Corapi's sins bring up painful memories

I haven't written anything about the artist formerly known as Fr. John Corapi. For those of you who don't know, Corapi was a well-respected and critically acclaimed priest. He had a miraculous conversion story, trading in a life of drugs and sex for God's love and mercy.

It was a beautiful story, and really helped Corapi connect with a lot of folks that might have tuned out other religious leaders in the past. When a guy struggles with the worst of sins, it really makes him more relatable than other high-and-mighty speakers.

However, the beautiful story took an ugly turn. Corapi was being investigated for drug and alcohol abuse, and having a sexual relationship with a female employee of legal age. Instead of standing his ground and fighting the accusations, Corapi wimped out and announced he was leaving the priesthood. He ran off and formed a web site, the scalded Black Sheep Dog (which I will not link to for common sense reasons).

Since his announcement, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), Corapi's superiors, released a press release stating that their fact-finding team found that Corapi had indeed abuse drugs and alcohol, shacked up with a woman he met as a prostitute, has a millions of dollars in property and funds (a violation of his promise of poverty as a Catholic priest), and is sexting women in Montana.

He, of course, denied it, but his denial seemed pretty hollow. No doubt this is a blow to many people who were able to turn around their spiritual lives because of his wisdom.

It reminds me of a religious leader I once put on a pedestal. When I moved to Waldron, AR in the 7th grade, my baptist church had a youth pastor named Wayne. Wayne was a really funny, good looking and charismatic guy. He was tremendously popular: We must have had 40-50 kids come to Youth Group each Wednesday night, a large number for such a small town of 3,000. He had a beautiful family, a wife and three daughters.

I remember telling him such cheesy jokes and him laughing along with them. Wayne listened to me, really cared about me. I'll never forget how awesome he made me feel, being the new kid in town, as he did a great job of making sure I didn't feel left out.

But then one Sunday, Wayne wasn't at church. Neither was his wife or his daughters. And the funny thing was, nobody said anything about it. Normally if someone is not at church, people mention it in passing. But that Sunday, it was like Wayne and his family didn't exist.

After getting back from church camp, there was a special meeting on Wednesday night that we went to. The topic? Wayne's resignation/firing. But nobody gave any reasons for it. In my mind, they just dragged him through the dirt. After the meeting was over, I was livid.

"They just treated him like some criminal!" I told my Mom, loud enough for everyone to hear. It was then that our late pastor Bro. Lynsol Richmond asked my mom and I to come with him, as he was going to do his best to explain what happened.

Sitting in Richmond's office, he started revealing the devious things that went on, like Wayne using funds incorrectly. Then it got really ugly.

"Wayne was using his office computer to look up gay pornography, and used the church phones to call gay phone sex lines," Lynsol said.

At that moment, I buried my face in my mom's arms. How could he do that? He was the church youth pastor! He had a family that he cheated on! Brother Wayne, our youth pastor, did that in the church??? As a 7th grader, that was the first time that a person I trusted in a leadership position had really let me down. Others had done things that hurt from time to time, but they always apologized.

I never heard that apology from Wayne.

I'm not sure what happened to him or his wonderful family. I imagine that they got divorced, with Wayne switching jobs and his wife remarrying. I hope and pray the five of them are living a wonderful, blessed life, and have moved on from what must have been a painful time.

With that in mind, I offer my prayers for those who followed Corapi, that they find peace during this time when someone they loved dearly shattered their trust. It also serves as a reminder not to idolize God's messengers. Be it a Lino Rulli, Mark Hart, or Archbishop Timothy Dolan (wonderful people, their inclusion in this post is not in any way equating them with Wayne or Corapi), it's important that we don't make them greater than the gift of God's love they've been chosen to tell us about.

That's not to say that all well-respected religious leaders will do something horrible, but it's exactly why God told us not to commit the sin of idolatry. Because if we put someone on a pedestal, unless it's The Father, The Son or The Holy Spirit, they WILL let us down.

Sometimes it just hurts a little more than it should. Especially when you screw over those who love you. Thankfully, God is love and forgiveness.

Hopefully Wayne and Corapi have realized that already.


Ken Follis July 10, 2011 at 8:28 PM  

Great post, Dustin! I was moved. I, too, had very similar experiences as an evangelical.

dustin (The 16-bit Catholic) July 10, 2011 at 8:58 PM  

Sorry to hear of your hurtful experience as well Ken. The youth pastor we hired after that was excellent, so I didn't go through school totally bummed :)

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