LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Corapi had won many adherents on the basis of his unusual conversion story. Once a prominent and wealthy real estate agent in Los Angeles, he saw his fortune disintegrate because of cocaine addiction. Corapi was homeless for three years until he checked into a psychiatric facility. He decided to turn his life around in 1984 and later enrolled in seminary and was ordained as a deacon in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1990. He was ordained as a priest a year later by Pope John Paul II.

Corapi became a celebrity among devoted Catholics for his appearances on Eternal Word Television Network, a globally broadcast Catholic TV and radio network. His appearances at Catholic conferences are known to draw upwards of 10,000 fans each.

Now based in Montana, Corapi worked as a priest in Sacramento, Calif., Hudson, N.Y., and Robstown, Texas. He was best-known for his television ministry.

Corapi was suspended from his religious order in March after one of his female employees accused him of sexual abuse. The Catholic television network also suspended his appearances pending an investigation by his religious superiors.

In his eight-minute audio statement, Corapi stressed that he is innocent, but indicated frustration with a church judicial process that he saw leading to "[leaving] me suspended indefinitely and just [letting] me fade away.

"You are for all practical purposes assumed guilty until you can prove you are innocent. This one is truly baffling. No civilized society operates that way," he said in the statement.

"I accept moving on, but I am not ready to be altogether extinguished just yet," Corapi added. He said he will continue to write and speak publicly on "broader" topics under the name "The Black Sheep Dog."

Corapi's fans have waged an aggressive campaign to reinstate the priest, whose "Father Corapi and the Catechism of the Catholic Church" show was among the most popular in Catholic media.

"A lot of people are shaken, especially conservatives -- they idolized him," Deacon Greg Kandra of the Diocese of Brooklyn says. "He's very orthodox, extremely conservative. He has professed a great devotion to the Blessed Mother and Padre Pio. He's not one of those people who goes for feel-good Catholicism."