Popular Catholic preacher Fr. John Corapi has been placed on administrative leave by leaders of his religious order following an accusation of sexual misconduct and drug abuse.
“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 into this accusation,” said Father Gerard Sheehan, a spokesman for Father Corapi’s community, the Texas-based Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. “It is important to keep in mind that this action in no way implies Father Corapi is guilty of the allegation,” Father Sheehan said. “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 level of criminal conduct.”
On his Web site, Corapi denied the charges and gave further insight on the nature of the allegations. Here is Corapi’s statement:
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. There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed “credible” in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure, which was in recent years crafted to respond to cases of the sexual abuse of minors. I am not accused of that, but it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints. I have been placed on “administrative leave” as the result of this.
I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty “just in case”, then through the process determining if he is innocent. The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known. I am not alone in this assessment, as multiple canon lawyers and civil and criminal attorneys have stated publicly that the procedure does grave damage to the accused from the outset, regardless of rhetoric denying this, and has little regard for any form of meaningful due process.
All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned.
Corapi is a celebrated Catholic apologist whose journey from homeless drug addict to Catholic priest infuses his animated sermons. The fact that this famous defender of Catholicism has launched an aggressive critique of the church over its handling of his case has lit up the Catholic blogosphere.
Policies forged in the wake of the church’s sexual abuse scandal demand that credibly accused priests be removed from ministry while investigated, but the procedure is applied on the diocesan level, leaving room for interpretation. (In Corapi’s case, it’s at the level of his religious order.) Some priests (see Corapi’s statement above) say that the policy implies guilt at the outset, while victims’ groups say that the church is often too slow to act on accusations.
Do you think the church has achieved a fair balance between justice for the accused and the protection of victims?