On the one hand, Father Corapi affirmed the right of the bishops to implement new guidelines for addressing clerical misconduct. Yet, he persistently attacked the logic and integrity of those guidelines, and sharply criticized Bishop William Mulvey of Corpus Christi, Texas, for taking action to forcibly remove him from active ministry.
The YouTube announcement and a text version of his statement began with an acknowledgement that the upcoming Trinity Sunday, June 19, 2011, marked his “20th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. For 20 years I was called ‘father.’”
Expressing his gratitude for ongoing expressions of support, the priest then stated: “All things change, only God stays the same, so I have to tell you about a major change in my life. I am not going to be involved in public ministry as a priest any longer. There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone, and I shall be gone.”
Echoing themes repeated in recent Santa Cruz Media posts that asserted his innocence, questioned the motives of his accuser, and criticized recent Church policies that suspended priests from active ministry following allegations of misconduct, he presented himself as one of many priests victimized by disciplinary practices established after the 2002 clergy abuse crisis.
“For 20 years I did my best to guard and feed the sheep. Now, based on a totally unsubstantiated, undocumented allegation from a demonstrably troubled person I was thrown out like yesterday’s garbage,” he stated.
He provided few substantive details regarding his new Black Sheep Dog initiative, but sketched out an ambitious mission: “I shall continue, black sheep that I am, to speak; and sheep dog that I am, to guard the sheep — this time around not just in the Church, but also in the entire world,” he stated.
He confirmed plans to produce radio programs and publish books, including an autobiography <i>Black Sheep Dog</i>. His mention of the book’s imminent release suggested that his bombshell announcement had been planned for some time.
The announcement will likely prompt scrutiny of Father Corapi’s ties to the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), the apostolic religious order he joined twenty years ago, and raise questions about whether SOLT superiors should have allowed him to live and work apart from his religious community.
In a previous interview with the Register, published after Father Corapi’s suspension, Father Sheehan implicitly acknowledged that the accused priest was not living in conformity with SOLT’s constitution, approved in 1994.
“The founder’s arrangement with Father Corapi was established before that time, when Father Flanagan believed that every mission should take care of its own needs,” noted Father Sheehan at that time. “Now, according to our constitution, a different way of life has been established for members. All the money we make is turned over to the society, which gives us an allowance.”
During that interview, Father Sheehan confirmed that SOLT had “begun to address the issues of members who joined the society before the new constitution. The society is moving to a more organized structural phase of its existence, with all the Church discipline that entails.” The implication of his remarks was that Father Corapi had not accommodated the discipline imposed by the new constitution.
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Father Corapi’s status in the Diocese of Helena, the location of his home, also raised questions about his legal ability to exercise his ministerial priesthood. In the wake of his suspension, the chancellor of the Diocese of Helena, Father John Robertson, stated that “Father Corapi has a personal residence in Kalispell, Mont. He does not hold priestly faculties in the Diocese of Helena.”
Father Corapi’s YouTube statement did not address questions raised by these recent public disclosures. In the message, his ire was reserved for the Bishop of Corpus Christi.
“I did not start this process, the Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas ordered my superiors, against their will and better judgment, to do it. He in fact threatened to release a reprehensible and libelous letter to all of the bishops if they did not suspend me. He has a perfect right to do so, and I defend that right. Bishops aren’t bound by civil laws and procedures in internal Church matters.”
His remarks raised questions about the role of the bishop of Corpus Christi in the decision to place him on administrative leave. The motherhouse of SOLT is based in that diocese. In the wake of his suspension, Marty Wind, a diocesan spokesman said that his case was outside the jurisdiction of the diocese and that SOLT authorities had initiated the action to temporarily remove him from active ministry.
In his YouTube post, Father Corapi characterized the process that led to his suspension as “inherently and fatally flawed.” He added that “The case may be on hold indefinitely, but my life cannot be,” he said, implying that his decision to leave the priesthood and establish “Black Sheep Dog” was essentially forced on him.
The painful decision was guided by legal counsel, he said: “My canon lawyer and my civil lawyers have concluded that I cannot receive a fair and just hearing under the Church’s present process. The Church will conclude that I am not cooperating with the process because I refuse to give up all of my civil and human rights in order to hold harmless anyone who chooses to say defamatory and actionable things against me with no downside to them.”
Attempts to reach Father Corapi for comment were unsuccessful.