Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When a Priest Becomes a Problem

I suspect more than a few of you know the respect and admiration I once had for Fr. John Corapi (he of the many EWTN broadcasts), he has since managed to sabotage the respect I had for him, while coming close to ensuring an excommunication for himself. 

Corapi, was suspended of his priestly faculties earlier this year while an investigation was launched to determine the validity of claims made against him in a letter to the bishop of Corpus Christi. He initially professed his innocence and maintained that it would all come out in the wash. In the wake of so many scandalous events involving priests in the last decade seeing Corapi linked to scandal was a shock, but perhaps a lesser one than it might have been 15 years ago.

Recently, Fr. Corapi has resurfaced with a new website, calling himself the Black Sheep Dog and saying he can now minister more effectively to a wider audience. In his initial launch of the new domain he announces that he is renouncing his priestly vows and essentially turns around biting the hand that fed him and made his name. He suggests that certain shadowy figures in the church hierarchy want him gone, when in fact they want him merely to return to community with his priestly order, rather than his self-imposed exile in his spendy Montana compound.

Some bloggers have compared the initial speech/announcement to Richard Nixon's Checkers speech. Nah, the Checkers speech at least had some humor to it. This speech is more closely aligned to Nixon's resignation announcement, and his whole conspiracy addled mind-set at that time.

It seems that opening announcement was merely the diving off point. I wasn't able to even finish it but has released several others evidently (h/t: Mark Shea) and he apparently continues to remove himself further from the church with each one.

It is interesting that today's Gospel reading is Matt. 7:15-20. Jesus warns us of false prophets in sheep's clothing (or in this case is it sheep dog's?). Corapi's claims of wrongful persecution are in fact leading people astray, many of his fans are so wrapped up in his neat little tale of woe, that they are allowing themselves to be led away from The Way, The Truth, and the Life by this ravenous wolf.

Certainly there have been and continue to be many false prophets. Men like Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Harold Camping and others continue to damage the Body of Christ by leading good people astray. Perhaps though the greater damage to the Body of Christ is done when it is someone who should be leading souls to Christ instead pulls them away.  

Corapi is doing a masterful job of talking out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand declaring the Magisterium to be full of honorable men, while at the same time bemoaning how he is being cheated by those in authority. Sorry Father, but it can't be both. Either nefarious men exist in the Magisterial authority of Holy Mother Church and they are evilly preventing you from using your priestly faculties or you aren't as innocent as you profess and they are merely attempting to do their job. The job you so willfully gave up; protecting the flock from wolves.

Meantime any of his comments about his suspension being somehow unfair are so patently absurd as to almost not bear mention. Many occupations that ultimately deal with caring for people have suspension stipulations during investigations into wrongdoing. So that tune falls flat as well.

Ultimately John Corapi gave up his vows willingly, and under no duress from the bishop or the diocese of Corpus Christi, his new identity as the Black Sheep Dog was trademarked more than a year ago. It all smacks of someone who knew that the defecation was perilously close to the ventilation system so he began to form an escape plan.

What is saddest in all of this to me is that I enjoyed watching Fr. Corapi, he was a gifted speaker who certainly helped to illuminate the faith in simple terms. Now he is a lost soul who threatens to take others with him. Let us all strive to keep in mind St. Paul's warning against factions from 1st Corinthians 1:12-13.

In closing I would just like to say that the Enemy holds a special hate for the people who guard Jesus' flock. So take a minute or two today and lift your priests/ministers up in prayer asking God to give them the strength they need to continue their battles.

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Being a Dad Means to Me

Being a dad is the single best thing I have ever done in my life. I look back on the days my two sons were born as the happiest and proudest moments of my life. With my wedding day and my college graduation as close seconds.

James Caan once said in an Esquire interview that he knew his dad had made some mistakes with him; and that he had made some mistakes with his own kids; but that one day if every generation learned from the previous one's mistakes one day there would be a perfect Caan.

That is maybe the best single quick answer to the idea of what being a dad - or a parent, period- really is. To me it is the absolute essence of the idea.

It hasn't always been the easiest or least stressful part of my life, but it is the single best thing I do as a part of my day. Watching my sons grow and helping to teach them things as they do is the most amazing thing ever. It gives me such an amazing feeling to watch either one of them learn a new skill. It is also fun to sort of compare the way they learn things. I know Tommy has a whole different set of challenges than Matty but they both have their own little flair to doing new things.

Matty always seems to be seeking validation when he picks up a new skill he seems like he is showing it off to us and looking at us like, isn't this cool mom and dad.Tommy seeks less validation, merely doing something new and letting mom and dad realize he has done it. Then the two of us cry over another victory, however big or small.

Watching my boys grow up I can't wait for the days when I can take them hunting and fishing with me. At Mass awhile back they were honoring the Cub and Boy Scouts from the church's troop and I was hit with just how badly I couldn't wait for my own boys to be big enough for Scouts and how much fun we could have.

Being a dad for me is also a reflection on my own father. He was a great example for me to learn from and try to live up to. Sometimes Traci gets mad over me not knowing how to do some "manly" chore and asks why I don't know how to do it. Things like that certainly are within my dad's skill set usually, but not mine. But that fault is all mine. I didn't take an interest in finding out how to do those things.

