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Father Albert Cutie’ was a popular and well known Catholic priest in Miami who hosted a number of television programs in his quest to spread God’s word. What nobody knew is that he faced a dilemma — he had fallen in love with a woman. His secret caught up with him when he was photographed during a romantic moment on a beach with his girlfriend. Forced into a choice between the Church he was devoted to and the woman he loved, Father Cutie found a path to fulfill his calling and his heart.
- James Martin Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine, author of numerous books including "My Life with the Saints" and "The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything: A spirituality for Real Life."
- Father Albert Cutie' former Catholic priest and host of television and radio shows and international newspaper advice columns, now Episcopal priest and rector of the Church of Resurrection in Biscayne Park, Florida, author of "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Father Albert Cutie' was often called Father Oprah for his work as a television host on Telemundo, host on a Catholic radio station and advice columnist, but his fame also came at a price when he was photographed with his girlfriend on a beach two years ago. In his new memoir titled, "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love," he describes how he found a path to fulfill his calling and his heart. Father Albert Cutie' joins me in the studio and of course we'll take your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail, you can join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Father Albert, good morning to you.
FATHER ALBERT CUTIE'Good morning. Great to be with you, Diane.
REHMIt's good to have you here. First, tell us about your early years and then what drew you to the Roman Catholic priesthood?
CUTIE'Well, I was born a Roman Catholic and what ends up happening, I think, when you are both Roman Catholic and Latino like myself, it's part of your culture, it's part of your life. You really don't think of any other church or any other options, that's just the way you were raised. So I began to admire and look up to priests when I was in high school and started working in a parish youth group, missions with the poor, doing all the things that young people, young idealistic people, like to do, youth retreats and all that.
CUTIE'In that process, I discovered definitely that God was calling me to be a priest. There was no doubt in my heart. Certainly my mind, you know, plays tricks on you. You start thinking, oh, you know, can I do this my whole life? How is it going to be? I was a DJ, you know in high school and my friends used to tell me, my DJ partners used to tell me, Albert, you're going to give up girls? And I said, well, you know, we'll all give up girls the day we get married you know. It's just a reality. You'll have one girl, one wife.
CUTIE'So it was like I understood the Catholic ethos, I understood what the Church required and I understood it, I think more out of a desire to want to serve God the way that the Church says this is the way it is. And so you accept the entire package and you go into the seminary. I was 18 years old when I entered after high school. And actually had a great experience, my eight years in the seminary. I studied philosophy, studied theology. Certainly saw what I would consider a significant number of homosexual seminarians that would act out on their sexuality.
CUTIE'I think the heterosexual seminarians had to be a lot more careful because we had no contact with women in the seminary, so there's a lot written about that by priests and by professors, so it's not unique to me to talk about this. It was quite an experience. Then I entered the priesthood again with the idealism of, you know, the John Paul II years. I admired very much John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, these were my role models, if you will, my heroes in the faith and they continue to be to this day. I have great admiration for many people in the Roman Catholic Church.
CUTIE'But it certainly was a challenge to see the things that you see and to experience the things that you experience. In this memoir, I don't think I attack the Church in any way, like some headlines have said. Oh, he's attacking the Church that he was supposed to love and that he was supposed to be faithful to. I don't think that that's the story. I think the story is my own personal journey as a human being that happened to fall in love with the Church and her mission and with a woman who happens to be the woman of my dreams, the woman of my life and is now my wife and the mother of my children.
CUTIE'So I don't think that one thing should have to exclude the other and that's why it's called, "Dilemma," because you find yourself in a situation where you are blessed by God with two very good things, a love for God and ministry and a love that is a natural love of having a wife.
REHMI want to take you back to those days in the seminary and what you witnessed in the way of homosexual activity, some perhaps engaging in heterosexual activity. Did that in any way affect your thinking about the hypocrisy within the seminary itself, if not the entire Church?
