Father John Corapi’s Kafkaesque Catch-22

When a good priest’s good name is under siege these days, the situation he faces is best summed up in a combination of two terms from classic literature used in my title. What Father John Corapi and other accused priests face is an all-too-familiar “Kafkaesque Catch-22.”

“Kafkaesque” refers to an oppressive, nightmarish situation from which there seems no escape. It’s a reference to the fictional worlds created by Czech writer Franz Kafka (1883-1924) who wrote in German. “Kafkaesque” is today used to describe a scenario like that in Kafka’s most famous novel, The Trial (1925). It’s the story of an innocent man accused and facing trial, but subtly prevented from offering any defense because the tools for doing so elude him at every turn while prosecutors lurk in the shadows with agendas and motives that are never clear.

A “Catch-22″ is also a situation with no hope of resolution because two mutually incompatible conditions are imposed, each countering and contradicting the other. The term comes from the title of a famous American novel, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (Simon and Shuster, 1955). In Catch-22, a World War II U.S. Air Force pilot desperately wants to avoid combat duty. The only way to do so is to be judged insane. But wanting to avoid combat duty is itself seen as evidence of his sanity. So in the end, a claim of insanity to avoid combat ends up proving his sanity and fitness for combat.

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Editor’s note: This article was written by a priest who is presently serving out a jail term, and who claims innocence. The article contains a number of related links that are both interesting and informative.