Saturday, June 18, 2011
Fr. Corapi: "Soft you; a word or two before you go"
Let me begin with full disclosure: I was a member of the USCCB's senior staff for more than five years (2002-2007), and a consultant to the USCCB before that and since. It is in this capacity that I offer some observations.
1) I readily acknowledge that no human legal process is without flaws, and I'm not suggesting here that the process being followed is flawless or perfect. On the other hand, it has good points as well.
2) Despite innuendo and even some statements otherwise, this matter is NOT subject to the so-called "Dallas Charter" which address clergy sex abuse cases dealing with children, and vulnerable adults. So, there should be clarity here: Whatever is going on with Corapi vis-a-vis this particular case -- which as I understand it deals with the claims of an adult woman against Corapi -- it does not involve the Dallas Charter and its provisions. So, discussions which suggest otherwise are grossly inaccurate and should be discounted.
3) So, what process IS being invoked? Rather simple, actually: it is the process contained in the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church (the Eastern Catholic Churches have their own Code of Canons). When a cleric is accused of a crime, he is subject both to ecclesial law ("Canon Law") and to civil law. The legislator for a cleric is either his bishop (if he is a diocesan deacon or presbyter) or his religious superior (if he is a member of a religious order). When religious orders minister within a particular diocese, of course, they do so under the authority of the diocesan bishop. For example, if the bishop has asked the Franciscans to staff a particular parish in the diocese, the Franciscan superior will make the actual assignment (he'll pick the priest to be assigned), but the priest will be responsible both to his own superior and also to the diocesan bishop.
4) Now, I'm not too clear about Corapi's arrangement. (I was never aware of him until this whole thing broke in the news.) However, what I'm told is that he was not living in community with this order (SOLT), and so I must presume that his religious superior had agreed with whatever arrangement was in place, and of course, the diocesan bishop would be informed of it, and have to agree with it, as well, especially if he was functioning as a presbyter in the parishes of the diocese. The local bishop would extend faculties (authority) to exercise priestly ministry within the diocese, and so on.
5) Now comes the complaint. Ultimately, the religious superior is the responsible person, and it appears that the complaint was given to the diocesan bishop, who took the steps he needed to, and then referred the rest of it to the superior for HIS action. When a complaint is levied, an investigation is made. It is not uncommon to ask the cleric (presbyter or deacon) to step away from ministry until the investigation is complete and the disposition made. This, of course, is not a question of "presuming guilt" in the matter; it's simply prudential judgment pending the outcome of the case. While it's not a perfect analogy, it's not unlike what happens when a police officer is suspected or accused of wrongdoing; or sometimes just when he discharges his or her weapon in the line of duty. Such an officer is suspended from duty pending the outcome of the investigation; if everything is found to be in order, he is returned to duty. THE REASON FOR THIS IS TO ENSURE THE CONTINUED SAFETY OF THE COMMUNITY, not to "presume guilt" of the officer.
Similarly, the bishop/superior's main concern must be the CONTINUED SAFETY OF THE COMMUNITY pending the conclusion of the investigation. So, the priest or deacon is asked to step aside from ministry for the good of the community; if he refuses to do so voluntarily, he may be temporarily suspended, exactly as in the case of the police officer. Again, it's about the safety of the community. Once the investigation is complete, and if there's no problem, the suspension is lifted, he "gets his badge back," and returns to serving the community.
6) Now, what has happened in the Corapi case? It appears that, hurt and wounded as he surely is, Fr. Corapi has decided to forego the investigation altogether and simply walk away. No one has asked him to leave the priesthood, nor as any religious superior sought (yet) to have him returned to the lay state. All of this seems to be HIS decision, not ecclesial authority. To use my secular analogy: it would be the same as if the suspended police officer simply decided not to wait for the end of the investigation, and he or she just resigned from the police force altogether. Again, HIS initiative, not the Chief of Police's decision.
Is this a perfect system? Of course not. But I don't see anything in the facts made available to us that suggest the process is in any way unusual or inappropriate. I know that Corapi and his fans are hurting, but in their pain, they should not perpetuate further damage to the Body of Christ.
Oremus pro invicem -- Let us pray for each other.