I personally know good priests who have been treated unjustly.... forced to say Mass in a warehouse, or forced to leave a country. I also know priests who made very bad despicable errors. Most of those priest I know were lucky enough to not be exposed to the hell known as online "Catholic" commentary/weblogs.
What is it that causes a person to speculate uncharitably about another person (let alone a priest)? What is it that causes people to read more into something that is not actually there? Maybe we are all so used to getting bad news that we "assume the worst" as a way to emotionally prepare for what we see as the inevitable. The weblogosphere seems to amplify all of this... folks in search of answers come across a well-known, accurate blogger who for one reason or another is quick to connect the dots. Those dots are connected to other dots... sometimes accurately, other times not. The recent result, is a tangled web of "facts" and accusations that don't always match up with information coming from the real or original sources.
The next oddity is how people use these facts and accusations. Most use this speculative information to strengthen their own personal assumptions. The personal assumptions show up on comment boxes in ways that the same "speculative facts" are used to support contradictory opinions. People defend their choice of "hero" or "villain" in the same ways that people will defend other frivolous choices such as "best sports team" or a teenager's choice in music. The problem is that the guilt of a fellow man (let alone a priest) is hardly a choice or a personal preference.
One of the many recent weblogs I came across [emphasis mine]:
There are many stories of saints who were censured by their religious superiors unjustly, or even imprisoned! What made them saints was their obedience to the Church and faithfulness to God. [Has this particular priest been accused of disobedience yet, or gone against a superior? Obedience is not vowed absolutely.]
[He] has left the Church [By who's judgment?] and is trying to make it seem like he is taking the high road by doing it. [Is this true?] He is confident that some authorities in the Church are out to get him and that he can’t get a fair result. [He was told that his superior and a bishop felt that leaving public ministry was the only way for a fair trial.] What he didn’t mention is that he’s complicated [Is this certain? It is a reasonable assumption, but is it an accurate one?] the investigation by filing a civil suit against his accuser because by accusing him she’s breached a non-disclosure clause that he makes people who work for him sign (which also makes you wonder... why would you need people to sign such a thing in the first place?) [It is curious... is it worth analyzing publicly online with what little details are actually known?] He didn’t mention that his religious superior reached out to him and offered him to be a quiet part of the community while this gets resolved, but he never even responded to him. [Does this specifically mean something? Yes I realize that there are many assumptions that could be made here.]
And he didn’t mention was anything about the Eucharist.
A few hours after hearing John Corapi’s announcement, I was leading worship for Eucharistic Adoration with 1,900 teenagers. Christ was moving powerfully that evening. Lives were changed. Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. John Corapi used to hold that presence in his hands, and he’s thrown it away because he feels his “ministry” is more important.
[While it is absolutely true that the Eucharist is central to the Priesthood and our Catholic Faith... what is actually being implied by this bloggers comment? Is it certain that this implication is true?]
On his website he mentions that he feels that his ministry will grow larger because he’s no longer a Catholic priest. [Where is it mentioned that it is felt that the ministry will grow larger? Who said he is no longer a priest?] What he doesn’t realize is that his ministry only existed because he was a Catholic priest. [I can see were this assumption might stem from... but is this blogger positive that this priest does not realize this?]
I’m praying for him [Yes, We all should be.], and I’m praying for the many who might follow him out of the Church [Also odd is the willingness of people to follow someone leaving the church... who actually isn't leaving.]. I’m also praying for myself and all the people I know who are in ministry [I hope by people in ministry it is meant the ministers of the sacraments... i.e... priest], that we might never make our ministry our identity and forget that it’s not about us, but about Him.
I am not immune from being a speculative blogger. I have had little desire to post anything in recent weeks let alone a post on a priest scandal. Today I was sent more than one web log post about the subject, and I had seen too much.