Miami is abuzz over the plight of one Father Cutié (no kidding -- Father Cutie, with an accent) -- the hunky and popular pastor of a South Beach parish who was photographed bare-chested and cuddling with a woman on the sunny sands of Florida. The Rev. Alberto Cutié is no ordinary priest -- he was a friend of celebrities, a frequent television commentator, and the popular author of a book, "Real Life, Real Love,'' whose subject matter earned him the moniker "Padre Oprah." His downfall is now attracting more attention than his smile, with the predictable debate ensuing over the viability of mandatory celibacy for priests.
The Miami Herald conducted a poll, and found broad support for the priest:
"Days after the Rev. Alberto Cutié admitted he had a romantic relationship with a woman, an overwhelming number of Miami-Dade Catholics still view him favorably, a poll conducted for The Miami Herald found.
Nearly 80 percent of those polled had a favorable view of Cutié, with 10 percent saying they looked at him unfavorably.
...A substantial majority -- 74 percent -- of those surveyed, including Hispanics and non-Hispanics, oppose the Roman Catholic Church's prohibition of priests marrying or having any type of sexual relations. Only 22 percent said they supported the prohibition, while 4 percent said they were unsure or gave no answer."
Not so fast, blogs Thomas Peters at American Papist:
"Of course, the answer to violating the vows of celibacy ... is to observe the vows of celibacy. Not to toss them out! That's why the public improprieties of Fr. Cutié constitute such a grave scandal - they diminish the witness of the Church to the world.
Yes, we ought to pray for Fr. Cutié, but let's also re-double our prayers for the noble young men (and women) who are faithfully living lives of celibacy as they study to become priests (and professed women religious).
Let us also pray for those who have already taken on the vow of celibacy that they remain faithful to it and thereby provide the world with a wonderful (and so needed) witness!"
Father Cutié has acknowledged the relationship in several interviews:
"'Falling in love is not something that I chose to do. It's something I have been struggling with for a long time,' Cutié told The Miami Herald Friday, at the end of a week of seclusion, prayer and tough talks with Miami Archbishop John Favalora and other church leaders.
But now those telling snapshots are out there, the priest -- a star of radio and TV talk shows -- is offering the kind of plain language that has been the cornerstone of his popularity with millions of Spanish-speaking fans across the United States and Latin America.
He says he wants to get married and start a family."
Today, he spoke on The Early Show on CBS:
(Photo above, by Tony Gutierrez/AP, shows the Rev. Alberto Cutié preaching in 1999 in Miami Beach.)