More details about Father Corapi’s relationship with his religious order

The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity is in the spotlight, following the allegations of misconduct against one of its members, Father John Corapi. The Register spoke with Father Gerard Sheehan, regional priest servant, based in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, to learn more about the charism of the order and its rules for members.

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More on this from the National Catholic Register

The politics behind the Father Corapi affair

WANTED: Two disinterested priest/investigators

By Doug Lawrence

There seems to be an ongoing dispute over precisely who exercises the ultimate “canonical authority” over Father John Corapi and his chosen religious order, the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT).

The statement of Santa Cruz Media appears to place the responsibility on Bishop William Mulvey of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, while Father Gerard Sheehan, the regional head of Father Corapi’s religious order, invites us to infer that the decisions are all his.

Anyone who is familiar with standard church procedure will tell you that the local bishop is always fully engaged in high profile matters of this type, and while religious orders are typically granted wide latitude to run their communities, they nearly always defer to the authority of the local bishop.

So it seems pretty clear that Father Corapi’s people already know who’s really in charge … no matter what the “official line” might be.

Meanwhile, we are advised that, for a number of reasons, the investigation is on hold, while the diocese searches for two properly qualified and appropriately disinterested priests, from outside the order, to head it up.

Nothing has been revealed about Bishop Mulvey’s personal impression of Father Corapi, his work, or his particular lifestyle, but it’s not hard to infer from the Santa Cruz Media statement, that the Corapi camp is worried. And they should be, since (as far as I can determine) no other modern day Catholic priest (anywhere) has ever been granted Father Corapi’s particular level of personal and financial autonomy.

The worst thing that could happen is a long, drawn out investigation, followed by an extended bout of canonical “rope-a-dope” between the diocese and the religious order, followed either by official sanctions … or a significant “reigning in” … for the good of the priesthood … of Father Corapi’s various activities.

This could easily take a number of years to play out … and no matter how things are finally resolved … it’s not likely to be pretty.

But miracles do happen. I’m reminded of an even more serious personal allegation made against the late Joseph Cardinal Bernadin, which the accuser eventually retracted, leaving the good Cardinal fully in the clear. Fortuitously, the Cardinal had substantial financial resources at his disposal … as does Father Corapi.

Thinking of  Cardinals … maybe we can bring Cardinal Bernard Law back from his cushy post in Italy … and perhaps we can bring Archbishop Rembert Weakland back from his comfortable retirement … to lead the investigation?

In short, no matter what the outcome, Father Corapi is in a very tough spot. This has already been a life-changing event for him … with many more changes likely to come … and he’s going to need all the prayers and support we can give him.

Official Statements Regarding the Current Status of Father John Corapi

Statement from Rev. Gerald Sheehan, Regional Priest Servant

Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity

18 March 2011

Today, as Regional Priest Servant for the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, I have the unhappy responsibility to announce that Father John Corapi, SOLT has been placed on administrative leave from priestly ministry, in accordance to the Code of Cannon Law of the Catholic Church.  We have received an allegation that Father Corapi has behaved in a manner unbecoming of a priest and are duty-bound to conduct an investigation in this accusation.

It is important to keep in mind that this action in no way implies Father Corapi is guilty of the allegation.  It is equally important to know that, based on the information we have received thus far, the claim of misconduct does not involve minors and does not arise to the of criminal conduct.  Consequently, this matter will be investigated internally, and unless and until information suggests otherwise it will not be referred to civil authorities.  In the event that we learn of any occasion where the criminal civil law may have been breached we will immediately refer the matter to civil authorities.

Statement of Bishop George Leo Thomas, the bishop of the Diocese of Helena

“It is important to accord Father Corapi the principles of due process, including the assumption of innocence, until a full investigation is carried out by his superiors. More importantly, I appeal for prayers on behalf of everyone involved in this very complex situation.” Father Corapi has a personal residence in Kalispell, Mont. He does not hold priestly faculties in the Diocese of Helena, said Diocese of Helena Chancellor Father John Robertson.

Thanks to Pat Archbold, NCR