Tom O'Toole
April 5, 2011
Book 'em, bishop; is Fr. Corapi santa cruz-in' for a bruisin'?
By Tom O'Toole

Reprinted on Spero News.

    Statement of Santa Cruz Media, Inc. Relative to Fr. Corapi's Suspension [email newsletter, 3-25-11 (and currently posted on fathercorapi.com)]

    Santa Cruz Media, Inc. is the owner of all of Fr. John Corapi's intellectual property and the DVDs, CDs, and books that flow from it. We are a secular corporation and not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way. As such, we are not under the jurisdiction of any bishop or other official in the Catholic Church, although we have the utmost respect for Church authority.

    We fully support Rev. John Corapi in this terrible trial, not surprisingly having begun on Ash Wednesday...

    We have consulted with a number of canon lawyers. They have assured us that the actions of the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas are, on several points of canon law, illicit...There is no evidence at this time that Fr. Corapi did anything wrong, only the unsubstantiated rant of a former employee, who, after losing her job with this office, physically assaulted me and another employee and promised to "destroy" Father Corapi. We all continue to pray for this person, and we ask you to do the same...The Church provides no financial support to Fr. Corapi. He has to pay for his own legal representation, medical costs, food, housing, etc. We have never accepted donations or charitable contributions of any kind. We are supporting Father's efforts to defend himself. Your purchase of products from Santa Cruz Media helps provide the funding for Father's continued work as well as the legal expenses he continues to incur as a result of these malicious allegations.

    Father Corapi and all of us here at Santa Cruz Media, Inc. greatly appreciate your kindness, support, and prayers. Please continue to pray for Father Corapi and his accuser, as well as all priests who find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    Bobbi Ruffatto
    Vice President of Operations
    Santa Cruz Media, Inc.



    Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Rene Gracida, comments on injustice suffered by accused priests from bishops and religious superiors [posted on Gracida's site, 3-26-11 (and currently posted on fathercorapi.com)]

    The public controversy over the announcement of the accusations against Father John Corapi, SOLT, and his suspension from exercising his priestly ministry offers an opportunity to reflect on the flawed procedure apparently being followed in too many dioceses of the United States these days in the case of a priest accused of sexual misconduct not involving minors...

    The procedure operates something like this. A person accuses a priest of sexual misconduct (again, not involving a minor). The priest is immediately suspended from active exercise of his priestly ministry while an investigation is launched into the truth or falsity of the accusations...The investigation may take days or months or years to complete. In the meantime the priest's reputation is effectively destroyed and perhaps he is 'thrown out on the street' with no means of support. The accuser, on the other hand, enjoys anonymity and suffers no loss of reputation or negative material consequences and in the case of an accusation later proven to have been false the injustice to priest is great.

    In cases where the priest is accused of having used force (rape or some other form of involuntary abuse) there is some justification for not publishing the name of the accuser. But, where there is reason to believe that the alleged sexual misconduct was effected through mutual consent there is no justification for not publishing the name of the accuser...Such is reported to have been the case of the accusation against Father Corapi. The only safe way to guard against damaging the reputation of individual priests and the Catholic priesthood in general is to not publish the name of an accused priest until an investigation has proved beyond doubt the guilt of the priest.

After reading my first take on the Corapi suspension, many wrote back to say that I was too hard on the awe-inspiring preacher-priest. Although Corapi's statement was a tad angry, and his attitude perhaps a trifle disrespectful, especially to the bishops in charge, I was told to give Black-Beard a break, in deference to the great good his talks (and tapes and books) have done for the Church as a whole. A noble opinion no doubt, but after two subsequent statements, one written by Santa Cruz Media (of which Corapi is the president and CEO), and the other by a hand-picked Corapi bishop, it's clear that rather than seeking a conciliatory tone, Corapi and company is ratcheting up the rhetoric, demanding that he be set free for homilies, while this bogus consenting adult (repeat: I'm NOT accused of sex with a minor!) charge is being investigated. And whether you are friend or foe, it doesn't take a canon lawyer to know that Corapi's cannon shots are not heading the Tan-Man in the right direction.

Indeed, while Corapi's own March 18 statement in response to his active suspension by SOLT (The Society of Our Lady of The Most Holy Trinity), Fr. Corapi's religious order, seemed more than enough, apparently Bobbi Ruffatto didn't think so. Listed as the vice president of operations of Santa Cruz Media (more on them in a minute) she begins with a brief background of SCM, noting that "[while] not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way...we have the utmost respect for Church authority." But then Bobbi almost immediately seems to contradict herself, saying "a number of canon lawyers...have assured us that the actions [regarding Corapi's suspension] of the Bishop of Corpus Christi...are...illicit."

This sentiment is almost identical to that of Fr. John Jenkins, the clown-prince president of Notre Dame, who opposed not only his local bishop but the statement of all the bishops in the United States by inviting Barack Obama to Notre Dame, then awarding "the abortion president" an honorary degree when he came. To justify himself, Jenkins then found a few liberal canon lawyers who said the ban on pro-abortion politicians at a Catholic university didn't apply to a Protestant (or perhaps Muslim) president. Corapi was vocal in his opposition of Jenkins back then, but now when the tables are turned, he uses his mouthpiece Ruffatto to salvage the opposition, who continues his attack with the salvo, "There is no evidence at this time that Fr. Corapi did anything wrong, only the unsubstantiated rant of a former employee, who, after losing her job with this office, physically assaulted me and another employee and promised to 'destroy' Father Corapi. We all continue to pray for this person, and we ask you to do the same." This reminds me of the woman who writes me after any unfavorable article I author about a priest (no matter how despicable their actions) and says "YOU ARE GOING TO HELL! I will pray for your soul." I don't know if one can be condemning, commending, and condescending all at the same time, but these gals come pretty close.

