Fr Corapi: Guilty Until Proven Innocent?

Is this the right way to do things?

The below is an interesting Blog Post by PAT ARCHBOLD on http://www.ncregister.com

Father Corapi, the dynamic and well known evangelist, broke the news on his own website this weekend that he has been placed on ‘administrative leave’ following wide ranging accusations of misconduct by a former employee.  Fr. Corapi is adamant that the accusations are baseless and he decries the de facto policy that now finds accused priests guilty until proven innocent so as to avoid further embarrassment as he puts it, “just in case.”

There seems to no longer be the need for a complaint to be deemed “credible” in order for Church authorities to pull the trigger on the Church’s procedure, which was in recent years crafted to respond to cases of the sexual abuse of minors. I am not accused of that, but it seems, once again, that they now don’t have to deem the complaint to be credible or not, and it is being applied broadly to respond to all complaints. I have been placed on “administrative leave” as the result of this.

I’ll certainly cooperate with the process, but personally believe that it is seriously flawed, and is tantamount to treating the priest as guilty “just in case”, then through the process determining if he is innocent. The resultant damage to the accused is immediate, irreparable, and serious, especially for someone like myself, since I am so well known. I am not alone in this assessment, as multiple canon lawyers and civil and criminal attorneys have stated publicly that the procedure does grave damage to the accused from the outset, regardless of rhetoric denying this, and has little regard for any form of meaningful due process.

I am certainly not in any position to judge the facts in this particular case, but I must believe Fr. Corapi is innocent until proven otherwise.  Beyond that, all I have is my gut feeling and my hope, both of which tend toward innocence.  Time will tell.  I’ve been wrong before.

But beyond the particulars of his own case, Fr. Corapi takes issue with the process, a process which seemingly holds the accused guilty until proven innocent.  The truth is that someone of the prominence of Fr. Corapi may never recover his reputation, even though he be as pure as the driven snow.

It would seem that the destruction of reputations, even of the innocent,  is the inevitable consequence of a zero-tolerance policy administered by those seeking to avoid embarrassment.  In the past, accusations would be ignored to avoid embarrassment, destroying lives.  The flip side is that acting on any and all such accusations without meaningful due process will destroy lives too.

This topic hits home for me.  As someone who was once accused of all kinds of baseless and crazy things in a wrongful termination suit, I know how it feels to be falsely accused.  It is frustrating, saddening, infuriating, and much more.  But the one the one emotion I retain from that horrible experience is gratitude.  My employer, also implicated in the suit, stuck by me and defended me until it was eventually dropped.  Wrongfully accused priests no longer have this luxury.

A zero-tolerance policy without due process that de facto impugns the reputations of the accused is immoral.  The Church has a duty to protect the innocent, even if the innocent is a priest.  Of course, the Church has a moral duty to make sure that the scandal of abuse and coverup is never repeated, but it cannot willfully sacrifice the reputations of the innocent as indemnification.  The end does not justify the means.  I do not know that any of this applies to the Father Corpai case, but we have seen this happen in other cases too and it is wrong.

We all know the devil hates priests, but I bet he doesn’t hate this policy.  If all one has to do to destroy the reputation of a good priest is accuse, knowing that the Church will do the rest, the priesthood doesn’t stand a chance.

In this particular case, I pray for the accuser as well as the accused.  I remain hopeful that the truth will clear Father if all he says is true.  Either way, the Church has to fix this process.  We owe it to our priests.

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