With all of that in mind, I guess I have to say my dad is obviously a big part of who I am and how I got that way. Because of my dad I learned a lot of things:

Things like:

  • If you throw your pinewood derby car together at the last-minute so the paint is still drying as you race it, you are guaranteed to win. As opposed to the car you worked on for months the next year which didn't even win its qualifying heat. 
  • Guns are to always be treated with respect and as the potentially deadly instruments they are. Briefly forgetting that lesson led to my gun privileges being temporarily, embarrassingly revoked once.
  • I also learned that dry heaving over the mere idea of gutting your deer is a good way to sucker your son into getting his hands dirty. 
  • My dad was also the one who taught all of us how to drive, which was probably a good thing I'm not sure my mom had the patience to do that. 
  • I also learned that Tom Clancy is in fact a decent writer, it took awhile but I finally managed to get through one of his books and then I was hooked.
I guess what I am trying to say in all of this is that being a dad has been the greatest blessing of my life. I remember walking from the hotel to the hospital with my dad after Tommy was born and talking about being a dad and what it all meant.

Happy Father's Day everyone.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stuck in Neutral and Lacking a Clutch....

After watching a team dismantle a trio, can we now put to rest the idea that LeBron James is even fit to stoop and tie Michael Jordan's sneakers. The Dallas Mavericks put together a solid game plan and executed it flawlessly on their way to the organizations first championship.

On the biggest stage in his sport LeBron looked lost at best and incompetent at worst. He scored a mere 18 points in the fourth quarter of the six game series. So in effectively a game and a half worth of playtime he scraped together 18, Jordan's lowest point total in a finals game was 22. While I can't find the stats to back it up I am willing to bet he never went scoreless in a fourth quarter, probably of any game but certainly in the Finals. 

The self-anointed King disappeared when his team needed him most. Some people are "clutch" and some aren't. It is beginning to appear as if young LeBron is in the not category. Jordan was definitely in the "clutch" group. Who can forget his "Flu Game" in 1997 dropping 38 points in 44 minutes on the Utah Jazz while sick with a stomach virus. 

We had a similar moment in this year's Finals as it was Dirk Nowitzki finally shedding the soft label hung around his neck. Dirk had a 100 plus degree fever and managed a 21-point game, including several big shots in the fourth quarter, as the Mavs fought back to take the lead and win the game, tying the series.

Most damning of all in relation to the LBJ-MJ comparison might be that Jordan's spectacular career had a definitive arc to it. His early setbacks were truly learning experiences as he took in the lessons taught to him by watching the Pistons push his teams around. Once they were able to add Scottie Pippen and a few other pieces the greatness of Michael Jordan shone through. LeBron's career hasn't so much arced as traced a nearly straight line.

You could make the argument and I have and this past season seems to bear it out; LeBron took teams that shouldn't have done as much as they did to great heights. True, but he didn't help a team that was supposed to win ..."not five, not six, not seven..." titles to win one.

I am not sure if it solely a matter of clutch or if there is a deeper issue for LeBron, but you never saw Jordan pouting on court, We saw LeBron do it in this series and we saw him do it against Boston last year when he was still with the Cavs. It's telling as well that he treated the ball like it had a disease in most of the late game situations. As soon as he got the ball he was passing it away.

One of my favorite sports movies is The Replacements. There is a scene where Gene Hackman's coach Jimmy McGinty tells Keanu Reeves' Shane Falco in essence that winners always want the ball with the game in the balance. That was definitely true of Jordan, but seemingly less so of James.

Sports don't build character as much as they reveal it. There have been plenty of players in all sports that had the not clutch label tied around themselves, some have shaken it off, others see it still defining part of their legacy.

Phil Mickelson, couldn't win a major, but he broke through at the Masters a few years back. Steve Young couldn't win the big game, until three games in the 1994 season redefined his legacy, two wins over Dallas and a Super Bowl demolition of the Chargers. John Elway, the guy seemed to define clutch from September to December, but January was a different story, until he finished his career with back to back titles. Dan Marino, the most prolific passer in NFL history not named Favre (at least until Peyton Manning passes them both), one Super Bowl appearance, no victories.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Didn't Want To Be An Advocate...I Just Wanted To Be Dad...

So I am beginning to realize that I will never not be in use as an advocate for Tommy. It's not what I wanted, but it is what he needs. I just wanted to be a daddy, not have to worry about whether the world was fair to him or for him. It turns out I won't get to make that choice.

I never quite understood before all the ways the world stacked against people who weren't in the fat part of the bell curve. Even though I don't think I was in the fat part of the bell curve either, I was at the top end of it, he is not.

It's amazing and a little amusing the things you begin to notice when you have a disabled child. Lack of a sidewalk for a wheelchair, stairs, things I always took for granted that make navigating with him a lot more of a challenge.

You also notice the looks from waiters and hostesses at restaurants as they seat you and you tell them that you don't need a kids menu for him. That one you learn to ignore. Because it takes too much energy to worry about whether or not the kid serving you at Applebee's understands the finer points of a G-Tube; or what the phrase NPO means.

Flying with Tommy has been an interesting adventure into the mind of the TSA as well as stewardesses. They look at his sealed cans of food like they are little bombs and like they need to open them. Fortunately they haven't, or perhaps it is unfortunate; because it means I can't demand the federal government reimburse me for the cost of replacing that food.

The first time I really flexed my advocacy muscles was before Tommy ever came home. He would eat and then reflux his entire meal, causing lots of aggravation for everyone and of course concern for him. Well his doctor had ordered a medicine for him that didn't help and in fact made a bad situation worse. In my youthful exuberance I politely informed the doctor that next time someone gave Tommy that medicine I was going to punch him in the face.

Fortunately I wasn't arrested; Tommy was taken off the medicine (Zantac, if I remember correctly) and we were all the happier for it.

I guess I should have realized then that it was only just beginning. I am a dad, but I am also his voice in this world and I have slowly come to accept that the latter means more, because it is the bigger job.