Jewish Journal

Padre Oprah strays on Florida beach

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 12, 2009 | 6:21 pm

There is a new sex scandal rocking the Catholic Church. Fortunately this one doesn’t involve children.

From The New York Times:

They called the Rev. Alberto Cutié “Padre Oprah” for his insightful advice about relationships. Now his parishioners, his television and radio audience, and readers of his best-selling book, “Real Life, Real Love,” know he speaks from experience.

On Tuesday, photographs in a Spanish-language tabloid showed the 40-year-old priest with deep blue eyes lying shirtless beside, and cuddling with, a dark-haired woman on a North Florida beach. Within hours, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami removed him from his post as pastor of a Miami Beach church, and now all of South Florida seems to be abuzz with discussions of celibacy, celebrity and temptation.

Radio and television news programs, in Spanish and English, have spent hours parsing the case. The original pictures, from TVNotas, have been reproduced all over the Web, while on Wednesday at his former church, St. Francis de Sales, camera crews hovered on the sidewalk as a secretary hung a “no trespassing” sign.

“He was held up as an example of something different,” said Carlos Saladrigas, a well-known businessman here who has known Father Cutié since he entered the seminary at age 18. “It’s like any icon — when they breach the trust of society, it hurts.”

I don’t want to imply anything about Cutié, but this indiscretion reminds me of what a priest once told me about an instruction he received in seminary: “If you feel you can’t keep your commitment to God, please, find a woman.”

Seriously. This is a lot better than the alternative—though I don’t want to suggest that celibate men are more likely to become pederasts. That just happened to be the case for celibate Catholic priests. Whether they were predisposed, I guess we’ll never know.

Michael Paulson at the Boston Globe says the Cutié controversy has sparked a fresh debate on celibacy. (The Jesuit magazine America editorialized last month that the church needed to seriously consider dropping the restriction for priests.) The former president of Catholics for Free Choice had this to say:

For every high profile case, there are hundreds of cases of priests in informal marriages of long duration, loving affairs, one night stands, gay and straight sexual relationships and love for better and for worse. And there are children, some who know their fathers and some who do not.

Father Cutie has been suspended from the parish, his radio program is over, he has been asked, like hundreds of others, to go away, enter a period of “prayer and reflection” and decide whether to stay a priest and leave the woman he loves, or to leave the priesthood and be with her. And he would be asked to make that decision even if they had a child. He would be asked to abandon the child and there would be no guarantee it would be supported. It is a stupid, cruel and unnecessary choice.

Quite humorously, members of the media are referring to these photos as “racy.” Totally. I should have put an NSFW disclaimer in the headline.

Father Cutié talks about the photos on the CBS “Early Show” after the jump:

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