But I realized as I began thinking about what I wanted to say that I was probably going to get a bit wordy, and that it would be better to write a separate small post on the subject.
Several people, among them one gentleman whom I won't name but who is a frequent commenter there, seem to believe that Father Corapi's order, SOLT, is acting unjustly both by commencing an investigation process and by placing Father on administrative leave while the process is underway, despite the fact that this is standard procedure not only for clergy but for many lay people in many situations. (The further allegation, that SOLT is acting in violation of canon law, seems completely unfounded at this point given that SOLT's statement on the matter specifically refers to their following of canon law, and must be dismissed out of hand at this point if we are to be charitable to all concerned.)
As I read these various comments, I begin to see a pattern in them. Specifically, it seems that those who believe Father Corapi is being treated unjustly are pointing to the fact that "one letter" has been written and received, and based on the allegations in "one letter," unsubstantiated, as far as anyone knows, by hard evidence, this administrative leave has been imposed and this investigation begun.
Now, it is possible that some sort of hard evidence was presented, although it is not mentioned in any way--but I think it is quite likely that the letter with its multiple allegations remains the only item of evidence thus far. Nevertheless, the letter itself might have been sufficient to trigger the investigation without any uncharity or injustice toward Father Corapi being involved, even if he is, as one must devoutly hope of any accused person, completely innocent of all charges.
How could that be? Isn't that terribly unjust to our priests, that they could be placed on leave (which, remember, carries no imputation of guilt at all) based on one single letter full of unsubstantiated accusations?
Well, if priests could be punished on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, that would indeed be unjust. But since all allegations may be said to be unsubstantiated at the outset, then the fact that the allegations presently consist of one unsubstantiated letter doesn't make it unjust for an investigation to be underway.
What really triggers the process, from what I understand, of any investigation of this nature, whether in the lay, secular world or in the clerical one, is not whether the allegations are unsubstantiated, but whether they are credible.
Here's where I think the language starts to get us in trouble. Many people seem to think "credible" means "Oh, yes, we could see Mr. X or Father Y or Sister Z committing this inappropriate act--we could believe it." But that is not at all what a "credible accusation" means. I am sure that Father Corapi's nearest and dearest believe with all sincerity and to the very core of their beings that he is incapable of the acts mentioned in the letter full of allegations, and they may be--and, let us hope fervently, are!--totally right about that. All that a credible allegation means is that the alleged acts could have been committed as described.
Let us take this outside the clerical realm and into a similar realm, the realm of allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. Suppose a man is accused of sexually harassing an employee by inappropriate talk, off-color jokes, inappropriate physical conduct, or the like. The employee goes to Human Resources and files a written complaint. But the first thing that those responsible for investigating realize is that most of the dates and times on which the employee alleges the acts have occurred, the person she is accusing was either traveling out of the country on company business--trips which she did not make herself--or on vacation. The handful of times when the person she is accusing was actually on the same premises as his accuser, he spent his whole workday in meetings at which at least a dozen people were present; when questioned, none of them recalls seeing any inappropriate activity or hearing any inappropriate speech, and the accuser only attended one of the meetings--and took notes the whole time on a company laptop which were stamped with the date and time electronically.
If such a case occurred, it is probable that either no administrative leave would be necessary or that it would quickly come to an end if it had been instituted; the allegations are simply not credible, and the evidence swiftly reveals that fact.
But if the same employee bringing the same charges--assuming that she is still lying for motives of her own--had very carefully gone over her schedule as well as her boss's, and had thus created her allegations in such a way that the dates and times did correspond to times when she and her boss were working together, it's likely that a full investigation with, perhaps, a protracted leave of absence might be necessary. Even if the allegations still could be proved false, they are credible, because the employee and her employer were actually working together and seen to be working together on the dates and times when she is alleging that harassment occurred.
The problem, of course, is that the credibility of an accusation of misconduct, whether against a priest, a lay person, a teacher, a coach, etc. says nothing about the truth or falsehood of those allegations. There can be credible accusations which turn out to be true, and credible accusations that turn out to be false. The only kinds of accusations which can be dismissed out of hand without triggering an investigation process or procedure, regardless of the organization etc., are those which have no credibility at all, which are clearly fabricated, or which the accuser recants.
In Fr. Corpai's situation, the former employee has, according to Fr. Corapi's statement, accused him of "...everything from drug addiction to multiple sexual exploits with her and several other adult women." Father then goes on to say the following:
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've said many times that I know nothing personally about Father Corapi, but I would guess, from the frustration he appears to be expressing, that he is using the word "credible" the way most people would; that is, in that narrow sense meaning "Do we really believe this particular person could even possibly be guilty of such actions?" I can understand that frustration to a certain extent.
But I'm convinced that "credible," in the way it is used to determine whether a complaint must be investigated or not, has the much broader meaning I've used above: that is, that all Father's order could do as a preliminary investigation was to find out whether the woman in question did in fact work with Father Corapi, whether the other women mentioned in the complaint had as well or were known to be associated in some way with him, and whether or not any dates or times mentioned were not completely impossible.
I could, of course, be wrong about this, in which case Father Corapi's superiors really ought to be releasing a ringing vindication of him any minute now; if the accusations could easily be proved not credible in the sense I mean then they probably have been or will be almost immediately. And, yes, in that case it would certainly be appropriate to call for more just procedures--but it is not particularly appropriate, to me, to be assuming that SOLT has acted unjustly or uncharitably by giving non-credible allegations the same treatment to which they would give credible ones. But we can only say that if we realize that a credible allegation means only that it is theoretically possible, no matter how remotely, for the allegations to be true; it most emphatically does not mean that the person accused is presumed in any way to be guilty of any charge.