Cleansing Fire

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Obedience – What It Is, What It Isn’t, and What Others Would Have it Be

July 1st, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of discussion across the internet and in Catholic publications about the troubling situation with Fr. Corapi, who says that he is leaving the priesthood, and yet he is not leaving the Church. Of course, when you take vows to serve the Church, and you openly deny them, the logical conclusion is that, on some level, you are, in fact, leaving the Church. But that’s not the point of this post. Instead, I would like to look at what is actually meant by “obedience.” After all, the Catholic faith is all about obedience, and even those who openly deny their duty to follow Rome will readily profess their fidelity to Christ, even if it is a warped and politicized “fidelity.”

One of the oft-encountered qualms here at Cleansing Fire is that we (staffers, writers, readers, etc.) are being disobedient, seeing as how we are to obey the local ordinary (Bishop Clark) in all things. If, in anything, the local ordinary errs, our detractors say that we should remain silent out of respect for the office of “bishop” and its clear and undeniable link with the Apostles. This is a noble and charitable position, at least on the surface of things. And it would be extremely easy merely to abandon this apostolate and let happen what may. But our silence, friends, would be in itself disobedience for the sole reason that the local ordinary is not the final arbiter of Truth. That is, of course, God. And He has chosen to create in His Church one bishopric which rises above others, and which has the authority, privilege, and responsibility to rebuke those who persist in their infidelity. If we were to be obedient on this lower, local level, and merely bite our tongues until the trouble passed, sure . . . maybe we would have done the tactful thing, but would we have done the right thing? Overturning the tables of the money-changers in the temple was certainly not tactful by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a just and noble act, one which showed that obeying the current temporal leaders comes second to obeying the eternal Leader, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

The following excerpt from Lumen Gentium describes this:

26. A bishop marked with the fullness of the sacrament of Orders, is “the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood,” (48*) especially in the Eucharist, which he offers or causes to be offered,(49*) and by which the Church continually lives and grows. This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local congregations (note that by specifying “legitimate, the Second Vatican Council also implies the existence of illegitimate local congregations) of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called churches in the New Testament.(50) For in their locality these are the new People called by God, in the Holy Spirit and in much fullness.(167) In them the faithful are gathered together by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, that by the food and blood of the Lord’s body the whole brotherhood may be joined together.(51) In any community of the altar, under the sacred ministry of the bishop,(52) there is exhibited a symbol of that charity and “unity of the mystical Body, without which there can be no salvation.”(One of the major ramifications of Bishop Clark’s reign in Rochester is the fact that this “charity” and “unity” are nowhere to be found. Those who disagree with the Diocese’s agenda, i.e. lay pastoral administrators, lay preachers, etc., are not privy to the same favor shown on those priests and congregations whose loyalties rest in lukewarm adherance to the status quo.) (53) In these communities, though frequently small and poor, or living in the Diaspora, Christ is present, and in virtue of His presence there is brought together one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.(54*) For “the partaking of the body and blood of Christ does nothing other than make us be transformed into that which we consume”. (55*)

Every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is regulated by the bishop, to whom is committed the office of offering the worship of Christian religion to the Divine Majesty and of administering it in accordance with the Lord’s commandments and the Church’s laws, as further defined by his particular judgment for his diocese. (And we have all seen what our Bishop “regulates” in terms of sacred liturgy.)

Bishops thus, by praying and laboring for the people, make outpourings in many ways and in great abundance from the fullness of Christ’s holiness. By the ministry of the word they communicate God’s power to those who believe unto salvation(168) and through the sacraments, the regular and fruitful distribution of which they regulate by their authority,(56*) they sanctify the faithful. They direct the conferring of baptism, by which a sharing in the kingly priesthood of Christ is granted. They are the original ministers of confirmation, dispensers of sacred Orders and the moderators of penitential discipline, and they earnestly exhort and instruct their people to carry out with faith and reverence their part in the liturgy and especially in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. And lastly, by the example of their way of life they must be an influence for good to those over whom they preside, refraining from all evil and, as far as they are able with God’s help, exchanging evil for good, so that together with the flock committed to their care they may arrive at eternal life.(57*)

27. Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them (58*) by their counsel, exhortations, example, and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant.(169) This power, which they personally exercise in Christ’s name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. (This is absolutely key. The power and authority of a bishop is essentially irrelevant when this power and authority is directed, not towards the defense of Tradition and Truth, but towards a private desire or personal aim. Bishop Sheen wrote that “the priest is not his own,” but he is Christ’s. The same is true for bishops, but in an even more intense manner! For how can a bishop be acting as Christ, and exercising his  God-given authority, when he uses the strength of his office to do more harm than good to those whom he serves? You should note that discussing this is not the same as discussing the man who is bishop, but rather, the office of bishop as lived out by a man.) In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate.

The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called “prelates,” heads of the people whom they govern.(59*) Their power, therefore, is not destroyed by the supreme and universal power, but on the contrary it is affirmed, strengthened and vindicated by it,(60*) since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of government established by Christ the Lord in His Church.

For more clarifications on these statements, we can look to a saint whose ties to this Diocese are extremely relevant. St. Thomas More opposed his king and lost his head for it, and yet he is “St.” Thomas More. This man denied lawful authority, citing a higher authority than man’s, and was condemned for treason. However, what is missing from this extremely-abridged story is that St. Thomas More opposed lawful authority, the King of England, Henry VIII, not because it gave him pleasure to do so, but because it was commanded by God through His Church. When Henry VIII broke from Rome, and started persecuting those loyal adherents to the Faith, he lost the obligated respect and obedience of his subjects because he did wrong.

Obedience is not owed to anyone who acts in such a way as to transform this Godly obedience into un-Godly disobedience. When St. Thomas More bore silent witness to the true Church, he did so for God’s glory, and not his own glory or edification. Many of those who accuse us of disobedience also accuse us of arrogance, an accusation leveled at St. Thomas More as well. Henry VIII remarked “what is this, that his vanity should be above a king’s?” – and yet, there is no arrogance in obedience, only in disobedience. When we take it upon ourselves to push the envelope, to see how much we can get away with before we get caught, we see the truth of the matter and take such delight in bypassing it for our own satisfaction. Our lay administrators hide behind flimsy reasoning and documentation to be able to preach from the pulpit during Mass, citing documents describing children’s Masses as the basis for preaching at all sorts of Masses. We must not read what we want to into documents, but rather, read them through the lens of obedience. Nothing in the Church ought to be novelty, and yet that is all we see in the Diocese of Rochester, where “norms” are twisted and manipulated to allow all sorts of liturgical mutations which mar the beauty of the Mass and, consequently, the beauty of the souls of the faithful.

And whose responsibility is it to prevent against this? It is the Bishop’s responsibility, and the responsibility of his priests. And yet here we are in 2011, where half of our priests are reveling in disobedience and the other half is too afraid to do what is “right and just,” and then there is a small group of faithful priests whose fidelity is rewarded with burdensome assignments, cold-shoulder treatment from the Diocese, and various threats from their “brother priests.” In talking with a priest from Syracuse recently, I was told by him that when he offered a private Mass ad orientem (i.e., alone and at 4 AM in a dark church) he was confronted by the pastor who rebuked him for “praying to a wall” and who threatened violence should he ever see this priest offering an ad orientem liturgy, public or private. This sort of behavior strips the individual, be he a priest or bishop, of his authority. As the lay faithful of the Church, we are obligated not to acquiesce to erring princes, be they temporal leaders or spiritual ones.

