Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Idolatry and the Stewardship of Love

I am supposed to be in the midst of blogging about Acting and the Faith, and maybe I am, but I'm not so sure. Maybe I'm not ... but then again, maybe I am.

Today we learned more of the truth about Fr. Corapi's fall from grace from his superior at SOLT. I originally suspected when I heard this news that Fr. Corapi's followers would dig in their heels and that Fr. Corapi would play this revelation as a violation of his due process, and that the rejection of truth would continue, as would the game of blaming the innocent. But, to my surprise, this seems to have been the turning of the tide. The revelation by SOLT today was not greeted by Father Corapi's supporters with skepticism, hatred of Bishop Mulvane, calls to storm EWTN, or anything other than resigned sadness.

Fr. Longenecker nails it today, twice. First, in his post that's directly about Fr. Corapi and in his post that's indirectly about Fr. Corapi, the latter post being very insightful and touching. And the comments on both posts are surprisingly level-headed and charitable! This is especially surprising, for, back in March, Fr. Longenecker first timidly offered the sensible suggestion that we ought not, you know, go so far as to idolize any particular priest - and he was brutalized and nearly crucified in his combox for daring to suggest such a thing.

And the reason Fr. Corapi has gone awry we can all understand, and we see it in many actors - Rock Star Syndrome. And the reason Fr. Corapi's supporters turned ugly and nasty for a while there we can also all understand - Othello Syndrome. They are two sides of the same coin.

Rock Star Syndrome

We can all understand Fr. Corapi and his temptations. I mean, sex drugs and rock and roll - that stuff sells because that stuff is fun. Father's fall is a very understandable one. I mean, the reason there's drugs and hookers is guys like drugs and hookers.

Now, I have a hunch there's more to be revealed about Fr. Corapi and his behavior - but for now, these particular sins, though disappointing in a priest, are sins common to the human lot. And common especially to actors, who are desperate for attention and power anyway. There is a secret delight in power and control in all sexual sins - at least there is for men - and the sex of rock stars, of men who are idolized and adored, is a very potent form of the power-high that is the spiritual thrill behind mere carnal pleasure. Rock Star Sex is sex for power's sake, for the sake of being idolized and adored, for the sake of pride and control.

But this sin of pride and control, this sin of feeding off of the hero worship our audiences seem to offer us, this sin of being idolized, of being on top, is balanced by another sin, a sin less understood, the sin of being at the bottom, at the foot of the idol, and of offering to that idol the deepest and dearest part of your soul.

Othello Syndrome - "loving not wisely but too well"

While I know of no actor who does not secretly desire to be idolized himself, I know of no actor who does not openly idolize another actor, a movie or TV star.

And the sin of idolatry is as wrong as it is because it is a sin of misplaced devotion, of misdirected love, of the willful disordering of the greatest thing in our hearts. The greatest thing in our hearts is our hunger for God and our capacity to love Him - and when this most precious gift is indulged and allowed to light upon anything less than what it's made to worship, when our God-urge satiates itself upon any created thing, we go horribly wrong - and, like Othello, we become horribly gullible and capable of the most violent and irrational acts. We go so deeply wrong because the best thing about us goes wrong.

As I wrote to a friend today, "Emotions run high on this issue because all of Father's critics and fans love him and love what he's done. It's our sense of betrayed love and trust that has made this ugly. We have seen the spectacle of a spectacular preacher fall spectacularly, and that hurts everyone involved. We feel like crying, 'My father, why have you abandoned us?'"

We have all been jilted and we have all been hurt, and so things have gotten messy; accusations and over-reactions abounding. But we must not forget - we are not to put our faith in princes or in the sons of men. For doing so is a sin worse than addiction to drugs or dalliance with prostitutes.

How This Really Applies to Acting

Actors are suckers. We are fools for love. We love, like Othello, not wisely but too well. We become, like Othello, jealous and easily manipulated by others. We love so much that we will pay people to put us on stage and call us interns. We love so much that we will pay good money to directors in grad school who emotionally and physically abuse us. We love so much that we will work for a fraction of what we're worth. We love so much that we get taken advantage of. Again and again.

We are right to love our craft and to be willing to sacrifice for our love. We are wrong when we fail to see that this vocation of ours is not just a call from God, but a call to God, a call to serve Him and not simply to serve others or our own careers.


Yes, Actors, we are in this because we want to be gods. But we are much more hungry to love God than we are to be God, for we know that being God is alien to our nature, but serving God fits like a glove. Devotion makes us happy - recognizing that will keep us from the worst sins of pride - but devotion must be properly placed and subject to renunciation and sacrifice.

Let us pray for Fr. Corapi, his bishop, his superior, his accuser, his victims, and for all of us who have not been the best stewards of our love - who have loved not wisely but too well.


Anonymous said...

We're not reading the same stuff if you don't think the "Corapians" haven't dug in their heels. Read the Facebook pages for "The Black Sheepdog" and "Fr. John Corapi" and you will get a different picture.

Kevin O'Brien said...

I'm off Facebook until St. Genesius Day (Aug. 25), so I can't. All I can say is I've seen an absence of nasty pro-Corapi combox comments today, and in private correspondence with Fr. Corapi supporters shame seems to be the dominant emotion.

Pray for EWTN, for the network is enduring terrible unjust treatment from conservative Catholics over this.

Kevin F said...

Kevin somehow I think there's a relationship between this distinction of pro and contra "Corapians" and "conservative" and "liberal" Catholics. Doesn't Catholic mean "universal" ? Do "traditional" and "liberal" not both describe something that purposely isn't universal ? Aren't those distinctions not devised to prevent misidentification? It seems to me the issue driving both Stanford Nutting and his unfortunate brother Bill (who could represent the pro/contra Corapian combox wars under way these weeks) is precisely the desire to protest: Having the cake and eating it too.

This too shall pass. But in my mind it underscores that a priest must seek not so much to become a who, as a what. The more father the better. God protect us from all sin-seeking fathers: whether wearing a collar and under canonical obedience to a religious society, or oddly angled baseball hat and a tee shirt, contemplating a quick getaway from child-rearing. The damage that can be done by one is comparable to what can be done by the other. It remains up to us to place our faith not in princes.

Kevin O'Brien said...

Kevin, I used to think all of the problems in the Church came from the liberals. Then I got to meet the conservatives. Now I see that the problem is not political or factional, the problem is simply human nature, or in other words, original sin.

This is why Fr. Longenecker's post on this was so good. Holiness need not be dramatic. It need not be bold preaching, thunderous denunciations, big time show biz. It can be that, but it can also be little awkward un-noticed moments of love.

And that's within the reach of all of us, by the grace of God.