it is not an easy life for a priest.

John said...

Fr Toborowsky,
While I see merit in some of your concerns, I see a problem with your perspective:
Fr. Corapi's life, lifestyle, and general approach to life have been near enough to public knowledge for a minimum of five years. Longer than that, really, but I've only known of him since 2005, so I'll use that for argument's sake.

If his superiors had problems with his domicile, ministry, or anything else, they surely could've exercised their rightful authority as his superiors to correct him long before now.

Since I haven't heard anything along these lines, it'd be interesting to know if the folks who head SOLT might be feeling a little nervous right now. If they can be found to have been negligent regarding this spiritual son, they might be subject to some repercussions too.

How deeply does this whole mess go?

Mau's Thoughts said...

Maureen T,

You must read retired Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi/Texas' letter in The Advent today 21 June11. It will give you more clarity on Fr John's position.

Fr. Robert J. Carr said...

Good summation of the Corapi case from a priest's perspective. Adding to this Corapi admitted in his June 20th statement that he really did not engage in Sacramental ministry, which raises more red flags for me.

zookeeper said...

Well, married converted episcopalian priests with families would also be inclined to not move where their bishops call them and not hold a vow of poverty. But we allow for them. I wonder at what point did his superiors decide his situation was a problem. It surely didn't happen over night. As a Catholic I can say this seems to be in typical fashion of our church- turn a blind eye until the spot light is turned on. Then decide it's time to take action.

ProudCatholic said...

I was watching World Over on EWTN and they had a really good reporter on regarding this matter, reporting only facts. Interestingly, with regard to Fr. Corapi's living situation, she explained that originally he was approved to live separate from his community to deepen his prayer life, necessary for his preaching. At first he was given permission to live with nuns in deep meditation but eventually moved to a life on his own with the purpose of be in solitude and deep in prayer, and I believe that was his original intention and was in fact what he did but I think it evolved into something else and I think his superiors have been seeing that. I think that it wasn't too obvioius until it started evolving in epic proportions. I think his superiors should have stepped in quite a while ago but I believe now they have every right to. I think Fr. Corapi was benefited at first by living alone (though I'm not sure how really necessary that was) but I do notice that there has been a great change in Fr. Corapi over recent years. I think the money corrupted him to the extent where he is no longer deep in contemplative life and I think that is what he needs. I don't believe the allegations against him but I do know from having listened to him five hours at the NJ event that he has strayed from that prayerful life. I think going back into a contemplative community life where he owns nothing but preaches sheerly without personal gain, without the personal trainer, the entourage, the need to carry and pull guns on people, and no longer having the personal wealth he has accumulated will only increase his holiness and bring him back to be the true gift God had intended him to be. I personally would love to see that happen and I pray he sees what his superiors are asking as being a chance to step up and really turn around once again back into being a shining light and example to lead so many by. To those who are given much, much will be asked of them. Imagine him giving up all he's personally accumulated for God. Wow! that's an example!