Bishop Clark is our rightful Bishop. However, this does not mean that he is infallible. Nor is he above rebuke or reproach. He is a man, and capable of mistakes, and as such deserves our prayers and assistance. We do what we do, not as some sort of “gotcha Catholicism,” but as an act of obedience to the Church, and act which, like St. Thomas More’s, may appear to be disobedient, arrogant, or even contemptuous of authority. And yet, it is not! We have a zeal for authority, and it pains us to see it manipulated like it has been in Rochester. A Bishop ought to use his office to do good, and aside from not closing every parish and school in the Diocese, I am hard-pressed to find something I can point to as an undeniable and pure “good” brought about by this administration. So, yes, I acknowledge Bishop Clark to be my Bishop, and I acknowledge the relationship between us as one of prince and steward, but I will not at any point concede that just because the prince is a prince and the steward a steward the prince is infallible. He is not, for he is not the Supreme Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome. Bishop Clark is a successor to the Apostles, but so too was Arius. Just be thankful that Bishop Clark is not a heretic, but simply a man in need of our fraternal correction and prayers.

Remember – your silence gives consent.

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12 Responses to “Obedience – What It Is, What It Isn’t, and What Others Would Have it Be”

  1. avatar JLo says:

    Thank you, Gen. All I wish to add is something Father Groeschel said. He might not have been the first, but he said “Obedience to disobedience is not obedience.” +JMJ

  2. avatar Hopefull says:

    Wonderful presentation, and gives much to think about. Reminds me of the saying:

    “A priest who isn’t obedient to the liturgy, won’t be obedient to anything.”

  3. avatar Anonymous II says:

    Your position on the above mentioned issues indicate that you are being insubordinate and divisive at the most, and probably heretical at the least. If silence is consent, what has the Vatican criticised openly about Clark?? If they have not publicly censured him, what he does is with their approval.

    Check the infallibility issue also; you might find that the bishop shares in the infallibility of the Church when he speaks in union with the pope. ” Ex cathedra” usually implies the majority of bishops agreeing with the pope on an issue before the decree is formally published as infallible. See: see history of the Assumption decree.

    Finally, what do you think the Vatican thinks of your criticism of the man the Pope ( Blessed J-P II) appointed as a bishop??? In many ways you are saying that the pope and the Vatican don’t really have a handle on the performance of the episcopacy in the church.

  4. avatar Anonymous says:

    Bishop Clark is NOT speaking in union with the Pope on a plethora of issues. And don’t say he agrees with the homosexuality issue. Making a statement and then, going behind his back, supporting Dignity, suppressing groups who promote the majesterial teachings and not allowing Courage into the diocese speaks volumes of his true feelings.

    He agrees with Fr. Curran about birth Control. O, he gives lip service to the Pope and nothing more.

    His whole term of office has been “Lip service” to the Holy Father, and then go behind his back, instituting policies that are opposite to the Holy Father.

    Anyway, what the bishop supports on these and other issues are not only not infallible, they are easy to refute. The problem in that the bishop has the Bully pulpit in Rochester.

  5. avatar Anonymous II says:

    Anonymous 84149:

    Do you really think, with all the people from this blog writing to the Vatican for a very long time, that the Pope is in the dark about all of the things going on in this diocese (see: Spiritus Christi) ? Do you think when the bishop goes to Rome every 5 years for his “ad limina” visit that they just drink tea and talk about whose wiener schnitzel is better?

    Do you think the pope doesn’t know about the vocation issue here?? Did Clark not just import a bunch of vocations from South America to cover his “butt”?

  6. avatar Hopefull says:

    Since this post opened by mentioning Fr. Corapi, it seems an appropriate place to mention today’s post by SOLT, which is more negative toward Fr. Corapi than we’ve seen in earlier releases. Sadly, it makes it seem even harder to keep an open mind about the ultimate outcome, and to pray for a holy resolution.

    It can be found on a link on Fr. Corapi’s website http://www.blacksheepdog.us to the SOLT site:

    http://soltnews.blogspot.com/2011/07/press-release-concerning-fr-john-corapi.html

    Press Release Concerning Fr John Corapi from SOLT Regional Priest Servant
    July 5, 2011

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    From: Rev. Gerard Sheehan, SOLT Regional Priest Servant Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Robstown, Texas

    Fr. John A. Corapi submitted his resignation from the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (“SOLT”) early in June. SOLT is a Society of Apostolic Life of Diocesan Right with its regional office in Robstown, Texas.

