Wishing It Isn’t So? Thoughts on the Fr. Corapi Situation

by Jimmy Akin

in Current Affairs


Like many bloggers, I’ve been getting requests for information on the situation with Father John Corapi. I don’t know him personally, and I don’t have any insider information, so that leaves me in the same position as everyone else: trying to figure out the situation based on the information that is available.

I’ve looked at the official statements that have come out so far, which Pat Archbold has been helpfully linking and quoting, and I’ve been reading commentary on the subject on the blogosphere and around the Internet.

I thought I would comment briefly based on what I’ve been reading.

I’ve seen several people say that they hope that the allegations made against Father Corapi aren’t true. I most definitely understand this reaction. It is entirely natural, upon hearing of something horrible, to hope that the report is not true, or at least not as bad as what is being reported. When I hear of a disaster somewhere in the world, with the death toll estimated at whatever figure the media is naming, I pray that it is lower than that and that fewer people have been harmed. Hopefully someone did some bad math and the truth is not as awful as thought.

In the case of one person making a set of allegations against another person, the situation is somewhat more complex. So far as I can tell, the allegations may arise from one of four things (or a combination of these things):

1) The allegations are due to a misunderstanding or misperception.
2) The allegations are due to a delusion (i.e., mental illness).
3) The allegations are due to a lie.
4) The allegations are true.

According to Father Corapi:

On Ash Wednesday I learned that a former employee sent a three-page letter to several bishops accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women.

The language Father Corapi uses is somewhat ambiguous. “Everything from” could mean that there were additional, unmentioned charges or it could be hyperbole and the two actual charges were drug addiction and “multiple sexual exploits.” If there were other charges, these have not yet been revealed and so it is impossible to comment on them.

The charge of drug addiction is one that could potentially fall under category No. 1 above. I could envision, for example, a scenario in which Father Corapi (who has had significant medical problems) might be on painkillers or muscle relaxants or other prescription medications and, entirely innocently, someone might misperceive this as drug addiction when, in fact, it’s not.

The charge of “multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women,” however, does not seem to be a good candidate for this category. If Father Corapi had used different language, this might have been otherwise. If he had simply said “improprieties” then that would leave the door open to claims of sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is the kind of thing that can be the subject of misperception, misunderstanding, etc. It is quite possible for things to be said between coworkers that are meant to be playful or joking or even just complimentary that nevertheless end up being taken as sexual advances or even sexual intimidation. But to say that the employee has charged Father Corapi with “multiple sexual exploits” suggests something far more concrete and far less subject to misunderstanding.

If this is so then these allegations would seem to fall into categories 2, 3 or 4.

In that case, what does hoping that they are not true amount to? Seemingly, it would amount to hoping that either 2 or 3 is true. That is, hoping that the woman making the allegations is delusional or that she is lying.

If she is delusional, then she would seem to be quite delusional — and, in fact, gravely mentally ill — if she believes wrongly that Father Corapi has had sexual “exploits” with her when in fact he has not. Further, her delusion is even projected onto other women, with whom she also falsely believes Father Corapi to have had such exploits.

If she is lying, then she would be sinning, and sinning in a particularly grave way because she would be accusing an innocent person of grave sin with multiple exacerbating circumstances (he’s a priest, he’s very well known, it’s a sexual sin, he’s religious and thus has taken a vow of chastity — not just made a promise of celibacy — and the Church has been reeling from sexual scandals in recent years). If she’s lying, she’s telling an abominably horrible lie that is gravely, gravely sinful.

Of course, things are also appallingly horrible if No. 4 is the case and the accusations are true. In that case, there is a very well-known priest who has taken a vow of chastity who has violated that vow multiple times with multiple women — with an unknown degree of their cooperation, and in abuse of his sacred office — at a time when the Church has been reeling from sexual scandals.

This makes hoping that the allegations aren’t true a little trickier.

It would seem straightforward to say that category No. 2 (mental illness) would involve less evil than category 3 (lying) or category 4 (veracity). Category No. 2 involves a non-moral evil, while categories 3 and 4 both involve grave moral evils, and grave moral evil is by nature worse than non-moral evils. Still, even if the mental illness theory is true, wishing this to be so still involves wishing a grave evil on someone.

