By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Fr. John Corapi’s superior and bishop have both issued statements expressing regret that one of America’s most popular priests has been put on administrative leave after a former employee accused him of misconduct.
Thanks to Matthew Archbold at the National Catholic Register, the Rev. Gerald Sheehan, Regional Priest Servant for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) issued the following statement on March 18:
“Today, as Regional Priest Servant for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, I have the unhappy responsibility to announce that Father John Corapi, SOLT has been placed on administrative leave from priestly ministry, in accordance to the Code of Cannon Law of the Catholic Church. We have received an allegation that Father Corapi has behaved in a manner unbecoming of a priest and are duty-bound to conduct an investigation in this accusation.
“It is important to keep in mind that this action in no way implies Father Corapi is guilty of the allegation. It is equally important to know that, based on the information we have received thus far, the claim of misconduct does not involve minors and does not arise to the of criminal conduct. Consequently, this matter will be investigated internally, and unless and until information suggests otherwise it will not be referred to civil authorities. In the event that we learn of any occasion where the criminal civil law may have been breached we will immediately refer the matter to civil authorities.”
A statement has also been issued by Bishop George Leo Thomas, the bishop of the Diocese of Helena, Montana, where Fr. Corapi resides:
“It is important to accord Father Corapi the principles of due process, including the assumption of innocence, until a full investigation is carried out by his superiors. More importantly, I appeal for prayers on behalf of everyone involved in this very complex situation.”
A statement was also released yesterday by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) in which CEO Michael Warsaw announced that the “troubling situation” will result in the suspension of the priest’s radio and television shows until further notice.
“As a result of this evolving story EWTN has deemed it prudent to place Fr. John’s TV and Radio programs ‘on leave’ as well, pending the resolution of this situation,” Warsaw said. “We take this step reluctantly and hope for a speedy resolution,” he added, saying he joins “Fr. John in asking all our family to not only pray for him but for all who may be involved.”
Meanwhile, outrage over the loss of such a dynamic priest due to unproven charges continues to mount.
“A zero-tolerance policy without due process that de facto impugns the reputations of the accused is immoral,” writes Archbold on his blog. “The Church has a duty to protect the innocent, even if the innocent is a priest. Of course, the Church has a moral duty to make sure that the scandal of abuse and coverup is never repeated, but it cannot willfully sacrifice the reputations of the innocent as indemnification. The end does not justify the means. I do not know that any of this applies to the Father Corpai case, but we have seen this happen in other cases too and it is wrong.”
Archbold concluded: “We all know the devil hates priests, but I bet he doesn’t hate this policy. If all one has to do to destroy the reputation of a good priest is accuse, knowing that the Church will do the rest, the priesthood doesn’t stand a chance.”
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