The Eternal Word Television Network said its decision to halt programming by the popular speaker Fr. John Corapi followed the lead of legitimate Church authority.
“EWTN has an obligation to uphold the discipline and teachings of the Church,” president Michael Warsaw said on April 1. “In the network’s thirty years of existence, our practice has always been to discontinue airing programs featuring any cleric whose priestly faculties have been suspended, even if temporarily,” Warsaw said.
EWTN pulled Fr. Corapi’s programs following the priest’s announcement on Ash Wednesday that he has been publicly accused of drug abuse and sexual relationships with several women. Fr. Corapi has denied the allegations.
In the weeks since then, EWTN has come under intense criticism for its decision.
In his statement, Warsaw said that much of that criticism has been “shrill and uncharitable.” He said that many people have threatened to withhold donations and have made personal remarks attacking the network’s employees.
“When I see messages and web postings that malign the character and intentions of people who have served this mission for years, often at great personal sacrifice, I cannot allow those assertions to stand unanswered,” he said.
Warsaw stressed that it “is simply illogical to assert, as some have, that the very people who have worked personally with Fr. John over the years and who have made certain that he has had a continued presence on EWTN would suddenly and immediately take league with the enemy and turn against him.”
Fr. Corapi was suspended from priestly ministry on March 18 by his superiors in the Texas-based Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
A three-page letter submitted by a former, unidentified female employee claimed that the 63-year-old priest took part in sexual encounters with several adult women and engaged in habitual drug use. Fr. Corapi said in a March 19 statement that the accusations were entirely “false.”
In response to the allegations, the television network pulled the broadcast of Fr. Corapi's homilies and teachings until further notice.
“In this case, Fr. John’s own religious superior has made the determination to place him on administrative leave and feels it best that Fr. John not exercise public ministry at this time,” Warsaw said.
“Fr. Corapi’s religious superior obviously believes that this was the prudent and appropriate course of action.”
Warsaw said that although the network does not know the details of the case, “as Catholics, we are obliged to give deference and the benefit of the doubt to the religious superior who does know.”
“A priest,” the network CEO noted, “has no right to public ministry in the Church on his own. He cannot function publicly without the express permission of his bishop or religious superior. That is the discipline of the Church.”
Warsaw emphasized that EWTN had “an obligation to remove Fr. John’s programming from the air” and that the decision was reached with “much prayer and careful consideration.”
“Some have said this showed a lack of courage by the network,” he said. But, he countered, the “hard decision was to remove the programs.”
“Fr. John is not just a face on television or a voice on the radio to those of us here at EWTN. He is a man many of us know personally and admire greatly. That made the decision all the more difficult for us.”
Warsaw also underscored the network’s stance that Fr. Corapi “is absolutely innocent of any and all charges unless proven otherwise by the investigation that is now underway.”
“I have been privileged to know Fr. John for more than a decade. He is a gifted preacher and has done tremendous work leading souls to Christ. That is a fact.”
“Fr. John has asked us to pray for all involved,” Warsaw said. “That is what we are doing. I would also ask our EWTN Family to continue to pray that this matter will be resolved quickly and that Fr. John’s programs can be returned to the airwaves.”