What Should I Do With Father Corapi's Materials?

A Danger to Your Faith?

Priest leaving church
Priest leaving church. Aliaksandr Lukyanyuk / EyeEm / Getty Images

Regarding the strange case of Fr. John Corapi, a reader writes:

Thanks for all your information. I and (We) are all just shocked by this whole Fr. Corapi story. I pray daily for him but feel so betrayed but also know that priests are only human and subject to the same temptations as anyone else.
Who would I ask about all the Fr. Corapi materials we have and do we assume they are wrong and should be burned, buried or destroyed. . . . We love the man and he was so inspiring but I am faithful to the Catholic Church above all as he always taught us, which is so contradictory to what he is doing now and how he is responding to this.

That's a very good question, and I have received variations on it from a number of readers. I appreciate the reader's desire to do what is right and to put Father Corapi in perspective by placing fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church above her support for Father Corapi.

(You can find full coverage of this story in The Case of Fr. John Corapi.)

The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity has said that it "does not consider Fr. John Corapi as fit for ministry." Beyond that, because Father Corapi has chosen to abandon his priestly ministry, he can no longer licitly distribute any materials in which he is portrayed as a priest in good standing, because of the potential for confusing both Catholics and non-Catholics and causing scandal as the details of Father Corapi's case become known. The fact that Father Corapi has chosen to flout this by continuing to sell "the entire inventory of Fr. John Corapi material . . . up until 5:00 pm Eastern time, July 25th, 2011" (as announced on theblacksheepdog.uson July 11) does not change the situation.

By analogy, we can assume that the faithful who have books, CDs, DVDs, or other material featuring Father Corapi as a priest in good standing should not lend or give such material to others. But are there legitimate personal uses for such material, or is the reader right when she asks whether they should be "burned, buried or destroyed"?

My initial reaction was that keeping such materials for personal use does not present a problem. One can, of course, read much of Origen or Tertullian profitably, despite the fact that they later fell into heresy (a charge which no one has made against Father Corapi). Father Corapi's materials have always been orthodox, and they remain so, no matter what his personal failings might be.

I decided, however, to check with a priest whom I trust, an unfailingly humble and orthodox moral theologian. He agreed with my assessment but added one more element that I had not considered: "The materials may no longer be edifying"—that is, they may no longer morally or intellectually lift up the person who is using them.

How could that be? After all, as I've just noted, the materials remain orthodox. The problem, however, is that those who use the materials may have a hard time doing so without bringing to mind the sad circumstances of Father Corapi's departure from the priesthood. To the extent that the materials remind us of that situation, they become less effective—and they may even become an occasion of sin, if they feed anger or resentment against either Father Corapi or his superiors in the Church.

So, in the end, the answer really depends upon you. If you can continue to use Father Corapi's materials profitably, then there's no harm in keeping them. If you cannot—if keeping and using them becomes a stumbling block for you morally—then you should get rid of them.

If you do decide to get rid of them, however, it would be best if you didn't give or sell them to someone else. To do so runs the risk of confusing others or causing scandal.

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