For several months in mid-2011, the biggest and most divisive story on the Catholic side of the World Wide Web involved the strange case of Fr. John Corapi, a charismatic preacher who announced on Ash Wednesday 2011 that he had been accused of sexual impropriety and drug abuse. Ordered by his superiors in the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT) to remain silent while the charges were investigated, Father Corapi complied for a few months before bringing the investigation to a halt by announcing that he intended to leave the priesthood.
But, Father Corapi promised, he would not be “silenced.” Unable to continue to speak and teach as a Catholic priest, Father Corapi announced a new persona: Under the guise of the “Black Sheep Dog,” he would continue to speak on many of the topics he had previously discussed, but with more of a political emphasis. He hinted broadly at plans surrounding the 2012 presidential election.
Yet here we are in 2012, and the primary season is well under way. Of the remaining four Republican candidates, two (Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum) are Catholics, and Barack Obama’s administration has just launched a frontal attack on Catholic religious freedom in the United States, under the guise of advancing “healthcare reform.” This would seem the perfect time for the Black Sheep Dog to charge into the fray.
But Father Corapi is nowhere in sight.
Readers have been asking for a few months if I knew of any developments in the strange case of Fr. John Corapi, and the truth is, I’m as clueless as they are. After an initial flurry of activity, updates to Father Corapi’s new website, theblacksheepdog.us, became few and far between, and sometime around the first of the year (as Patrick Madrid, I believe, was the first to notice) all of the content was removed from the site. In its place, a single white page remains, with just three lines of text:
Inquiries regarding TheBlackSheepDog.US can be made to:
450 Corporate Dr. Suite 107
Kalispell, MT 59901
Father Corapi’s/The Black Sheep Dog’s official accounts on Twitter and on Facebook have disappeared as well. And here we are, over three weeks after Patrick noted that Father Corapi had “vanishe[d] off the radar screen,” and there’s still no word to be found anywhere about what has happened.
My initial thought on reading Patrick’s post was that perhaps Father Corapi had finally decided to submit in obedience to the direct orders of his superiors in SOLT, and had returned to live with them in community while they completed the investigation that had been abruptly cut short. I still hope that my initial thought was true. But I’m beginning to have doubts, since it seems to me that, because of the unfortunately public nature of the Father Corapi controversy, SOLT would be bound, if for no other reason than by the dictates of charity, to release at least a brief statement acknowledging Father Corapi’s return. The fact that they haven’t leads me to believe that something else is going on, and it’s hard to imagine that something else being something good.
Of course, time will tell (though I am surprised that it hasn’t told already). Father Corapi was too prominent of a figure, and last year’s scandal was too widely discussed, for him to disappear like Amelia Earhart. But whatever has happened, I’ll make one prediction right now: We have seen the end of the Black Sheep Dog.
Let us hope and pray that we haven’t seen the end of Fr. John Corapi as well