CUTIE'At that time, I didn't see it that way. I saw it as a local problem. I said, well, maybe it's this seminary that has these issues. But then, you know, I began to work in the media. I was three years ordained and I began to travel Latin America, saw the same problems there, saw some parts of Europe, saw some parts even of our own country of the U.S. and talked to seminarians, talked to priests and you realize, this is kind of the culture. This is kind of what happens. And unfortunately, I think all of us have discovered, you know, reading the newspapers and watching the news, there is a culture of secrecy in a Church.
CUTIE'A scandal is only a scandal when it becomes public. The truth is that many times, there are priests who have hidden girlfriends, even sometimes hidden children in parts of Latin America, it's pretty common, I hate to say. And in other parts like the Philippines, there are statistics on this, this is not being made up. This is the truth. There are also many issues, I think, with people who are living lives that are closeted because they're told by the Church publicly, oh, by the way, we don't take homosexual seminarians, but everybody knows that a significant number of seminarians are homosexual, both in the secular priesthood and in religious life.
CUTIE'I think it's bad to tell these men that are serving God -- many of these homosexual priests are very good, faithful priests. Many of them are celibate. Some of them have hidden relationships, but many of them accept the church's celibacy norms and live celibacy to the fullest. I think it's wrong for the Church to say, oh, by the way, we're not going to have homosexuals here anymore. It's like speaking out of both sides of your mouth. I think everybody knows that for thousands of years -- or I should say hundreds of years, the Church has had both heterosexual and homosexual priests and Religious and this is not a new thing. What we know today with gender studies and all that should be making us more open-minded, not, you know, more narrow in our views.
REHMIdealistically, what kind of priest did you see yourself to be? Did you believe when you took those vows that you could live a celibate life?
CUTIE'There was no doubt. When I was 25 years old, the day I became a deacon, that's the day you make your promise of celibacy. Religious take vows, you know, poverty, chastity and obedience, like the Jesuits and the Franciscans and the Dominicans, the Monks, they make these three vows. Secular priests make promises to the bishop, which is the promise of obedience and the promise of celibacy. The promise of celibacy, the Church itself recognizes, is a changeable situation.
CUTIE'For example, if an Anglican priest from my church, an Episcopal priest, becomes Roman Catholic or a Lutheran becomes Roman Catholic, they are accepted with their wives and their children. Many Roman Catholics don't know this, but they do become Roman Catholic priests, full-fledged Roman Catholic priests. There's a lot of that going on right now, actually, with members of the Anglican community that are not happy with our progressive ideas about women in the clergy and homosexuality and all these other issues.
CUTIE'But the truth is that celibacy was always for me a discipline that I understood. The Church found it necessary, but it wasn't always something that I saw lived to its fullest. I can tell you even from the time I was a young man thinking about priesthood. In my parish, for example, one of the priests, you know, actually got involved with the secretary who had five children. Actually, one of her children was a very good of mine who, actually, one is now a Jesuit priest and the other is a layman, but I say to myself, I see celibacy as really something from the very beginning that was in crisis, but I thought myself that I could be the super priest that could make it different.
CUTIE'And I really thought that I would accept celibacy for the rest of my life, but nobody tells, you, you change and you fall in love and you go through all these things that I went through.
REHMDid you ever question the origins of celibacy as you took those vows? Did you wonder why the Church had imposed celibacy?
CUTIE'I knew the history of the Church, I understood what was going on with inheritances in the 12th century and why it came about and how the Church really tried to spiritualize it through the years and say, oh, you know, you marry the Church. I always found it was kind of weird. You know, nuns marry Jesus, you know, and they have this ring even and they have like a -- in some of the traditional orders, they have these -- they put on a veil and they do the whole wedding ceremony. They marry Jesus. That's a pretty good deal, you know, to marry the Lord, that's great.
