There are some folks out there who are still sticking up for John Corapi and saying that the charges have not been proven, that they may not be true, that he never took a vow of poverty, that SOLT superiors are jealous, that this is a freemason plot against Corapi, that this is a plot by the homosexuals against orthodox priests, that the Bishop and SOLT are trying to 'throw Corapi under a bus' etc. etc. etc.
Let me explain how the church works and why I believe the SOLT statement. First of all, the church authorities keep files on their clergy. Every complaint is filed away and not only kept, but kept private. It is kept private for all sorts of good reasons. First of all, no one should be convicted of wrong doing based on a private (and often anonymous complaint) Secondly, no one should be convicted of wrong doing simply because they might have fouled up and made a little mistake. Thirdly, wrong doing for a priest may not be criminal and while he might be a bad priest, he may not have done anything that bad. Catholics may lament what he's done, and he may have hurt people, but it may not be something he can be prosecuted for--or for that matter even disciplined by the church for.
When the church (and other authorities) keep these files they do so to keep an eye on things. Usually there is far more than meets the eye, and far more than they can disclose publicly for legal reasons and for reasons of discretion, fairness to the accused and the desire not to cause scandal and outrage amongst the faithful. I happen to know of several cases where the priest or religious were finally caught and brought to trial or disciplined by the church authorities and the thing they were disciplined for was only the tip of the iceberg. However, due to legal and disciplinary procedures, they were only tried on the particular case. People in the know, however, realized that the particular man had a great fat file back in the offices of all sorts of other complaints, hints, problems and red flags which on their own may not have been criminal or worth disciplining, but taken together made them know the man was guilty.
I knew an Anglican priest, for example, who worked as a spiritual director for private boarding schools. He used to turn up and stay overnight and enjoyed spending time with the boys when they were getting ready for bed, showering and changing. He would play tennis with them and shower with them afterward. Everybody knew that old Father so and so liked watching the boys get naked. There were complaints. He hung around the boys too much. People were uncomfortable. The files got fatter and the rumors were rampant. Still, hanging around boys changing at school isn't criminal. It's just not nice. Then he finally fell into further temptation and committed a sex act on a teenager. Then the police prosecuted. They questioned a friend of mine who knew the priest and said, "Father, believe us. We would not be prosecuting on just one accusation. We'd let the priest off with a warning. We're prosecuting because there are so many other stories and rumors and unsavory things happening,
However, they could not go public on any of the other stuff they had on him because it was circumstantial, rumors, complaints or simply not criminal even though it was creepy. I've known dioceses and schools and religious orders that have behaved like this too. They've kept the rumors and complaints under wraps because they honestly can't do much about it until the whole thing explodes. Once it does, they already know enough to take action.
To the public (who don't know all the details, and mustn't know all the details for the sake of fairness of procedure and the reputation of third parties) it sometimes seems like an accusation out of the blue, or an accusation of an innocent party. This is what happens, and if anything, the church has been guilty of holding off too long when there has been wrongdoing. She often did so for very good pastoral reasons, and then was accused of a cover up. Now perhaps the pendulum is swinging the other way and some people who are innocent are being accused.
That may be the case, but in Corapi's case there is just too much that is fishy for him to be innocent. His refusal to co operate with the investigation, his living on his own outside of community or church discipline, his payment of $100,000 to keep the woman (and other employees) quiet, his running a for profit enterprise that has brought him great wealth, his refusal to obey his religious superiors and most of all his public renunciation of his priestly ministry---all this is too much.
One can give the benefit of the doubt only so far. Still, this is not for me to condemn the man. My opinion is that he is guilty as charged, but if I am wrong and he is proved innocent then praise God and I'll eat humble pie. Even if I think he is guilty, I still feel compassion for him and remind myself and everyone that we are all sinners and let's offer up a prayer for him for he is our brother.
UPDATE: Some have asked why SOLT didn't rein in Fr Corapi years ago. Again, we don't know the facts, we don't know what went on behind closed doors. It is very possible that SOLT and the bishops had a file on John Corapi that was getting bigger and bigger every year, but that they really couldn't do very much. Everyone thinks that 'obedience' in the church is a cut and dried military sort of obedience. The religious superior or bishop says, "Jump" and his inferiors say "How high?". I'm afraid in today's church this just ain't so. Instead religious superiors and bishops favor 'consultation' and 'seek to do what is best for each person in their care.' This is admirable and probably pays off in the long run, but what we don't have is instant obedience and the ability to rein someone in if need be. This is especially true if the man in question is canny and aware of the battlefield and ready to fight for his 'rights' and position.
I know of a diocesan priest, for example, who is notoriously bad tempered. He is a bully and an autocrat. He is arbitrary in his judgments, rude and arrogant. He also lives high off the parish. He wields the parish credit card with incredible indulgence. The parish has bought him a posh rectory and he has all the luxuries he wants. Nobody reins him in because nobody can. He's smart enough that he does everything according to the rule book. He never breaks diocesan financial regulations, keeps track of everything, watches his back and says all the right things to all the right people. He's corrupt and venal and disagreeable and there ain't nothin' nobody can do about it. If the Bishop were to command this fellow to give up his big wealthy parish and move to Snotville he'd probably refuse to go and take his case all the way to Rome where (you guessed it) he has some buddies in the right office who will take care of him.
These are the realities and saying that SOLT should have reined in Fr Corapi years ago is easy to say, but hard to do.