Another rigor of priesthood ends in scandal.
COLUMN: DIANNE WILLIAMSON
The most facile observation one can make about the latest Catholic sex scandal - this one involving a popular priest caught cavorting on the beach with his girlfriend - is: Well, thank God she's a grown-up.
It could have been - and has been - so much worse.
As noted, though, that's just the easy part of the story. The aptly named Rev. Alberto Cutie (pronounced koo-tee-ay) is the latest clergyman to reignite the debate over celibacy within the priesthood, and call rather heart-breaking attention to the unreasonable demands the church places on its priests.
"I believe that I've fallen in love and I believe that I've struggled with that, between my love for God, and my love for the Church and my love for service," the Rev. Cutie told CBS, while admitting that he's been romantically involved with the woman for about two years.
How very "Thorn Birds." And how very sad, that the church demands such Herculean sacrifice of its soldiers.
Last week, the Rev. Cutie left the Catholic Church and joined the Episcopal Church, which allows its clergy to marry. His saga was highly publicized because the charismatic, handsome Miami Beach priest is a TV talk-show host, radio personality, newspaper columnist and author. Widely known as "Father Oprah" for his relationship counseling, Rev. Cutie was relieved of his duties after he was caught in photos and on video in amorous embrace with the woman on a Florida beach.
One upside to the affair: When it comes to relationship advice, at least this priest knows of what he speaks.
But while Rev. Cutie's battle was waged on the public stage, we can only imagine the secret struggles suffered by countless priests forced to choose between their love for God and their desire for a normal, healthy life. Or the priests who've been forced to lie and deny, to themselves and to others.
Last month, we learned that the former bishop of the diocese of San Pedro, Paraguay, who left the priesthood to become president of that country, had multiple affairs with women and fathered at least one child. Most recently, former Archbishop Rembert Weakland has written a memoir in which he admits that he's gay and that he denied his homosexuality until his relationship with Paul Marcoux in the late 1970s. The archbishop resigned in 2002 after news broke that he had paid off Mr. Marcoux.
As the former archbishop explained, he agonized over his affair and ended the relationship in a 1980 letter signed, "I love you." The anguish is palpable. It's also tragic.
Stephen G. Copper of Shrewsbury was a priest for seven years before he left the priesthood in 2002. He said he's been following Rev. Cutie's story and sympathizes with his struggle.
"I see God's hand in all this, in the whole thing," Mr. Copper said. "Obviously, their lives came together for a reason. Life does get twisted sometimes and God shows us the way. The priesthood can be an intolerably lonely life, and people are fragile. Despite all the people a priest comes in contact with, at the end of the day you're basically alone, and sometimes people need more than that."
The other problem, of course, is that the demand for celibacy threatens to draw emotionally stunted and immature men to the priesthood, which is the last thing a hobbled church needs in 2009. And while the leader of the Miami archdiocese accused Father Cutie of causing "great scandal within the Catholic Church," his actions likely won't elicit as much condemnation from the flock as church leaders may expect, partly because it seems tame compared to the sickening parade of priestly pedophilia and coverup we've witnessed over decades.
"He's choosing two goods," Mr. Copper said. "The work he does as a priest for the love of God, and the love of another person. God does invite us to different places and puts people in our lives."
For priests gay or straight, mandatory celibacy exacts a heavy price. And if history is any judge, it may exact an even heavier one for those the church purports to serve.
Contact Dianne Williamson via e-mail at email@example.com
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|Title Annotation:||LOCAL NEWS|
|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||May 31, 2009|
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