A few people have asked me what I thought of Fr. John Corapi’s event in Cincinnati on Saturday. I don’t doubt that they expect me to say that it was great. The fact is, though, that I was disappointed. I fear that the man has become a rock star, throwing red meat to receptive audiences for the price of admission. From the moment he walked out on stage with a beard that was much too dark, I couldn’t help but think that something just wasn’t right. We were seated close enough to the stage that we didn’t need to rely on the jumbo-tron video displays, but his bald head and his black goatee kept making me think of his resemblance to Vladimir Lenin.
Fr. Corapi has evolved. In the older programs shown on EWTN, he is often seen wearing a gray habit, and as he speaks, you can see a twinkle in his eye. There was no twinkle in the eye of the hard man that spoke at the Cintas Center on Saturday. The gray habit was long ago replaced by a pressed black suit and French cuffs.
During the course of the day, we learned that Fr. Corapi owns a home in northwest Montana which he paid for with a million-dollar lawsuit settlement. He drives a fast car with lots of horsepower and keeps a loaded .45 in the glove compartment. He also rides a fat boy Harley Davidson motorcycle, owns a boat of unspecified size, and vacations in Key West. He works out six times a week, twice with a female physical trainer, and has lost seventy pounds and increased his strength by a hundred percent in the past year. The weight loss prompted him, at his charitable best, to donate two large bags of “fat clothes” to the local Salvation Army. I can only assume that the donated clothes did not consist of old habits and clericals. I don’t know why he chose to share these personal bits of information, but they did nothing to enhance his credibility as a witness to the gospel.
The four talks that he gave during the course of the day (which will probably be available for purchase at the discount rate of $99 from his website in a week or two) were based on the social teaching of the Catholic Church. He did touch on most of the principles of that teaching. Much of what he said, however, amounted to prudential judgments, and, while I agree with most of those judgments, he presented them as being what the Church teaches. It would have been great material at a TEA party event, but this was hardly billed as a political rally.
The crowd was enthusiastic, leaping to it’s feet whenever Corapi took the stage and cheering whenever he spoke of the disincentives of socialism and when he referred to the government in Washington as “the big drug dealer.” He seems to be fond of St. Paul’s exhortation in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” Completely unmentioned was the practice of the early Christians, as related in Acts 2:44-45, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.”
At one point, he recounted a meeting with Mother Teresa of Calcutta shortly before she died. She described to him all of her poverty, frailty, and dependence upon others. Then she described how God had established her order in over 500 houses and, through them, touched the lives of tens of thousands of dying and forgotten people in Calcutta alone. “Go”, she said, “and do the same!” Fr. Corapi seems to believe that he’s doing that through his preaching and his production company, but I can’t help but think that maybe he missed the point.