By What Authority?

June 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Culture, Faith

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.

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4 Responses to “By What Authority?”
  1. John Flynn says:

    Thanks for writing this. It’s a sad situation and IMO not enough people are writing about the real issues, instead just focusing on whether he is guilty or not. You sum it up well when you talk of authority… I would be interested in your thoughts on my analysis here:

  2. Joe says:

    I appreciate your viewpoint but truly disagree with your premise. The idea that it is acceptable for the Church to effectively destroy someone, irregardless of whether that person has done something wrong is basically a statement of “might makes right”. Under that pretense, it was acceptable for the pharisees to put Jesus to death.

    Just because the bishop has the final authority, doesn’t mean he doesn’t has a responsibility to apply that authority judiciously. Take a look at the current process and tell me that Fr Corapi has any chance at defending himself. Basically, he has none.

    However, I do agree with you, that it would be better if Fr Corapi did not go off on his own and start a new “ministry” outside of the priesthood. Many saintly priests have put up with false accusations of impropriety only to be re-instated later. I’m not canonizing Fr Corapi. I think he would be better served by letting the Holy Spirit do His thing. God works in His own time. Patience is a virtue.

  3. klowry says:

    Thank you all very much for your comments! I always tremble when hitting the “publish” button on these types of posts. My goal with the blog is to encourage, yet I recognize my own proclivities to weakness and sin.

    Here are a couple articles I found useful: the first is from Colleen Hammond, and the next is Mary DeTurris Poust (who is not happy with the situation, as you’ll see) pointing to a bunch of other comments

    In response to Joe, I very much agree with your sentiments about the Church not destroying people and might not making right. I hope neither is true, and have personally witnessed many conflicts in which two parties, both of goodwill, are capable of disagreement despite the best intentions on both sides. So I will leave judgments to God, and pray for all involved. I do have confidence that the Church is resilient, and this too shall pass… God bless you all!

  4. Simon says:

    I agree with Joe’s comment above. Kevin, the problem with your post is the unspoken premise that Corapi is creating some kind of schism, and, you know, if all we had to go by were the characterizations of his actions offered by third parties—most of them highly critical—then there would be something to that. But if you listen to what he has actually said, there’s simply no basis in his statements to think any such thing. Corapi went out of his way to affirm the authority of the bishops and that he is by no means leaving the Church. I also note that it’s a red herring to ask “Does anyone really think that Mr. Corapi, by leaving behind his Holy Orders, can become a more effective minister?” Well, of course not. Whoever said that it would? You make it sound as though Corapi freely and of his own volition decided that he was better off on his own, which is of course nonsense.

    John’s post was vile. No other word for it. Within a few paragraphs I was shaking my head with anger, but by the time I got done reading it—and the comments were even worse—I was just left feeling very sad and deflated that some people are so mired their apparent (newfound or otherwise) hatred for Corapi. It’s sad, and I find the idea of explaining point by point why they’re so far off base depressing.

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