    While SOLT does not typically comment publicly on personnel matters, it recognizes that Fr. John Corapi, through his ministry, has inspired thousands of faithful Catholics, many of whom continue to express their support of him. SOLT also recognizes that Fr. Corapi is now misleading these individuals through his false statements and characterizations. It is for these Catholics that SOLT, by means of this announcement, seeks to set the record straight.

    A woman, well known to Fr. John Corapi, mailed SOLT a signed letter detailing allegations of Fr. Corapi’s sexual activity with adult women, abuse of alcohol and drugs, improper sacramental practices, violation of his promise of poverty, and other wrongdoing.

    After receiving the allegation, SOLT formed a three person fact-finding team to ensure that it handled this matter in accordance with canonical norms. The team included a priest-canonist, a psychiatrist, and a lawyer. Two were members of religious orders, and one was a lay Catholic. Two were men, and one was a woman. All three have national reputations and substantial experience in ecclesiastical processes related to priest disciplinary issues.

    As the Society was engaging this team, Fr. Corapi filed a civil lawsuit against his principal accuser. He contended that she had defamed him and breached her contract. The contract, according to Corapi’s lawsuit, contained a provision binding the woman to silence about him. He offered the woman $100,000 to enter this agreement.

    SOLT’s fact-finding team subsequently learned that Fr. Corapi may have negotiated contracts with other key witnesses that precluded them from speaking with SOLT’s fact-finding team. Many of these witnesses likely had key information about the accusations being investigated and declined to answer questions and provide documents.

    When the fact-finding team asked Fr. Corapi to dismiss the lawsuit, to forbear from foreclosing his mortgage, and to release her and other individuals from their contractual obligations to remain silent about him, he refused to do so and, through his canonical advocate, stated: “It is not possible for Father Corapi to answer the Commission’s questions at this time.”

    SOLT’s fact-finding team has acquired information from Fr. Corapi’s e-mails, various witnesses, and public sources that, together, state that, during his years of public ministry:

    He did have sexual relations and years of cohabitation (in California and Montana) with a woman known to him, when the relationship began, as a prostitute; He repeatedly abused alcohol and drugs; He has recently engaged in sexting activity with one or more women in Montana; He holds legal title to over $1 million in real estate, numerous luxury vehicles, motorcycles, an ATV, a boat dock, and several motor boats, which is a serious violation of his promise of poverty as a perpetually professed member of the Society.

    SOLT has contemporaneously with the issuance of this press release directed Fr. John Corapi, under obedience, to return home to the Society’s regional office and take up residence there. It has also ordered him, again under obedience, to dismiss the lawsuit he has filed against his accuser.

    SOLT’s prior direction to Fr. John Corapi not to engage in any preaching or teaching, the celebration of the sacraments or other public ministry continues. Catholics should understand that SOLT does not consider Fr. John Corapi as fit for ministry.

    Father Sheehan will not be available for comments as he is attending the SOLT General Chapter from July 5-23.

    Posted by SOLT Webmaster at 1:58 PM

  7. avatar Hopefull says:

    It is only fair to also reprint in its entirety Fr. Corapi’s response today to SOLT’s letter posted above:

    My Response Regarding Tuesday’s Press Release From SOLT.
    Jul 7
    Posted by The Black SheepDog
    .I am going to answer in a simple, straight forward way what seem to me the main elements of the action taken against me by the Diocese of Corpus Christi and the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

    Regarding my personal financial situation—From the earliest days (more than twenty years ago) the Founder of the Society of Our Lady, Fr. James Flanagan, encouraged me to support myself and the Church as well. He said they could not afford to support my ministry and me personally because of the unique nature of the mission. At every step of the way, through the entire past twenty years, the Society of Our Lady’s leadership knew of my financial independence. As Fr. Flanagan encouraged, I have supported SOLT and myself from ‘day-one.‘ I have never relied on the Society for shelter, clothing, transportation, medical care, or legal counsel and instead, using my history of success in business, set up my mission as any savvy business man would, meanwhile continuing to support the Society and many other Catholic Charities.

