Friday, June 24, 2011

Regarding "Celebrity" Priests, Michael Voris, and Tone of "Professional Catholics"

My thoughts have been focused on the situation with Fr. Corapi. It's difficult to think of him as simply "John Corapi," although I know that is what he is to be called, now that he left the priesthood.

This development is something I never thought I'd witness within the Catholic Church. Believe me, I've seen plenty of Christian "celebrity" ministers fall as a result of sexual sin -- everything from inappropriate touching to full-blown affairs to cavorting with male prostitutes. It's never pretty and always devastating to the minister's followers.

Michael Voris from Real Catholic TV had an excellent admonition to all of us: Watch the tone when weighing in on the Corapi story.

I was grateful when I saw this video. Grateful, because too often those who usually exercise caution and wisdom are suddenly bewildered by such events and quickly rush to point fingers. The fact is, no one knows exactly what has transpired behind the scenes regarding Fr. Corapi, his accuser, and certain key players in the Church. No one has walked in this man's shoes except Fr. Corapi himself.

So you have those who are his followers who are upset, those who really don't like him but are now trying to act like judge and jury, and finally those who really don't care for "celebrity" pastors.

Serving the Church is one of the most difficult jobs around. Priests especially are called into a sacrificial lifestyle, and now I am looking at their life as a wider expression of our Savior's life. You cannot call anywhere your home. Your time is not your own. You have few belongings. You are expected to respond to requests that occur at the most inconvenient times. But again, a priest understands that he took vows to do this very thing -- to be in persona Christi for the faithful.

With the non-denominational churches, the same dynamic exists except without the Sacraments. I remember talking to a man who shared that when growing up, his pastor father never took the family on a vacation in 17 years. I couldn't even imagine what that would be like, blessed to have a father who took our family on annual vacations all over the place.

Here's the thing: when you have a teaching gift, people hunger for your words. Yes, the Holy Spirit inspires the one with this gift to speak the truth, but the words are coming out of someone's mouth. And that "someone" is pursued by a multitude. Think of Jesus' reputation as He journeyed from town to town. Once it is discovered that someone has a powerful gift for preaching and teaching, believe me, crowds will come.

Fr. Corapi has such a gift. It isn't something he asked for. It is something that was given to him by God and he was called into service. It is a blessing for the Church overall that he was obedient. But I'm sure he realized the truth about this particular gift. Personally, I think it is one of the heavier burdens to carry. And here's why:

The person who has the gift of teaching cannot rest, deciding to do something else like work in a soup kitchen. The gift burns in his heart like a fire. He digs deep into scripture reading and prayer as he seeks God. The revelations he receives as a result of this constant study is the fruit that is given to audiences who seek truth and encouragement.

It is a beautiful gift and when it flows from heaven, it can provide miracles. As Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." We all know the feeling we get when someone says a word of encouragement to us that comes at the perfect moment. We feel as though God has stepped into our lives to let us know we're not alone, that He is present and sending us His love.

But as much as people crave to hear someone who has this gift, they also fear it. Many fear the power it can bring. Some are jealous of the attention it gives to the teacher. And some mistakenly believe that if only they can win the approval of a minister with a teaching gift, then his gifting may be imparted to them.

The teaching gift is a very "out there" gift that overall, attracts a lot of attention.

So, on one hand you have people clamoring for a gifted teacher, but then when that very teacher runs into trouble, they abandon him.

Much like the disciples abandoned Jesus Christ.

I'm not comparing Fr. Corapi to Christ, per se, just pointing out the patterns I've noticed over the years as I've observed ministries rise and fall. What is hurtful to me is not so much what Fr. Corapi decided to do, but how those who see themselves as faithful Catholics are acting. I think there is such little understanding and compassion because few Catholics know the pressure that someone like Fr. Corapi was under for most of the last twenty years of his life.

Christians have a tendency to place their leaders on pedestals. And then when one of them makes a mistake, there is an outcry. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot build someone up as being perfect and then outraged when that person proves that they are not. No one is perfect. We are all sinners. And each one of us are trying to find our way home to be with our Holy Family.

Fr. Corapi needs our love and compassion during this incredibly difficult time in his life. God knows the situation and as far as I'm concerned, is the only one who can rightly judge it. We can take lessons learned from this experience and apply it to future gifted teachers. Maybe we can learn to appreciate the gift without idolizing the giver. Maybe we can learn to cut someone some slack when the expectations we have of him fall short of our desires.

I remember one of the conferences we had at my former non-denominational ministry. The ministers who were asked to speak had incredible pressure to deliver powerful teachings. Imagine standing in front of thousands of people, who are there to hear what you have to say, and who have been following you for the past decade or so, buying your books, your tapes; and now are there beaming at you, filled with great expectation that you're going to be like Moses coming down from the mountain with a divine revelation.