One also might argue that the lying theory would involve less evil than the theory that the allegations are true — that it’s worse for a priest to do these things than to falsely accuse him of doing so. This is certainly arguable, though it’s somewhat tricky and subject to counterargument. The Church has no well-worked-out theory of what grave sins are worse than others. Once things get into the mortal category, what is worse than what gets much iffier and subject to debate. In particular, a priest falsely accused of such things might be inclined to question the idea that 4 is automatically worse than 3 (i.e., is it worse to have actually done these things than to have a lie that they have been done bring down a reputation, a career and a ministry that has helped so many and could help so many more in the future if the lie had never been told?).

Even if one thinks that 4 is automatically worse than 3, wishing 4 false still involves wishing something else that is gravely evil to be the case.

So I find myself a little uncomfortable in light of these reflections.

The situations brings to mind a passage I read some years ago in a book about Judaism that described a strand in Jewish thought which held that, in knowledge that something horrible has occurred, one should not wish it on someone else based on self-interest. For example, according to this book, if a Jewish person were driving home and saw smoke ascending from his block in his neighborhood, he should not pray that it was someone else’s house that had burned down, rather than his own.

It’s certainly natural, in that situation, to want it not to be one’s own house that has burned down. That’s only human, and based on the divinely inbuilt instinct to have more care for our own selves and those close to us than those more distant.

Yet “Love your neighbor as yourself” provides a counterbalance to this that must also be taken into account.

I know that I as much as anyone had the initial impulse, “I hope this isn’t true,” when I read of the allegations against Father Corapi. Upon reflection and asking the question, “What would that really mean if they aren’t true?” I am less comfortable.

Regardless of how options 2, 3 and 4 should be ranked in terms of objective horribleness, I find myself squeamish wishing either grave mental illness or grave sin on another person.

For this reason, I find myself inclining more toward the prayer, “May the truth — whatever that is — be swiftly and accurately established so that justice for all the parties may be served.”

Perhaps Father Corapi himself had this in mind when writing the last line of his statement, where he said:

All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned.

What do you think?

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Curious March 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Alas, this is the first I have heard of this.
I have read all of Jimmy’s post. The parsing of which of 2,3,4 was worse was interesting, but not all that relevant to me.
I hope Fr. Corapi is innocent, but he has had a tumultuous life and, in his own lecture series, has talked about how he had to struggle with the (literal) demons of his earlier life. A very tough road to walk. I wouldn’t want to walk it.
It is important to remember that there are many cases of people using this kind of character assassination to attack innocent people. I can’t fully understand how someone could be so depraved, but it is a regular weapon. Remember Cardinal Bernardin (not one of my favorites, but falsely accused nonetheless) and Clarence Thomas (a harder call, but I think balance of the evidence indicts Anita Hill of perjury and false witness).

Agnes March 24, 2011 at 6:29 am

St. Gerard Majella was also accused by a woman of the same sin. I believe that Fr. Corapi is innocent. GOD bless our priests, and guide them through these evil times.

Fr. Thomas Dorn March 24, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Charity dictates that we accept Fr. Corapi’s word of innocence, unless he is proven guilty. I suspect this is a cross for him to offer up as redemptive suffering, so that he can have an even greater impact in the spiritual warfare for the salvation of souls. Pray for him and all priests.
Fr. Thomas Dorn

Norman Rowe March 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I am not a Catholic, but a Protestant but I do know that Father John has made enemies within the catholic
community and probably as well in the medical community
due to bringing exposure(rocking the boat)to areas of
corruption in said communities.
They would like nothing more than his head on a silver
remember nothing really gets past God and I for one
am praying for him either way, may God watch over him
and refine him.

Adele March 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Really, Fr. Dorn? So what you’re saying is that charity demands that we, on the flipside, accept that the woman who wrote the letter to the Bishops is either lying, delusional, or has the erroneous misperception that Fr. was doing drugs and having relations with her and others. Hmmm. And what if she is telling the truth? How did your charity help there? You would then have enabled a bad guy with your acceptance of his innocence, and you maligned a woman who was telling the truth and protecting others.

