If there is someone on the planet whose opinion should matter on the affair of Father John Corapi, and the still to be proven accusations against him, that would be someone who has walked miles in similar shoes. So, when Father Gordon MacRae published his latest thoughts at These Stone Walls, titled: "Good-Bye, Good Priest! Father John Corapi’s Kafkaesque Catch-22", I took notice and I highly recommend giving it a read and some thought.
I am concerned for Father Corapi's mental health today, as I have been while reading and listening to his own comments on the goings on that have been swirling around him over this whole matter. It would be very stressful to have been caught in flagrante delicto. There, pants figuratively at half mast, the sinner has his assets bared for all to see. That was not the case here. It must be even more stressful to find oneself pilloried for things beyond the pale, that are far beyond what the individual would ever commit in sane mind.
What is even more stressful, is to fall victim to a draconian process which much like being hauled in front of one of our Canadian or provincial Human Rights kangaroo courts (officially tribunals), where as Calgary lawyer and journalist, Ezra Levant demonstrated, the punishment is the crime.
Father Corapi, and priests like Father Gordon MacRae, as well as others like Father Mark Gruber, are paying a heavy price for the sins of others. You can look at the left of this page and see labels for Father MacRae and for Father Gruber that will lead you to articles where I have made mention of their situations, and provided links in articles to other sources about them.
Most instances of sexual abuse going on between priests, and young people in particular, approximately 94% of those reported to the Church took place prior to 1990. But, prior to 1985, priests who were accused of sexual abuse were buried, or were sent for treatment, and if considered rehabilitated were returned to active ministry.
It could be said that the bishops of North America and the world, were asleep at the switch. In fairness, society was asleep at the switch and though many were abused at the hands of priests, far more were abused at the hands of parents, relatives, teachers, coaches and others. But that does not make good newspaper copy.
Our bishops, priests, and the religious leaders of the Catholic Church may well be anointed with the Sacrament of Holy Orders, into a life of service to the cause and sharing in the life of Jesus Christ. However, unlike Jesus Christ, we must always remember that they too are sinners, subject to the same temptations as we are, and probably worse, because they are an affront by Holy Orders to the devil and all that he stands for, which is destruction of you and me and them, and separating us from our eternal home with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Like us they have the Holy Spirit for inspiration, but also like us, they are often hard of hearing, or worse still hard of listening.
The sexual abuse scandal and its remnants, particularly in the United States of America is a case in point. Here in Canada, our bishops created a committee on Child Sexual Abuse, which drafted a report called "From Pain to Hope" in 1992 which has been the foundation of the Canadian Church's handling of the issue and prevention of such behaviours today. Even in 1992, this was late to address a serious issue that had brought harm to many young people and their families, while undermining the trust of parishioners in their priests.
But, in America it took the Boston Globe breaking news about the criminal prosecutions of 5 priests, to get what appears to be serious action from the US Bishops. In 2002, the US Bishops produced the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Until that time, the basic principles of the Charter were being applied on an ad hoc approach.
The Charter is focused on the following:
Creating a safe environment for children and young people;But, it seems that the Charter and its concepts has become a one size fits all, for anything that might have the word "sex" in it.
Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors;
Making prompt and effective response to allegations;
Cooperating with civil authorities;
Providing for means of accountability for the future to ensure the problem continues to be effectively dealt with through a national Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and a National Review Board.
The Dallas Charter has resulted in the official victimization of priests. An American priest against whom a claim of some form of sexual misconduct is raised, is punished first, and if by some chance, with his hands tied behind his back, and a blindfold on he is able to prove his innocence, he may have some opportunity to try and rebuild his life and heal his hurting soul.
Father Gordon MacRae's conviction in New Hampshire happened several years before the Dallas Charter. There was no credible evidence against him, but that did not stop the prosecutor, investigating detective and judge from having him sent away basically forever, since he refused to admit any culpability, for the things that didn't happen, but for which he was charged and convicted. Had he admitted he had done, what logically could never have occurred, he would be a free man, ostracized, mind you, but free in some sense of the word. Instead, he continues to claim innocence, and gets to be a guest of the state of New Hampshire. But, the main reason he sits in prison, is because he was abandoned by the Catholic Church, by his bishop at the time, and his successor, and those responsible for believing incredible claims and paying significant sums of money to those making the claims.
There is nothing in the charter or in the actions of bishops around America, that even pretends that priests are innocent until proven guilty, which presumption by law they have a right to.
Father Mark Gruber, a well known retreat leader and teacher has been silenced because someone used a computer in a public area attached to his office to access homosexual pornography. The person who did the accessing came forward and admitted his sins. For a time, Father Gruber attempted to commence a lawsuit to recover his good name. But, in a courageous action on his part, he abandoned the case because of the pain it would have caused to others. The case of Father Mark, and his silencing has nothing at all to do with sexual abuse, or sex for that matter. It is about power, and the power to silence a good and holy priest, under the guise of sexual misconduct.
So too, the case of Father John Corapi, . A woman, who claimed that she would destroy him for personal reasons, has been able to do that, with the complicity of bishops and those in charge of his order, by making claims of sexual impropriety against him.
The safest place to be a child in North America today is in a Catholic Church. The most dangerous place to be a priest in North America today is in the same Catholic Church.
We must pray for our bishops and those in positions of authority in the Catholic Church, that they will use right judgement to examine the challenges they face over claims made against priests, both currently and in review from the past, particularly where there are credible claims of injustice.
Most in positions of authority are priests, and so me must include them in our prayers for priests, who face this internal persecution that makes priestly ministry more difficult for them. I remember as a small child running up to our parish priest and giving him a hug. I remember when my children were small and one child, not one of my own, commented out loud to her mother as our then pastor passed by in procession to the altar: "There goes God Mommy." In a sense this child was correct, as our beloved priests represent Christ for us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Kids don't usually hug our priests anymore, and more's the pity. Some did break the trust tragically, and some small few may still do it. But, that childhood holding in awe of our priests, and yet the approachability that was there to help them to see that beauty of a priestly vocation has been lost, and there will be a price to be paid for that down the line.
God Bless our priests and particularly those falsely accused.