What would you do? How would you act? What emotions would go through your mind as you stood before those people?

Most likely, you'd be praying your heart out.

Those who are called into such a ministry actually experience a "dying to self" every time they get up to speak. Imagine it: if they speak and it's a "dud," those who follow them will chatter about the mediocrity of the teaching. But if their teaching rocks the socks off the crowd, they'll be metaphorically hoisted upon their shoulders as countless faces rush up to tell the teacher how "anointed" he is and how "blessed" they are because of him.

It's a dangerous mixture of embarrassment and pride for the teacher. And it goes on, and on, and on.

The speakers at the conferences I served at had a remedy for all of that. They didn't talk much to the attendees.

There was a special room for the speakers where they could hang out, because if they even dared to spend ten minutes in the main halls of the conference venue, they'd be overrun in seconds by needy people. People who wanted to be prayed for, people who had stories to tell, people who wanted to ask for a job within their ministry.

A few of the teachers I saw behind the scenes were actually depressed. The demands and expectations of crowds of people would weary them. It was another reason why they needed that private space so they could rest. Again, as Jesus had to remove Himself from the crowds to have communion with His Father, so too, do spiritually gifted teachers need to spend time alone to be restored.

All I ask is that some who have quickly judged what has happened with Fr. Corapi, have a bit of mercy. A gifted teacher's life is far more difficult than you can imagine. I think the devil especially hates such a gift because God uses it to convey His truth. Knock down the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.

Please continue to keep the situation in prayer and ask all the angels and saints that God's truth will prevail. I have hope that it will. It's just that I also am praying for the least amount of collateral damage, as possible. Mercy, oh God.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end, amen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Heart Is Saddened, But I Understand: Fr. Corapi Leaving Priesthood

When I first saw the story on Pew Sitter, I immediately gasped. There are almost no words for the injustice that has been foisted upon many good priests and now, it looks like we can add Fr. John Corapi to that unfortunate group.

From the blog, The Black Sheep Dog:

All things change, only God stays the same, so I have to tell you about a major change in my life. I am not going to be involved in public ministry as a priest any longer. There are certain persons in authority in the Church that want me gone, and I shall be gone. I have been guilty of many things in the course of my life, and could easily and justifiably be considered unfit to engage in public ministry as a priest. The present complaint that you have heard about is, as far as I know, from the one person that I can honestly say I did more to help and support than any human being in my entire life. I forgive her and hope only good things for her. I am not going to get into a back and forth or argument with the Church or anyone else about this matter.

There are many reasons why this issue saddens me.

First, there is little recourse a priest has when he has been accused of any wrong-doing. Immediately, in our "post-abuse" culture, the priest seems to be seen as guilty. Whether he is or not doesn't matter. He's been accused and for many, the assumption is "where there's smoke, there's fire."

Second, the Roman Catholic Church is a highly politicized organization, as far as organized religion goes. And within that organization, there is a high amount of scheming, strategery, and spin that would make a hardened Washington D.C. lobbyist blush. It's no surprise to anyone that Fr. Corapi was loathed by many in the Catholic Church because of his traditionalism and stubborn obedience to the Magisterium.

Third, and this is a truth I discovered myself when I was more heavily involved with ministry - the ones who are the enemies of the truth are often sitting right next to you in the pew. When the Bible talks about them, I used to think it referred to unbelievers in the world. Now I think it mostly pertains to other believers in the Church.

Many don't think of themselves as opposed to truth. Some do. But how I've finally found my peace about this is to realize that all of us, especially me, are on a journey toward holiness. That journey takes our entire lifetime.

Fr. Corapi is a man whose heart burns for the truth. If you've heard his homilies and teachings, you can quickly see that he is not about to lie down and let people deny the truth or mock it. At least not on his watch.

I remember one of the things he often would say, "I'm not going to hell for any of you!" And you know what? I felt loved and protected when he said it. Because that's why we need our priests. To tell us the truth. To keep us on the straight and narrow. To let us know when we're on the edge of a cliff and about to fall off of it. They keep us headed toward heaven.

I have no idea what his ministry will look like, but I believe Fr. Corapi is a very gifted man and one way or the other, God is going to continue to use him.

So, a goodbye to you, Fr. Corapi. My heart is breaking but I understand why you're making this decision. All I can say is that there are still going to be plenty of Catholics who will follow you and I'm sure you're going to be preaching the same things to encourage them.

