Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fr. MacRae Clarifies His Remarks on Fr. John Corapi

From Scott P. Richert at About.com Catholicism:

In "A Falsely Accused Priest Looks at Father Corapi" (June 28, 2011), I discussed an article by Fr. Gordon J. MacRae, the priest behind the blog These Stone Walls: Musings From Prison of a Priest Falsely Accused. Written before Fr. John Corapi's announcement that he intended to abandon his priestly ministry, the article nonetheless summarized the problems with the way in which allegations against priests are handled in the Church in the United States today.

While I highly recommended Father MacRae's article, I did have one disagreement with it. Father MacRae wrote:
I commend Father John Corapi for his obedience and fidelity to legitimate authority in the Church, but that authority must also recognize Father Corapi’s "Catch-22." If he is a priest falsely accused, he also has a moral obligation that may be commanded by a higher law. He has a moral obligation to the truth.
To which I had responded:
To me, however, those lines miss one important point: The bishops and the superiors in religious orders have a moral obligation to the truth as well. That's why the Church establishes processes to deal with such cases, because conflicting claims to truth need to be examined in order for a just outcome to be reached. When those processes are flawed, they should be revised, not ignored.
I also wrote that Father MacRae might regard his lines, written before Father Corapi's decision to leave the priesthood, as justification for that decision, but I noted that "we won't know until Father MacRae comments, if he ever does, directly on Father Corapi's decision."

On Saturday, July 9, I received the following e-mail from Father MacRae, clarifying that section of his article "in light of Father Corapi's decision to leave ministry rather than allow the process of canonical investigation to continue." The following is the full, unedited text of the e-mail:
Hello Mr. Richert,
It is one of the hazards of prison that I only today, July 9th, got to see a hard copy of your June 28 post, "A Falsely Accused Priest Looks at Father Corapi" at About.com. In light of Father Corapi's decision to leave ministry rather than allow the process of canonical investigation to continue, I now wish I had phrased a part of my article about him a bit differently. I stand by his "moral obligation to the truth," but, as you pointed out so well, his superiors also have a moral obligation to the truth. The point I was trying to drive home, however, is that Church law also precludes a priest from being ordered not to defend himself. Though any accused priest is under the authority of the Bishops' Charter, the Charter itself must be informed by Church law. There are points in which it diverges from Church law. These flaws are articulated well by Ryan A. MacDonald in an article on Catholic Lane, entitled "Father John Corapi and the State of Due Process for Accused Priests." I believe it's worth reading.
As far as the question of my own deference to legitimate authority in the Church, you may not know that I lost much support - even from within the Church - when I told my Bishop in writing that I would remain silently in prison for the remainder of my life if he asked me to do so for the good of the Church. He considered this at length, and was advised by his delegate and Chancellor to take me up on it. In the end, he did not ask this of me. I described this, and its aftermath in a post on These Stone Walls entitled, "Are Civil Liberties for Priests Intact?"
In the next few weeks on These Stone Walls, I am hoping to refocus the issues away from Father Corapi and back on to the matter of due process for accused priests, most of whom are defending themselves against uncorroborated claims that are decades old and cannot be properly investigated by anyone. In fact, most are not investigated at all.
With thanks and blessings for your own fidelity to Magisterial Truths,
Father Gordon J. MacRae
P.S. You may post or cite this clarification as you see fit.
I thank Father MacRae for his clarification and his blessings, and I highly recommend the pieces that he links in his e-mail. As I have said before, the question of problems in the process is much larger than the case of Father Corapi, and with Father Corapi's decision to leave the priesthood and not to respond to SOLT's specific charges, it's unlikely that Father Corapi's case will do anything to bring about necessary changes to that process. And that's a shame, because if John Corapi had continued to be called "father," he might well have done more good by helping to reform the process than he ever will as "the Black Sheep Dog."


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