.- Popular speaker and author Fr. John Corapi has been placed on administrative leave by superiors within his religious order following recent allegations of misconduct.
Fr. Corapi said in a March 19 statement that a 3-page letter submitted by a former, unidentified female employee was entirely “false.” The letter claimed that the priest took part in sexual encounters with several adult women and engaged in habitual drug use.
Fr. Corapi – a member of Texas-based Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity – is an internationally-known speaker and author who has appeared regularly on Catholic television and radio programs.
He gained a widespread audience with his conversion story. After a prominent career as a wealthy businessman, his life spiraled out of control due to a cocaine addiction, eventually leading to him living on the streets. He later joined the Catholic Church and was ordained a priest.
On March 18, Fr. Gerry Sheehan, Regional Priest Servant for the society, issued a statement saying that Fr. Corapi had been placed “on administrative leave from priestly ministry, in accordance to the Code of Cannon Law of the Catholic Church.”
“We have an allegation that Father Corapi has behaved in a manner unbecoming of a priest and are duty-bound to conduct an investigation in this accusation.”
Fr. Sheehan said it was “important to keep in mind that this action in no way implies Fr. Corapi is guilty of the allegation.”
“It is equally important to know that, based on the information we have received thus far,” he added, “the claim of misconduct does not involve minors and does not arise to the (level) of criminal conduct.”
The broadcast of Fr. Corapi’s homilies and teachings is also being affected by the allegation. The Eternal Word Television Network issued a statement from its CEO Michael Warsaw on March 21. He said that the “troubling situation” will result in the suspension of the priest's radio and television shows until further notice.
“As a result of this evolving story EWTN has deemed it prudent to place Fr. John's TV and Radio programs 'on leave' as well, pending the resolution of this situation,” Warsaw said.
“We take this step reluctantly and hope for a speedy resolution,” he added, saying he joins “Fr. John in asking all our family to not only pray for him but for all who may be involved.”
The 63 year-old priest said that he was informed of the accusations, which were reportedly sent to numerous bishops by the former employee, on March 9.
“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,” he said.
Fr. Corapi – who has been an outspoken critic of bishops' zero-tolerance policy in the wake of sex abuse scandals involving minors within the Church – said that from his perspective, being placed on leave was an equally reactionary move.
“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,” he said on his website.
Although he is not being accused of misconduct related to minors, Fr. Corapi added that “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’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,” he said.
“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,” Fr. Corapi added.
“All of the allegations in the complaint are false, and I ask you to pray for all concerned,” he said.
The Diocese of Corpus Christi, where the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity's mother house is located, said that although the case is outside its jurisdiction – given that Fr. Corapi is not a priest of the diocese – making the assumption that he is guilty of the allegations “is definitely not in order.”
“Fr. Corapi has done many great things – he should be presumed innocent of these allegations until proven otherwise,” Marty Wynd, director of communications told CNA in a March 21 phone interview.
“There's so many great priests who've done great things,” he added. “We have to be very, very careful here, and not presume any kind of guilt.”
Fr. Sheehan noted that the situation will now be “investigated internally, and unless and until information suggests otherwise it will not be referred to civil authorities.”
“In the event that we learn of any occasion where the criminal civil law may have been breached we will immediately refer the matter to civil authorities,” he added.