For those who love Fr. Corapi, please add his new blog to your RSS feeds and websites: The Black Sheep Dog. God bless you.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An Open Letter To "Ethel" And Every 17 Year Old Girl Who Thinks Andrew Weiner Is Cool

Dear Intelligent Young Woman,

I'm typing this late on a Saturday night because I can't get to sleep.

I can't get to sleep because I'm thinking of you. I'm thinking of the anonymous junior-high girl who was drawn into this mess with New York Democrat Rep. Anthony Weiner and his slimy ways. I can't get to sleep because I'm thinking of how many young women (and older women), still think Rep. Weiner is "cool."

Newsflash: He is not.

A 46-year-old married man (who married a smart, accomplished woman just last July), who sends lewd photos of himself in his underwear and talks dirty to women he's met over the Internet, and, who deliberately follows high school girls on Twitter - is not a nice guy.

He is not admirable. He is not trustworthy. He is, in fact, the equivalent of pond scum -- and I may have just insulted pond scum.

Feminism has failed you. You may have been taught in high school that women are so "empowered" that they can now dress like tramps if they want but men aren't allowed to make obnoxious remarks about them but I'm here to tell you the truth.

Men will always think obnoxious thoughts about a woman who obviously has no respect for herself and parades her body as a piece of meat. Because that's what wildly immodest clothing will do. It marks you as someone to be used.

Sadly, when women are then treated disrespectfully by men, when they are seen as nothing more than sexual playthings, they act surprised.

It's no surprise. Men are wired to respond to a woman sexually and if a woman makes it easy by talking dirty and dressing provocatively, then it shouldn't be a surprise when scumbags like Anthony Weiner show up on the front page news because a bunch of women thought it was "cool" to act that way.

When I was a young girl in high school, I will never forget my Italian grandmother, who could only speak broken English, giving me her version of the "birds and the bees." I was talking to her while sitting on my bed and she was next to me. Suddenly, she took her hand and very quickly and lightly, patted my legs in the middle. She said, "This? This is for marriage. You no-a give this-a to a boy-a, unless he-a marry you."

I couldn't help but smile and slightly felt embarrassed. But I loved my great-grandmother and assured her I would "keep myself" until I was married. I also felt enormously blessed to have a matriarch in our family who cared about my well-being so much.

Our world needs more women like my great-grandmother.

Young woman, if you're still reading, I have this to add: Even if your father isn't around as much as you'd like, you still deserve a man who will love you and treat you with respect.

As tempting as it is to get attention from men by dressing provocatively or swearing like a sailor -- it will not, I repeat, NOT give you what you truly desire. Which is a man who will love and cherish you.

Men do not love and cherish women who post updates on their Twitter that sounds like they're a p0rn queen. They do not respect a woman who wears clothing that makes them look like a streetwalker. These are time-tested truths that have endured throughout the ages. Feminism has not, can not, and will not change this truth. Believe me. I've seen how feminism has tried to make a woman "equal" in the bedroom.

It doesn't work.

I've seen women try to "date like a man," meaning they sleep with whomever they want, as much as they want. But they quickly find there's a little problem with that approach.

No matter how casual a woman may view sex, a man will always think even less of it when he's with a woman who doesn't care. So that means a woman will sleep with some strange guy but if she tries to do it again, chances are the guy won't want anything to do with her. Again, I've seen it happen.

And the "enlightened and empowered" women are in total befuddlement as to why, even though they're offering themselves to a man "with no strings attached," that still, he won't call her back.

You are worth more.

But in order to find a man who will love and cherish you, you need to first respect yourself and start saying "no."

No to looking cheap. No to loud, obnoxious talk. No to swearing. No to putting overtly-sexual updates on Twitter and Facebook. No. No. No.

Will you be popular? Decidedly not. Will you be respected? Absolutely.

Think feminism has backbone? It's a lie.

A woman with backbone will tell a man like Anthony Weiner to get away from them and go trolling under a bridge. A woman with backbone will instantly delete any man who sends lewd photos of himself to her on Twitter or Facebook.

A woman with backbone will stand strong in the face of mockery and derision from the (idiotic) "cool" people because she values herself and knows she was created for a truly special relationship with a man that doesn't involve being a part of his personal brothel.

I'll close with another story. When I was 27, I worked with a married man who flirted with me constantly. He also was amazed that I wasn't partying hard like most women my age and sleeping around. One day, he sputtered, "What do you think, that it's made of gold?!!" (Referring to my sexual organ.)

I shot back, "As a matter of fact, it is."

I didn't get married until I was 39 but I will tell you this. God gave me a man who totally adores me. He will do anything for me. He would give up his life for me. And I totally adore him right back.

That, my dear young woman, is the kind of love you were built for.

Don't settle for anything less.