This Sunday, June 19, 2011, is both Trinity Sunday on the Catholic liturgical calendar and Fathers’ Day on the secular calendar. It is a day I’ll never forget, and sadly so. It is the twentieth anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. For twenty years I was called “father.” I am very thankful for those twenty years. I could have easily died any number of times, any number of ways in my life before that, so I consider it all a bonus, an undeserved bonus. To all of you that have communicated support, ordination anniversary congratulations, and other kind sentiments, I am greatly thankful, and I do not take that for granted.
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. I have been guilty of many things in the course of my life, and could easily and justifiably be considered unfit to engage in public ministry as a priest. The present complaint that you have heard about is, as far as I know, from the one person that I can honestly say I did more to help and support than any human being in my entire life. I forgive her and hope only good things for her. I am not going to get into a back and forth or argument with the Church or anyone else about this matter.
Suffice it to say that I love the Catholic Church and accept what has transpired. Unfortunately, the process used is inherently and fatally flawed, but the bishops have the power, apparently, to operate anyway they see fit. I cannot give a lengthy explanation of what has transpired, but I can tell you that the most likely outcome is that they leave me suspended indefinitely and just let me fade away. They can’t prove I’m guilty of the things alleged because I’m not, and they can’t prove I’m innocent because that is simply illogical and impossible. All civilized societies know that. Certain leaders in the Catholic Church apparently do not.
I accept moving on, but I am not ready to be altogether extinguished just yet. In the final analysis I have only one of only two viable choices:
1. I can quietly lie down and die, or
2. I can go on in ways that I am able to go on.
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. I agree with that, and would defend to the death the Church’s right to proceed as they see fit. He is the bishop and he has the right to govern as he sees fit. It isn’t an easy task. Many forces besiege him, including pressure from other bishops.
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. The case may be on hold indefinitely, but my life cannot be. Some of the things that might surprise you about the way some of the bishops treat accused priests are as follows:
1. The identity of the accuser is not revealed. You can guess, but you don’t actually know. Nor are the exact allegations made known to you. Hence, you have an interesting situation of having to respond to an unknown accuser making unknown accusations (unknown to the accused and his counsel).
2. The persons chosen to investigate the allegations normally have no qualifications to do so. They certainly didn’t graduate from the FBI academy, nor do they have any other background to qualify them to interrogate or otherwise interview witnesses.
3. There are no set rules of evidence or norms of procedure.
4. You are for all practical purposes assumed guilty until you can prove you are innocent. This one is truly baffling. No civilized society operates that way. If you are accused of something you are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
5. The accused and his counsel have no right to obtain and review any of the evidence against him.
6. The accused and his counsel are not provided the names of witnesses, nor are they permitted to cross-examine them.
7. There is a general unwillingness or outright refusal by certain of the bishops to abide by applicable statutes of limitations, both in canon and civil law. There are good reasons for these statutes. Time has a way of clouding memories and distorting perceptions.
By the way, Canon Law does not dictate this. They choose to selectively ignore or violate both Canon Law and Civil Law, as they deem appropriate and or expeditious. Once again, they apparently have the discretionary power to do this, and if that’s the way it is I have to accept that as reality.
The bottom line is that the only way a just outcome is likely, in my view and that of my counsel, both civil and canon lawyers, is by accident, rather than as a result of the process.
I will not try to fight this irrational and unjust situation for the simple reason that I don’t want to be placed in an adversarial posture against the Church. 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. I accept that. Perhaps I deserve that.
I can’t do what I can’t do. I can only do what I can do. 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. I am, indeed, not ready to be extinguished. Under the name “The Black Sheep Dog,” I shall be with you through radio broadcasts and writing. My autobiography, “The Black Sheep Dog,” is almost ready for publication. My topics will be broader than in the past, and my audience likewise is apt to be broader. I’ll do what I can under the circumstances.
Please don’t bother the bishop or complain because it will do no good and it wastes valuable time and energy, both his and yours.
I hope you stay with us and follow us into our new domain and name of “The Black Sheep Dog.” Through writing and broadcasting we hope to continue to dispense truth and hope to a world so much in need of it. For those of you who choose to part company and go away from us, we wish you well and thank you for your many kindnesses over the years. We’ll miss you in our usual meeting places, but assure you that there will be new places for us to meet, just like in “the good old days,” so for now,
God bless you, God love you, and goodbye.
John Corapi (once called “father,” now “The Black Sheep Dog”)