Yesterday was tough for many Catholics, especially for regular EWTN viewers and "fans" of the now-infamous Father John Corapi, an admitted former drug addict who underwent a major conversion a number of years ago and who for the last few years has been a regular feature, explaining Catholic teachings. If you were under a rock yesterday and missed all the commotion, there is a good summary of the facts here and a summary of what has been said around the blogosphere here. Corapi's religious order's summary of his misbehavior includes cohabitation with a former prostitute, drugs and sexting, as well as hiding millions of dollars in assets despite his vow of poverty.
Normally, I would not comment in this space on scandals in the Church, but since the latest involves a television catechist and preacher, it seems appropriate to evaluate what has happened in light of that role. This news reveals a sordid secret life beneath the public persona and a stunning lack of authenticity. Corapi's situation, the scandal and dismay it has caused among the faithful are a good illustration of the damage that can result when a person acting in the role of trusted catechist fails to live up to the role in his or her private life.
It is no surprise that Catholics are divided even in the face of this evidence, in their opinion of Corapi. Many who defended him in the past continue to do so. Others are not so sure. I will only say that I very occasionally watched him on EWTN to see what he was about and personally found his style to be too "ranting". I have never liked people that feel they have to shout to be heard. In retrospect, I wonder if this was not a case of trying to convince himself of the truth of his own words.
Untypically, Corapi himself, who rather sadly resembled Anthony Weiner in his protestations of innocence and blame-laying at the beginning of this debacle, has so far been silent about these latest developments. However, his Twitter feed this morning promises a "very special announcement" tomorrow. Not holding my breath, although I do admit to the kind of natural curiosity one has when watching a train wreck or other disaster.
I wrote a few weeks back about the guideline that catechists have "authenticity of life." The Guide for Catechists says, "The work of catechists involves their whole being. Before they preach the word, they must make it their own and live by it... The truth of their lives confirms their message. It would be sad if they did not 'practice what they preached'..." And sad it is, as we are now seeing in Corapi's case. Now, of course, this guideline does not mean that a catechist has to be perfect - we are, after all, a church filled with sinners. However, when the split between the public teacher and the private man is revealed to be so great, his credibility as an instructor on Catholic doctrine (including morality) is irreparably compromised. Many people trusted and loved this man, and thought of him as holy. Now they have to untangle the lie of his private life from the truth of anything he taught. That simply should not be happening.