CUTIE'But in the case of priests, you're supposed to marry the Church, you know. But that's -- I think that's more symbolic than realistic. I don't think God calls any human being to marry an institution, you know, no matter how spiritual an institution may be. I think it says from the very beginning, in the book of Genesis, it is not good for the man to be alone, I will make him a helpmate. So God certainly had a different plan than the Roman Catholic Church had, but the Roman Catholic Church has its reasons and its ideas. I don't criticize celibacy for everyone. I think it makes a whole lot of sense for Religious, for Monks for example or Jesuits or Franciscans for Dominicans because they live in a -- almost like a protected community...
REHMA cloistered community.
CUTIE'And they live in a community where many of them are active in the world, but they come back to a spiritual house where there are several men and they support each other and there's a family environment. Secular priests, you know, Diane, don't live that way. Diocese priests, many of them live isolated, they live on their own. And what's sad is that you see priests more and more isolated as the shortage of vocations continues. Priests are really living on their own and many of them are very lonely and that's when destructive behaviors take over.
CUTIE'I thank God that, you know, my situation was getting involved with the woman who today is my wife. A girlfriend is the only person I was involved with sexually since the day -- since before I entered the seminary, so I have to say I honored celibacy for many years. You know, this is not an irresponsible priest that decided to go break the promise of celibacy. I certainly fell in love and it was a very strong attraction, something that both of us fought for a long time. That's why the book is called, "Dilemma," because I think she knew how much I loved the priesthood and how much I loved the Church and she also knew that there was a very strong attraction toward her.
REHMYou know, it's interesting because in the book, you described yourself as a very conservative priest.
CUTIE'No doubt. When I was in the seminary, when I entered, I think at the beginning, when I entered, I was a very, very conservative, idealistic young man. I think that's pretty common in today's world and that happens, but then you start getting in contact with real people. You start doing pastoral work, you start visiting the prisons and the hospitals. You deal with the divorced people that are sitting in the pews and that are hurting. And you deal with the, you know, homosexual members of your congregation and you listen to their stories and you stop seeing things black and white, you begin to see there's a lot of gray in life and that there's a lot of people struggling with that gray.
REHMHow did you feel about women in the priesthood, for example?
CUTIE'Well, whenever I was asked -- and this was always difficult because when you go and speak to high schools and, you know, then you're talking vocations, right? And then the girls are looking at you like, well, the only thing I can be in the church is a nun. I can't be a priest like you? And what I would always say to them is, well, this is the Church's position. This is what the Church says and these are the reasons why. It talks about tradition, Jesus chose the apostles, they were male, so that was always problematic, you know, and I still think of it as problematic now.
REHMFather Albert Cutie', he's a former Roman Catholic priest, now a married priest in the Episcopal Church. His new book is titled, "Dilemma."
REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us, Father Albert Cutie' is with me. He left the Roman Catholic priesthood because he fell in love. Fell in love with a lovely woman whose name is Ruhama (sp?). He's written about his experience in both the Roman Catholic Church and now the Episcopal Church, where he is a married priest. He has two children. His new book is titled "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love." Talk about Ruhama and when you first met and how you fell in love.
CUTIE'It's interesting because when you are a Roman Catholic Priest, and I think everybody who's listening understands this if you're part of the culture, one of the things you're taught is custody of the eyes. You know, that was an early thing that we were taught. You don't look at anything that is attractive. You don't even stare at it, you don't -- and I remember that the first time I saw her was my second parish and I was preaching on a Sunday and I saw this woman that was just beautiful, like the woman of my dreams. And when I saw her, her eyes and my eyes locked and we both had the same reaction, kinda, turn away, don't keep looking, you know, look the other way.
CUTIE'But the more we tried to look away, the more we were connected. And I always describe it like magnets. You know, that you try to push them away as much as you can, but there comes a time when they lock, you know. And that's what happened to us. And in the book, I describe that falling in love and how that effects a man who's been told, you know, not officially, but the Church basically wants its priest to be asexual. You know, basically, don't express any of these emotions. Some more progressive priests will say, no, well, that's not true, you know, but the fact is if you can't have true intimacy in your life as a man or as a woman, what are you saying to this person? What do you do with your sexual faculty? What do you do with this attraction that you feel?
