The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity is in the spotlight, following the allegations of misconduct against one of its members, Father John Corapi. The Register spoke with Father Gerard Sheehan, regional priest servant, based in the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, to learn more about the charism of the order and its rules for members.
What are the distinctive elements of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Blessed Trinity?
The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Holy Trinity (SOLT) is a society of apostolic life. We were founded in 1958, and now have 160 priests working in 20 countries. We are a society of apostolic life of diocesan right. [A society of “diocesan right” is overseen by one local bishop on behalf of the Church, whereas those of “pontifical right,” like Maryknoll missionaries and the Sulpicians, are directly overseen by the Vatican.] We are a community of priests, sisters and laity, working in ecclesial teams in areas of greatest apostolic need. Father Rogel Rosalinas is the general priest servant; he will have ultimate authority regarding any decision related to the allegations involving Father Corapi.
How did Father Corapi become involved in the ministry that has made him a famous evangelist?
Father James Flanagan, the founder of SOLT, believed that the society would identify people’s gifts and then allow them a degree of freedom to conduct their apostolic work.
While Father Corapi was still in the seminary, Father Flanagan discerned that he had a gift for apostolic preaching. The founder felt that Father Corapi needed a lot of freedom and prayer to offer that gift for the Church.
Initially, Father Corapi was allowed to live an eremitic life in a cottage on a compound with a community of sisters. Father Corapi stayed there for some time, conducting parish missions. Ultimately, he moved into his own home.
His preaching had tremendous results and many people were converted to the faith, while others came back to the Church. Many vocations came from his preaching. Subsequently, he began producing tapes that showcased his presentation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the subject of his doctoral dissertation.
He made Santa Cruz Media a for-profit company, he told his superiors, in order to have the proper freedom to proclaim the Gospel without any fear of raising issues that might threaten the company’s tax-exempt status.
He said he would pay his taxes and proclaim the Gospel fearlessly. Father Flanagan allowed him to manage his own funds. No one knew it would become so big.
In a recent public statement, the vice president of operations of Santa Cruz Media, Inc. described the for-profit production company as a “secular corporation and not affiliated with the Catholic Church in any way. As such, we are not under the jurisdiction of any bishop or other official in the Catholic Church.” Would you explain?
You would have to ask Santa Cruz Media what they mean by that.
What is the relationship between Santa Cruz Media and SOLT?
Santa Cruz Media remains completely independent of SOLT. We don’t receive any money, though Father Corapi has made personal donations to the community.
Has SOLT evolved since Father Corapi became a member of the society?
In 1994, our new constitution made SOLT a society of apostolic life. The founder’s arrangement with Father Corapi was established before that time, when Father Flanagan believed that every mission should take care of its own needs.
Now, according to our constitution, a different way of life has been established for members. All the money we make is turned over to the society, which gives us an allowance.
We have begun to address the issues of members who joined the society before the new constitution. The society is moving to a more organized structural phase of its existence, with all the Church discipline that entails.
Register Senior Writer Joan Frawley Desmond writes from Chevy Chase,Maryland.