    Regarding the charge of sexual impropriety—This song of greed has been sung many times before. I have never had any promiscuous or even inappropriate relations with her. Never.

    Regarding the investigation—As standard practice, my legal counsel advised me not to cooperate with the investigation until I was able to determine that the Commission’s process was fair and I had adequate rights to defend myself. Questions that certainly qualify the validity of any legal case have never been answered by the so called “fact finding team.” They refuse to reveal, and therefore utilize, any of the so-called evidence perhaps because if ‘the bad guy’ were truly revealed it may be revealed that he is really not that bad. Clearly, as my legal counsel has portrayed, the evidence supplied by the accused (of which my counsel is not permitted access to) must not have any substance.

    Regarding ‘hush money’—I never paid anybody off to remain silent. On two occasions there were standard severance agreements executed with former employees and independent contractors. These agreements contained very common non-disclosure provisions. Any attorney who would not include such provisions in such agreements would rightly be guilty of negligent and actionable conduct.

    Regarding my resignation—I resigned because the process used by the Church is grossly unjust, and, hence, immoral. I resigned because I had no chance from the beginning of a fair and just hearing. As I have indicated from the beginning of all this, I am not extinguished! If I were to commit to the suggestion of the Society, then I would essentially crawl under a rock and wait to die. However, I can not deny this desire to share aspects of Truth and Hope with all those willing to hear. This is what I shall continue to fight for! Many are not going to appreciate this decision, and I respect that. For those who can accept it, onward!
    .

  8. avatar Hopefull says:

    Today, July 8, 2011 there is a new video by Fr. Corapi posted on his website
    http://www.blacksheepdog.us seeming to say in a week or two that he will get on with his new life. No comment is made about whether or not he is pursuing the civil lawsuit mentioned earlier by others as part of his new activities.

  9. avatar Anonymous II says:

    Mr. Corapi’s getting on into his new life will probably be as a very wealthy layman at least, and excommunicated to boot!! He is following in the footsteps of Episcopal Father Cutie of Miami. Don’t be surprised if he becomes an Episcopal bishop.

    Beware of these no account televangelists who use the word and gifts of the Lord to line their pockets and sin secretly!!!!!!!!

  10. avatar Hopefull says:

    I am posting what seems now to be available, although not officially released, gleaned from some on-line research regarding the sad case involving Fr. Corapi. On November 24, 2009, his email-newsletter stated:

    “I have recently lost my closest ally and co-worker in the history of my ministry. My God-daughter Tamra traveled well over a million miles with me, worked very hard, and enabled more than 300 events, often the only person working in my office and assisting me. Her husband Matt is mostly responsible for all of the videography and technological growth we have enjoyed. They are moving on to other things, and although my heart is broken at the loss, I can only wish them every blessing for the future. Their hard work and talent blessed millions of souls through the years. Sometimes it is brutally hard to go on, for all of us. Yet, time will go on with us or without us.”

    Tamra Sexton Sprinkle is apparently the person who has written the letters about Fr. Corapi to the Bishop of Corpus Christi and elsewhere, and also is apparently the person whom he is suing for libel (libel means a lie) and for breach of contract. Both Fr. Corapi and his Santa Cruz media are plaintiffs. I found the redacted charges on line, and although the name is blacked out, it is readable, as are the charges. It was filed on April 4, 2011. The suit identifies the defendant as residing in Kila, Montana.

    Her Facebook page (picture with husband (Matthew Sprinkle) she married in 2006) is quite interesting. She has over 2600 “Friends” which includes many clergy and religious (bishops, priests, deacons, brothers, sisters). The following bishops (not all Roman Catholic; one avowedly linked to homosexual issues, one “Old Catholic,” a “Reformed Catholic” etc.) are: Bishop Anthony B Taylor, Bishop Anthony Fisher, Bishop Earl L. Frazier, Bishop James V. Johnston, Bishop John Sebastian Lula, Bishop M. Heckman, Bishop Mel Borham, Bishop Paul Andrew Hood, Bishop Peter Ingham, Bishop Renzo Di Venanzo, Bishop Tony Hash. Recently more comments are posted on Tamra’s FB page, obliquely seeming to refer to the situation with Fr. Corapi. Surely someone will cloak these with privacy settings soon, no? But meanwhile, they are readable.