CUTIE'And a lot of priests, you know, they exercise or they sublimate this or repress it some other way and I did all that. You know, I was the exercising type, you know. I thank God I never had to drink excessively or smoke excessively or eat excessively, which some priests do, by the way. And I think that's a violation of celibacy, if you ask me. You're not supposed to compensate your lack of sexual experience or lack of sexual activity with other things. And for example, masturbation is a violation of celibacy. People may not know that, but it is. Pornography on the internet is a violation of celibacy. What they call particular friendships, you know, friendships that are too connected can be a violation of celibacy.
CUTIE'I mean, these are all things that we are taught traditionally in the Church and I think that they maybe made a lot of sense at another time in history, but I think in the 21st century, we discovered sexuality is a part of our life and I don't think God created us to be asexual or not to express that.
REHMAnd of course, the Roman Catholic Church needs priests right now.
CUTIE'It does and unfortunately, in our country, for example, in the United States, what you see is they're importing men from the third world. Priests from India, many of them very fine priests, there's no doubt about that, priests from Nigeria, priests from even parts of Latin America. The bad thing about it, the negative side, is a lot of these men never really culturally adapt to what is happening in the United States, so they get up there and preach and many times, people can't understand what they're saying. Sometimes they can't connect culturally.
CUTIE'There's no doubt that these are fine priests, but you take them out of an environment that they recognize and understand and you put them in this environment, which is kind of to fill a space that you need to fill, but it's not the same. I think pastorally, they can't do what a priest that understands and knows his culture can do.
REHMBut isn't the Roman Catholic Church also taking in married Episcopal Priests as part of its own thinking?
CUTIE'A great number of them and these are mostly the men from our church that don't accept women in ministry, that don't accept more progressive ideas on homosexuality, for example.
REHMAs the Episcopal Church has moved toward.
CUTIE'Sure, sure. And churches throughout the Anglican Communion. They just accepted three bishops from the Church in England and made them Roman Catholic priests. That's kind of strange to take a bishop and make them a priest, it's like a demotion, but they do those things. And it's just about marriage because they don't accept the bishops be married, even though the New Testament speaks about, you know, the bishop having a wife. Certainly the Church doesn't believe that any bishop can be a married man, so it becomes problematic in many ways and I think it's confusing to people.
CUTIE'Because when you talk to people, you hear all kinds of horror stories. I know of Episcopal priests that have become Roman Catholic whose wives are not allowed to go to the same church they go to because they don't want to -- the bishops told them, we don't want to confuse the people here, so your wife can go to mass, but she can go to another church. And it's kind of weird to me.
REHMI want to come back to that first meeting with the woman who became your wife, Ruhama. You shook hands after the service.
CUTIE'Well, we shook hands after months and months because she wouldn't even go out the front door like everybody else. She would go out the side door.
CUTIE'So we avoided each other for a long time and actually, it was a struggle of years. Years in the sense that we knew there was an attraction that eventually became a friendship and that friendship became really what is now, you know, our relationship -- what became an intimate relationship. The interesting thing about the pictures -- you know, the pictures were taken at a time when I was in great inner turmoil, in the sense that I was already in the process of speaking to the Episcopal bishop, my bishop, who's a great, great man, a married bishop. And I spoke to him about, you know, possibly becoming an Anglican and what the process would be. I spoke to many priests, actually, mostly priests that had been Roman Catholic and were now Episcopal.
CUTIE'So I was already in that process and Ruhama knew it, that I was in the middle of a process of making a decision of saying publicly to the world, you know, here I am, this is what's going on. And there's no doubt that the thing that I would regret -- you know, hindsight's 20/20, but the thing that I regret the most is that I did not come out and say it before these pictures were taken, so...
