By What Authority?
The Corapi Division
Like many faithful Catholics, I am deeply saddened by the continuing drama surrounding John Corapi. Since I first became Catholic, the former “Fr. Corapi” was an articulate and energetic preacher.
For his work over the past twenty years, he has my gratitude.
Much has been written on the situation, including Corapi’s own statements. Insightful observations abound, many critical, others less so. As Catholics, how should we view these types of conflicts? Allow me to add a couple thoughts, particularly about what’s important during times of disagreement.
First, as a convert, one of the things I appreciate most about the Catholic Church is its visible unity. Not in the sense of everyone agreeing and singing kumbaya while holding hands. Rather, it’s the absence of division.
I’ve seen division. As a child, I was exposed to countless Christian denominations. Raised Presbyterian (and a “P.K.” or preacher’s kid to boot), I went to a Pentecostal middle school and Quaker high school. My friends were Baptists, Evangelicals, Methodists, you name it. Theological disagreement? Go to a different church or denomination.
In this environment, there is no unity. Why? Because there is no authority.
Of course, even with authority, there are no assurances of perfection – far from it. There are numerous historical examples of Bishops and even Popes who have made considerable mistakes. Thankfully, we know from scripture (Matthew 16) that when Jesus established the Church he also promised that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” So even if the hierarchy does make mistakes here and there, they are still in authority and have the right to exercise that authority.
No such assurance is personally available to John Corapi.
It’s hard to imagine John Corapi, as an ex-priest, proclaiming the gospel message and speaking convincingly about unity. It’s an integral part of the gospel, characterized lovingly as Christ’s very body. Does anyone really think that Mr. Corapi, by leaving behind his Holy Orders, can become a more effective “minister?”
I hope he doesn’t even try. We don’t need any more ex-priests preaching. The Lord can still accomplish His divine will even if John Corapi never utters another public statement. We already have plenty of division within Christianity. As Catholics, what’s important is unity – because we are called to imitate Christ.
We are also called to obedience. How? By honoring legitimate (albeit imperfect) authority even when – and perhaps especially when – we disagree.