    Other searches indicate that Tamra and/or her husband is trying to sell Fr. Corapi’s rosary on Ebay for a starting bid of $5,000 and that she may have taken a confusingly similar website name (Blacksheepdog.com, as opposed to Blacksheepdog.us which Fr. Corapi is using,) which dotcom domain has an Ebay starting price of $10,000.

    I found one other item rather troubling. Earlier, as I read blogs on various people’s opinions about what was really happening, I was disturbed in particular by Jimmy Akin’s (EWTN). To me it seemed not to be even handed, while creating an illusion of fairness. Rather, it seemed to me, IMO, hostile to Fr. Corapi in the way it was written. I was surprised in doing the present research to find him listed as “Friend” on Tamra’s FB page.

  11. avatar Raymond Rice says:

    I think you will find that obedience or lack thereof goes up pretty high in the Church. Recently the Cardinal of Lisbon (Policarpo) stated that there were no theological impediments to ordaining women; which statement is being disobedient to an infallible doctrine promulgated by the pope.

  12. avatar Hopefull says:

    I had a disturbing experience today, when I received the Diocesan (email) Courier. There was a Catholic News Service article on Fr. Corapi, covering SOLT’s news release (see stories above.) I almost didn’t read it as I was already familiar with the SOLT release. But I glanced through, and was very surprised to find a different spin on the original SOLT news release. Now I have no opinion (and I’m working to keep it that way) on the Fr. Corapi/SOLT situation, whether Fr. Corapi is right, or SOLT is right, or both or neither are correct, since all the information isn’t yet on the table. But for the CNS to “spin” the facts that are already out there, and the Courier to use the “spun facts,” seems highly inappropriate. Here’s what happened:

    SOLT’s July 5th announcement can be found at: http://soltnews.blogspot.com/2011/07/press-release-concerning-fr-john-corapi.html and it stated:
    “As the Society was engaging this team, Fr. Corapi filed a civil lawsuit against his principal accuser. He contended that she had defamed him and breached her contract. The contract, according to Corapi’s lawsuit, contained a provision binding the woman to silence about him. He offered the woman $100,000 to enter this agreement.”

    The CNS story, reprinted by the diocese, can be found at: http://www.catholiccourier.com/news/world-nation/order-accuses-father-corapi-of-sexual-financial-wrongdoing-falsehoods/ and states:

    “As the team was carrying out its work, Father Corapi filed a civil suit against his principal accuser and then offered $100,000 for her silence, the news release said.”

    The original CNS story can be found at: http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1102670.htm
    and states the same as the DoR Courier.
    (Note: the actual language being discussed is missing from the CNS “briefs” site; it is only on the full story link shown above.)

    The first quote, from SOLT, shows the possibility that an employee was dismissed, with an agreement to keep all matters of her employment confidential, which is often typical of celebrities, and are “pricey.” However, the CNS story has a word and concept not found in SOLT’s news release: the word “THEN.” It implies that he sued his accuser and THEN offered her $100,000 which would leave open accusations of bribery or tampering with a witness. That would be a vicious accusation, under the guise of supposed reporting. I find it bothersome that DoR would pick up this accusatory “spin” in its Courier. The facts wouldn’t have been that difficult to check out. What is positioned as “News” should be News, with accurate facts.

    One problem with any blog news is that it can so easily be changed, with revisions undated. But the original SOLT announcement is posted above, and if you received the Diocesan Courier, you can check it out, at: http://www.catholiccourier.com/news/world-nation/order-accuses-father-corapi-of-sexual-financial-wrongdoing-falsehoods/
    and the full CNS story is still available at the CNS link.

    The bigger question is “Who is behind this distortion, and why?”


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