REHMTalk about those pictures, where they were taken and who took them.
CUTIE'Well, these are pictures that are taken often on the beaches of Miami because, as you know, it attracts not just tourists from all over the world, it attracts a lot of celebrities. We went to a very isolated place. I remember it was a Tuesday morning, it was my day off. It was cold in Miami. Anytime that it's below 60 in Miami, nobody -- believe me, everybody wears their overcoat, so we went out into the sand and I remember we had taken some books to read and to catch a little bit of sun. We weren't planning to be out there very long, but it really was a beautiful day and even though it was a little colder than I like to be out on the beach, you know, Ruhama's half Greek and she has this affinity for cold water and all this -- which I don't. I'm from the Caribbean, I'm Cuban-American, so I'm not used to this cold water.
CUTIE'But she enjoys that and we went out there and really there was no one there. So all the tabloids, especially the Latino tabloids, went out of their way to say, oh, can you believe it? He went out into public, he went out onto this beach where everybody was. There was no one there. It was -- the only guy that was out there was the lifeguard and he was inside his hut about 200 feet away from us (laugh).
CUTIE'Keeping warm probably. But that's -- the pictures were taken basically...
CUTIE'...by the wife of one of the assistants of a paparazzi. So they knew that both my wife and I were familiar with Miami Beach. My wife was actually a photographer of tourists and they knew that, you know, we'd be familiar with them if we saw them, because everybody knows each other. Miami Beach is kind of a small town, but we were about, I would say, five or six miles north of what was then my parish, Saint Francis de Sales, in another area of another parish. And it was really behind a construction site and so there was actually no access, really, from the street, so it wasn't a place where there was a lot of traffic or a lot of people.
CUTIE'Certainly when the pictures were taken, the tabloid was very smart in choosing the picture that it's the only time two people are walking on the shore, so it makes it look like -- you know, and they were like 50, 60 feet in front of us, so they made it look like, oh, all these people were on the beach and look what he was doing in the – really, the beach was empty. In Miami, nobody goes to the beach when it's 60 degrees (laugh).
REHMSo what happened to the pictures?
CUTIE'Well, the pictures were sold, from what I understand, to this tabloid. And when they came out, I was called actually that day. I had gone to visit a brother priest that was -- that had been removed by the Church after accusations and that and actually, I always tried as much as I could to be a good brother to a lot of these priests that felt the Church had kind of excluded them or taken them out without due process, which is another story that we could talk about. I talk about it in the book a little bit.
CUTIE'But one of the issues is I had been visiting him and then I get this phone call from a former producer of my TV show and since now works for this tabloid, which I didn't know she worked for a tabloid. She said, Father, I've got to tell you something. There's these pictures of you that are coming out. Pictures? And then when she mentioned it to me, you know, right away, it was almost like an open confessional.
CUTIE'I didn't even realize that I was telling a person that writes in tabloids, but I said to her, you know, yes, that is my girlfriend and yes, you know, I'm thinking of becoming Anglican and continuing to serving God as a priest. And I'm thinking of -- I'm contemplating marriage. So if those pictures are there, you know, the only thing I have to say is yes, it's true, I have this relationship and this is what's going on.
CUTIE'So if I was confronted by anyone, I never denied it. There were actually two bishops in my Diocese that knew supposedly about the relationship, from what I've been told from priests. They never told me anything about it. And that's why I say in the book, one of the things that I say is that many priests are involved in situations like this, but it's not until it becomes public that the Church actually reacts to it. I would have liked for some of these bishops to tell me something or for someone to say, look, Father, we know that you're going through this situation. How can we help you? But that wasn't the case.
CUTIE'And when I went to actually speak about it with my bishop once the pictures were published, the only thing I got was this very cold concern for the image of the Church. There was never any personal concern for me as a human being or what I was going through. It was always like, well, you know, this is a problem and see how you're gonna deal with it. And it was like a very short 18, 19 minute meeting. I was shocked, you know. And I basically left that meeting thinking, you know, all these people really care about is the image of the institution.
