Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In The World, Not Of It

Like many others, I'll be wrapping up any further commentary on the Fr. Corapi matter.  There really isn't that much more to say.  His "fans" will believe what they want to believe, and his critics will only be convinced Fr. Corapi is doing the right thing when he submits to his superiors like a good Catholic priest is supposed to.  In light of his recent posting (which I'm not going to link to again), it is obvious Fr. Corapi is very troubled right now, and in deep need of prayer.  So with that in mind, I will touch upon one issue, and then a wrap-up post later concluding the whole affair, barring any major developments, and a new podcast is not a major development!

It is my hope (and hope springs eternal) that there is a silver lining in this entire fiasco.  In the end, it is how important it is to pray for priests.  It is also about how important a priestly character is to the life of priests.  Fr. Jay Toborowsky offers a rather original analysis of the issue, and one I think that is compelling.  A big problem in this entire affair had to do with property.

For those not aware, Fr. Corapi is very wealthy.  A lot of the money came through winning a lawsuit (unrelated to his priestly functions), and a lot also came from his media empire Santa Cruz Media.  One cannot fault a priest for reaping the fruit of their labor.  Yet one can question the way that fruit is spent.  I indicate here how Fr. Corapi spends his wealth:

During the course of the day, we learned that Fr. Corapi owns a home in northwest Montana which he paid for with a million-dollar lawsuit settlement. He drives a fast car with lots of horsepower and keeps a loaded .45 in the glove compartment. He also rides a fat boy Harley Davidson motorcycle, owns a boat of unspecified size, and vacations in Key West. He works out six times a week, twice with a female physical trainer, and has lost seventy pounds and increased his strength by a hundred percent in the past year. The weight loss prompted him, at his charitable best, to donate two large bags of “fat clothes” to the local Salvation Army. I can only assume that the donated clothes did not consist of old habits and clericals.
Some things need to be kept clear.  Fr. Corapi did not take a vow of poverty.  So he isn't violating any laws of his religious order by having such possessions.  Yet one should question:  of what need does a priest have for a sports car or a Fat Boy?  Throughout the history of the Church, she has suffered the greatest when her priests and religious live like the world.  The Church at the time of the Reformation is acknowledged even by Catholics to have been stupendously and scandalously corrupt.  The Pope who condemned Luther (rightly in the doctrinal sphere) rode around Rome on a giant elephant and was one of the most extravagant spenders in world history, to say nothing of Church history!

Likewise, whenever a great reform movement of the Church happened, an emphasis was given on poverty.  Even if one didn't take a vow of poverty, there was a basic understanding of simplicity.  Priests dressed in simple black clerical garb with their Roman collars.  They drove simple transportation.  They weren't jet-setting to Vegas several times a year on "vacation."

When you raise these issues, you are called a socialist and envious.  Anyone who knows my political views knows I am a proponent of capitalism in the private market economy.  The priesthood of Jesus Christ is not the private market economy.  The job of a priest is not to make money.  It isn't even to go off on this or that conference marketing products.  The job of a priest is to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Sacraments.  Fr. Corapi mentioned that the Mass and Sacraments were barely part of his actual ministry, so the suspension does not effect him.  Whether or not he realizes it, he has just touched on the problem.  He, like far too many priests, are too busy with the things of this world, rather than sticking to the important points of their priesthood.

According to his superior Fr. Sheehan, Fr. Corapi was offered to return to living amongst his brother priests, to where all his needs would be taken care of during the investigation.  The only catch was, he would have to give up the sports cars, the boats, the hogs, and live in accordance with a stricter standard of discipline than he was originally living under (due to a previous agreement with his previous superior).  He turned down that invitation and chose to leave the religious life and (wanting to) leave the priesthood.  His "fans" constantly worry about "corrupt bishops" getting their greedy hands on all that money Fr. Corapi has.  Here's my question:  How much of an issue is all of this is Fr. Corapi instead lived a life not neccessarily of poverty, but simplicity?  If instead of a sports car, he had a Focus?  If he lived in a humble one bedroom apartment or two room flat?  If instead of a Harley, he had a Schwinn?  If the profits from his ministry (outside of administrative costs for himself, his staff and upkeep) went to the charity of his choice, even a private one?  I suspect things would be a lot different.

We are currently in an era of reform-minded Popes.  The great project of Blessed John Paul was on stressing greater fidelity to Catholic doctrine, especially in the seminaries.  The great project of Benedict XVI has been to awaken the proper understanding of the liturgical life, especially amongst priests.  Perhaps Benedict (or his successor) will next choose to focus on the quality of priestly life, secular and religious.

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