Bill912 March 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

“So what you’re saying is that charity demands that we, on the flipside, accept that the woman who wrote the letter to the Bishops is either lying, delusional, or has the erroneous misperception the Fr. was doing drugs and having relations with her and other.”
Father Dorn said no such thing. Father Dorn hinted at no such thing. Father Dorn wrote nothing about Father Corapi’s accuser.

J G Beauford March 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Fr. Dorn’s comment was fair, appropriate and rational. Adele, you seem very sensitive about this. Can we just let some time pass and let more facts come out? Also, Fr. C has NOT been accused of a crime, but of sinful actions that create scandal. At worst, he can repent and confess. . .

TJ March 26, 2011 at 12:09 am

To Bill 912,
I think you meant to address Norman Rowe and his comments. He was quoting and responding to Norman.

Bill912 March 26, 2011 at 4:31 am

TJ, the poster’s name is below the comment.

Maryann Kanaley March 28, 2011 at 5:36 am

God called many “bad boys” to enlilghten them to do His work on earth. St Paul, St Francis of Assasi, St Augustine to name a few. Fr Corapi is in good company. Just because he had a bad life in the past doesn’t mean he will go back to that life. We are all tempted to sin. God will help Fr Corapi and he will prevail. God bless Fr Corapi.
Maryann Bortone

Daniel T March 29, 2011 at 10:28 pm

You may have put an unintentional spin on this story. You referred to Father’s rather ambiguous remark on the charges of the letter “accusing me of everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women.” You mentioned if Father had used different language, it might have been sexual harassment type activity that might have meant a misunderstanding, but Father’s language led you to think that it “suggests something far more concrete and far less subject to misunderstanding.”
It seems to me that Father’s wording could have included sexual harassment with the accuser, while she was accusing of him of something more with another woman. Assume for just a moment that the accusation was that he was constantly groping her, and that she additionally caught him having sex with her boss. Wouldn’t that also explain why she was a disgruntled former employee? If she had indicated that she was going to file a report with Father’s superior and the other person involved suggested that she shouldn’t do that because it would destroy Father, might this possibly be turned around to say that she threatened to destroy Father?
Somewhere along the line it seems to me that Father’s ambiguous wording had become almost universally interpreted as being that the woman accuser has claimed to have had sex with Father. That isn’t what he actually said, but now a picture seems to have been painted that his accuser is guilty either of lying or of having illicit sex with Father (with many thinking she may have seduced him). After reading your article I was rather thinking that was the case myself, until I read what Father Corapi actually said once more.

Kay Sanden March 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Don’t know much of anything about this, but I enjoy listening to Father. He is so on fire with the spirit that I can’t imagine any darkness penetrating it. I never would have known anything about this whole “scandal”, but my friend said, in a phone conversation, that someone had told her that Father C. had returned to his old ways and was out on the streets. Well, I told her I would research it and try to find out the “truth”(?) and let her know. Maybe this woman dreamed about a sexual situation with Father and approached him and he rebuffed her – and that would make her try to get revenge (like a “woman scorned”). In any event, all good thoughts for both parties involved and prayers plus.

Katherine Cairns April 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm

What I see is MANY people jumping on the bandwagon trying to silence Fr. Corapi’s messages. Is this really about silencing the messenger or silencing his MESSAGE to the FAITHFUL [particularly] during a time when need it the most LENT.
Who is really behind this, I keep asking myself, and why now during Lent?
Regardless of the outcome, I support Fr. Corapi and I always will as we NEVER know when or how the devil will come after ANY of us and WILL WE be strong enough to [past the test]. Temptation is very hard to fight for any of us BUT it’s even worse for Priests. Even the Apostles werent strong enough to fight temptation. Thank God for His Mercy and Forgiveness.
As Fr. Corapi always says, “there is a battle going on between good and evil, life and death, and Heaven and hell. We are either going to be a winner or a loser the choice is ours.”
Blessed Mother, Fr. Corapi loves you sooo much. Guide him and protect him from this most difficult time in his life. Help him to stay strong and to persevere until the bitter end. We love him and we need him. Amen.
Fr. Corapi is a gift to us from God and I pray that God will allow Him to continue giving His Message.

Cheap True Religion May 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm

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