REHMBut weren't you on the air at that time continuing to defend the principles of the Church?
CUTIE'Well, it depends on what your approach to ministry is. I don't think I ever preached a sermon on the evils of contraception or that I never said that a homosexual person was intrinsically disordered, like the Church says. I think a lot of priests don't agree with those positions. I prefer to preach on the gospel of Jesus Christ and say the love and the compassion and the mercy that he teaches us there. So I don't think I was ever at odds, if you will, publicly with my own heartfelt emotions and convictions. I wasn't one of these people to be, if you will, defending all these positions that I consider to be backward. And more or less, I gotta say, I used to challenge a lot of them and challenge the way of thinking. And not a lot of the people sitting in the pews understood that because they themselves didn't, you know, agree.
CUTIE'What people don't understand, you know, Diane, it's not just celibacy. Almost everything that has to do with sexuality is a problem in the Church. If you use contraception, it's a mortal sin, whether it's a pill or a condom or a diaphragm. Everything's a mortal sin. If you get your tubes tied after having several children, mortal sin, if you get a vasectomy, mortal sin, if you choose to have your children through in-vitro, for example, in-vitro, mortal sin, so everything that we consider kind of contemporary thinking on reproductive sexual expression, almost everything is a mortal sin, which keeps you from Holy Communion.
CUTIE'And that's one of the things that I've got to tell you, I never taught that. I never went out of my way to tell people, oh, by the way, you know, if you do this, you can't receive communion. I never thought that the Church could get involved in people's direct connection with God. I think it's very, very difficult to do that.
REHMYou write in the book that a turning for you -- a turning point for you with the Church was the Miami funeral for Celia Cruz, the Cuban singer. What happened there?
CUTIE'It's very interesting. I had this very public, perhaps the largest funeral in the history of Miami, 150,000 people attended the public wake. We had a mass. Always -- I gotta tell you, I always celebrated the Eucharist with great devotion, with great reverence. I thought the music was beautiful, everything was chosen in great taste. It was at a beautiful historic church called Gesu in Downtown Miami, it's run by the Jesuits, actually. Great, great, great little parish.
CUTIE'Problem was that once the Eucharist was taking place, I was very focused on what I was doing. Some of the older priests in the celebration ordained even 50 years or so, they bring up a very reverend and loved -- or revered, I should say, and loved figure, a Presbyterian Pastor, his name is Reverend Minorga (sp?), he gets up there and he's standing around the alter with us. He's not doing anything inappropriate, but at the time of communion, he chose to take communion. He took the host and that was filmed and one of the bishops just threw a fit.
CUTIE'And he called me and told me how I was a bad priest and how a priest had been excommunicated for doing that type of thing and all of a sudden, I was blamed for something that I really didn't do. It wasn't my initiative for the pastor to take communion, he took communion because he chose to take communion. It was kind of a very painful experience for me because here was this guy that really put a lot of energy into making the Church look good and accessible and all of a sudden, I was the number one enemy, if you will, of the Orthodox Christian Church or the Orthodox Christian Catholic Church. It was very painful.
REHMFather Albert Cutie', his new book is titled, "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have many callers. I'm going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. First, to Garfield Heights, Ohio. Good morning, Ray.
RAYGood morning. I was raised Catholic. I went through 12 years of Catholic school. I'm 52 years old. I don't really practice any religion at this point. I -- listening to your conversation the priest there has said everything that needs to be said. The Catholic Church is going to continue to dwindle away because it's antiquated in its thinking. A lot of these rules are made by man not by God. I think God's a whole lot more progressive thinker, if there is a God, than what the Catholic Church gives him credit for, how they speak for him.
RAYAnd I think bringing priests in who could get married -- certainly not all of them would get married, they can relate to parishioners a whole lot better. It would just open up a whole new world for the Catholic Church and bringing women more to the forefront of some of the -- the church itself (unintelligible).
