"What do you think? He is your brother priest and part of your order?" people ask me this about the sad news that the sexual allegations against John Corapi were found to be true.
I am very sad, very crushed. My first reaction to this as all scandals was to turn to Jesus, his heart so generous and innocent and to tell him:
I am most sorry. Please forgive us, please have mercy on us, your very poor priests. For you have entrusted to us the inestimable treasury of graces to these earthen vessels of flesh to dispense the holy mysteries of God and we have once again failed you.
Yet Jesus has chosen from the beginning the poorest of humanity to be his priests. Does not the Gospel reveal this? I am not just talking about Judas, the betrayer, but of Peter, Saint Peter, who himself denied the Lord. Why Jesus? Why do you choose the poorest to bestow the richest of blessings on man. It is like finding the most wretched and leprous, the most depraved and unworthy person and then giving him your most precious golden treasure. Why Jesus? Why? This question is so important. Ask it. Ask it when you look yourself in the mirror and you look at one of the sons of Adam or daughters of Eve and seeing this poverty before you ask, why do you give the blessed Son of God, the Immaculate Lamb to me, to this poverty? Why?
Because the authentic and eternal love of God can only be revealed when the scandalous gratuitousness of it's generosity shames those who undeservedly receive it. And the only real answer is something that has been revealed to the saints throughout the ages, to those who have discovered God as MERCY ITSELF. This lesson is so painful yet so necessary, and it is the only foundation of authentic sanctity.
Holiness for man, for the saints, if it is at all authentic and real, is the realization of the tender Mercy of God in the reflection of our own misery. Yes God elevates our nature, transforms it, makes what was unholy holy. Yet we remember that it is God only who does this, and only when a person becomes fully and truly convinced of his own incapacity to transform himself is sincere "permission" granted to God by man to change himself.
I thanked God today, as I, the SOLT webmaster, had to press the send button in the publication of the news of John Corapi, that he was reminding us of this painful yet freeing mystery. Don't get me wrong. I weep with Jesus at the terrible effect this will have on so many millions of good people that will hurt yet I recognize once again why it is necessary to be reminded of our frailty as man- because it is the only foundation of living well, of authentic sanctity. "Not to us Lord not to us but to your name give the glory."
We must also remember here that grace does transform, and there are many wonderful priests, and yes, many wonderful SOLT priests too, who are living very holy lives, yet living this as a response to God's mercy, not rather, as some kind of superstar, who is infallible and untouchable but as men always in need of conversion and prayer.
There are soooo many good things God can teach us through this absolutely horrible and crushing lesson:
1. Follow canon law- it is the balance between the grace of redemption and human weakness. If it were followed none of this would have happened. I remember when I was asked years ago by my superiors if John Corapi could come and work in the community life of the media apostolate I was running at the time. YES, I cried! Please bring him back to community life! Canon law tells us that no one from a community should live outside for an extended period of time. This would have also meant the regulation of his bank account and other violations would have been remedied. Sadly this didn't happen.
2. Live the Charism, or gift of God that God has given you. This whole Corapi conundrum would have never happened if we would have been faithful to our SOLT Charism of ecclesial teams- communion. This is not only true for communities but applies to the vocation of each Christian. Are you married? Than find your sanctity as a married person and don't go chasing outside your marital bond for sanctity. "Family, be who you are!". This is the battle cry for the sanctification of families by Blessed Pope John Paul. Live the grace God has given you.
3. The grace of certain charisma must always be subject to hierarchical grace of the Church. I used to tell my nieces and nephews when they tried to impress their mother with good deeds that nothing they could do would ever compare with obedience. Obedience will always be the mark of holiness, as rebellion, even by a gifted genius, will always be a mark of the devil. Obey. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments.". What is implied is if you don't love me, don't keep them. If someone stops obeying the legitimate authority of the Church, it is at that moment that I stop following them.
4. BE NOT AFRAID! "Blessed is the just man. An evil report he does not fear, but trusting he steadfastly hopes in the Lord" (Psalm 112:7). I never forget that St John was the only one who could bear the scandal of Judas. Why? Because John could bear all things? Or because John was close to God, leaning upon his very breast, close to Charity itself and "Charity bears all things" (1 Cor 13:7) as St Paul tells us. Love and love alone is the means of bearing such heavy burdens. If you find yourself burdened by this, turn it over to God in prayer. Turn it over to charity. You are not meant to bear the terrible weight of this burden on your shoulders. Not even Jesus himself carried our sins apart from the charity of the Father which bore the terrible weight of the sins of all mankind.
5. Pray, pray, pray, and then pray some more...then pray all the more. This is the Lord's own response in the Garden. "And being in agony, he prayed all the longer" (Lk 22:42).
6. Learn from your mistakes. Right now the SOLT General Chapter is meeting. Do you think these events will not effect the way they make their decisions about ecclesiastical governance and discipline? Why did they choose as a theme for deliberation, "the creation and formulation of administrative policies on Governance and Administration, on Ecclesial Teams and on our Missionary Endeavors"? The entire Church at this time is tightening things up, cleaning house, making their administration better - SOLT included.
7. Be at Peace. I don't know. When I pray I feel God is saying this to me about it all. Be at peace. God is God. He will sort this all out in the end. Be at Peace. Sleep well at night because it isn't going to help you, God, or the Church if you are all fragmented, worried, and distressed about something you have absolutely no control. Be at peace.
God love you and Our Lady keep you,
Fr Sam Medley