Speaking of close, Ruffatto's curious closing, "The Church provides no financial support for Fr. Corapi...your purchase of products from Santa Cruz Media helps provide the funding for Father's continued work, as well as the legal expenses he continues to incur..." makes no sense on the surface, sounding more like the pitch of a Protestant televangelist than a priest from a Marian order. That is, it doesn't make sense until you discover that the lucrative SCM is a for-profit corporation "completely independent" of Corapi's order. Moreover, Corapi is both its president and CEO, so for those who wrote me to ask if the members of SOLT take a vow of poverty, the answer, at least in this case, is a resounding "no." "In 1994," explains SOLT spokesman Fr. Gerard Sheehan, "the society adopted a new constitution in which its member gave all their earnings back to the society, and from this fund were provided a stipend on which to live, but those who joined prior to that continued to independently run their own ministries." I suppose this explains the "Cruz-ers'" constant clatter for money, not to mention why Bobbi's statement is such a close (if louder) echo of Corapi's own. Still, although Corapi is clearly not hurting for funds at this time, I've never heard a case in the United States where "the accused priest...is thrown out into the street with no means of support," as Bishop Rene Gracida contends...a contention Corapi's superiors can only take as an "in-SOLT."

Indeed, while Ruffatto's almost parrot-like repetition of her boss' statement is understandable considering she works for Corapi and wants to keep her job, the orthodox Bishop Gracida's discourse (which is also so close to Corapi's you wonder if JC ghost wrote it), is a little bit harder to explain. Short of heresy, it is never good form for one bishop to question the actions of another bishop or superior (especially when it involves the emeritus bishop questioning the new one) but perhaps Corapi's unsurpassed preaching appeal was enough to secure Gracida's favor. On the other hand, I don't think the bishop's, "but where there is reason to believe the alleged sexual misconduct was effected through mutual consent..." phrase did Corapi any favors. I suppose you could say he was contrasting it with the sexual abuse of minors (which he mentioned thrice) or rape, but it seems strange to even bring up this "lesser sin" unless the old bishop made a Freudian slip. As for the accuser "not suffering a loss of reputation," one can only presume that the bishop did not read Ms. Ruffatto's blow-by-blow description of Corapi's accuser's exit.

Now for those who still think this written examination of priestly pitfalls (even by an orthodox Catholic writer) is scandalous in and of itself, I call your attention to the many e-mails I received on the scant few lines I wrote on Cardinal Bernardin in my Corapi-Euteneuer article. Many readers, knowing both my deep devotion to the Church as well as my continuous search for justice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse, wrote (some from first-hand knowledge) that Bernardin's sexual conduct wasn't as saintly as the Chicago press at the time portrayed it. While I haven't yet fully investigated all of these claims, it's safe to say I wouldn't have included the late Chicago cardinal in with the likes of Sts. Marcarius the Great or Padre Pio if I had known about these claims then. So rather than discredit orthodox Catholic blogs, these sincere e-mails seem to be the reason such blogs are necessary, for if they were around a few years ago when Bernardin lived, perhaps a truer tale of his reign (and the reign of many others) would have surfaced.

On the other hand, it is important to not become so cynical by scandals as to throw the baby (the Christ Child) out with the bathwater. For example, while I think Bilgrimage's take on the Corapi and Euteneuer tales is (wickedly) right on, he then makes the faulty (and fatal) leap that all "rock star" priests, including John Paul II are bad. Similarly, although I share many (if not most) of the views of my esteemed colleague Matt C. Abbott, unlike Matt, I am excited, even "rock-star excited" about the impending beatification of JPII. Although Matt's arguments, and that of "The Remnant," should be taken seriously, in the end I believe it is cynicism that prevents them from seeing that their main argument against John Paul (who they admit led a personally virtuous life), that he didn't markedly heal the grave ills that affect the Church during his lifetime, could realistically be leveled at any of his saintly predecessors, and is thus not a real argument at all.

But back to Corapi. I hope he is innocent of these sexual indiscretions, but the verbal indiscretions committed by him and his cohorts surely aren't helping his cause any. If anything, they prove the need for his SOLT superiors to reign the independent Corapi in before his disobedience becomes a permanent riff. Unlike the Euteneuer case, I believe it is a positive that Corapi's superiors didn't wait five months to speak out, but one can only hope that this discipline will be enough. Because if Fr. John and friends keep issuing statements like the three we've seen, in the future Corapi won't be touring with Euteneuer but Charlie Sheen.

© Tom O'Toole

 

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Tom O'Toole

Thomas Augustine O'Toole was born in Chicago and grew up in a devout Catholic family with five brothers and two sisters. He was the sports editor of Notre Dame's Scholastic magazine, where his story "Reflections on the Game" won the award for Best Sports Feature for the Indiana Collegiate Press Association... (more)

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