In recent years, even after the bulk of the priest scandals came to light, there have been additional troubling chapters in which well-known, seemingly stalwart priests have been accused of misconduct. While each man and woman arises daily to confront the sinner in the mirror, it’s only natural that those who take up the public task of admonishing others concerning right and wrong cause larger ripples when their transgressions become known, and these sagas can be quite painful.
The latest priest to become enmeshed in controversy is Father John Corapi, EWTN personality and well-known speaker, who has spoken forcefully on moral issues since his ordination 20 years ago. It is impossible to know if he is guilty of the various indiscretions with which he has been charged, or if he is a victim of procedures undertaken by misguided bishops (as he insists), but he has essentially short-circuited the investigation process by refusing to cooperate and abandoning his priesthood — on Fathers’ Day weekend, no less. Whenever the Church loses a priest, it is a tragedy, and that is certainly the case with this sad affair.
The life of the Church depends upon its ordained ministers for the Sacraments they make possible. Our lives — and the Church in its entirety — would crumble without the Eucharist. “The Eucharist is the efficacious sign and sublime cause of that communion in the divine life and that unity of the People of God by which the Church is kept in being” (CCC 1325). Furthermore, we depend on the graces attached to Confession, to the Anointing of the Sick, and the treasure trove of goodness embedded in Confirmation. It is technically true that laymen can baptize others and witness Marriages, but those Sacraments alone are not enough, and when offered apart from the hierarchy, they run the risk of allowing the faithful to become fragmented from the Mystical Body of Christ.
“The ordained priesthood guarantees that it really is Christ who acts in the Sacraments through the Holy Spirit for the Church. The saving mission entrusted by the Father to His incarnate Son was committed to the Apostles and through them to their successors: they receive the Spirit of Jesus to act in His name and in His person. The ordained minister is the sacramental bond that ties the liturgical action to what the Apostles said and did and, through them, to the words and actions of Christ, the source and foundation of the Sacraments” (CCC, 1120).
And so we return to this latest scandal, which runs the risk of confusing the flock and deflating our spirits. It comes at a time when we are rejoicing in the outpouring of the Spirit, are preparing to celebrate new ordinations and remember the anniversaries of the priests so dear to us. How do we respond?
There are two primary lessons — the first recalling the sinner in the mirror. While we have no business speculating without details, we put no sin beyond anyone. If we believe in original sin, then we believe ourselves to be entirely capable of any depravity, and should be humbly aware of such possibilities — beginning with ourselves. Live in fear of sin and in awe of God’s mercy, our only refuge.