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling, Ray.
CUTIE'One of the interesting things that he says and I think it's true, celibacy should be an option. I'm not saying in the book anywhere that celibacy is bad for everyone, but I think celibacy works for some priests some of the time, but it doesn't work for all priests all of the time and if the Church would just recognize that.
CUTIE'One of the issues, for example, in the Anglican community, we too have religious orders. We have monks and nuns and religious who make the three vows of poverty, chastity, obedience. They have a beautiful life and they have a very unique call. But most priests, Parish priests, Secular priests, you know, they were called right from the very beginning to the time of the apostles to go out into the world, not to be secluded from the world or removed from the world.
CUTIE'So how can you have someone who you say, okay, you want him to be Secular, you want him to be Diocese in priest, the Parish priest, but by the way, he's going to be different than the other people and he's not going to be able to have a family and have a wife and have children. But then at the same time, we are accepting other guys from other churches who can have a wife and children and live a normal life. There seems to be a contradiction and I think what I’m seeing is that the church is finally opening up to the possibility of having married priests in the future.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Keith in Indianapolis. He says, "Why is celibacy even a doctrine of priesthood? It would seem to me if God wanted some of us to live in solitude without a partner for the sake of being a priest or nun, he would've created those people as asexual and without the capacity and very human need for love."
CUTIE'I think asexuality is a problem in the priesthood and I think priests are -- a lot of priests think that if they at least act asexual that that makes them a good priest. I think that's unfortunate. I heard many priests sometimes talk about the rules of sexuality in such a removed way that you would think that they don't have sexual organs, you know. And I think that that's part of the issue. It's a sexual problem.
REHMThe book is titled "Dilemma." And Father Albert Cutie' is with me. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd joining us now by phone from his office in New York, Father James Martin. He's a Jesuit priest and culture editor of American magazine. Good morning to you, sir.
FATHER JAMES MARTINGood morning.
REHMFather James, do you think that people misunderstand chastity and celibacy?
MARTINYeah, I do. I think almost completely. I think there's a misunderstanding of its role and, you know, its benefits and really, its history. And I always ask people, you know, do you know any celibates? And they say, no. And then you ask them, well, what about, say, unmarried aunts or uncles or single people and they say, oh, yeah, I guess I do. And, you know, I think most of -- most people would admit that many of history's most beloved people, I mean, you know, (word?), John Paul, Mother Teresa were celibates. And so, you know, when you get people thinking about it in concrete terms, it helps them a little bit more. But you're right, there is a lot of misunderstanding.
REHMWhy do you think the Catholic Church today requires celibacy for its priests? I recognize that the history going back hundreds of years had to do with economic inheritance questions, but why now?
MARTINWell, actually, that's just one reason. I mean, that's, as Father Cutie' was saying, you know, a lot of it came from not wanting to pass on inheritances, you know, to priests' children, but I think the more importance reason is that it's really an imitations of Jesus. I mean, for a lot of different reasons, some known, some unknown, Jesus was not married. And we follow Jesus in his sort of total gift of Himself to the people. Now, that doesn't mean that it's better or worse or that it can't work for other religions, but, you know, in the Catholic Church, that's -- that's the other reason, that we're -- we're following Christ and we're trying to imitate Him as carefully as possible and as closely as possible. But once again, it's not for everybody, obviously.
REHMOf course, there are married priests in the Catholic Church. How is this possible?
MARTINWell, as Father was saying, you know, we have people who were Anglicans or Episcopal priests who decided to join the Catholic Church and, you know, rather than saying, you have to get divorced, you know, we accept them as married priests. And so, you know, it's interesting that, you know, I wonder if more Catholics will become more familiar and more comfortable with the idea of married priests, but, you know, for the most part, you know, priestly celibacy, I think, you know, is what most Catholics are familiar with and, you know, and what most people are familiar with, with those in Religious orders as well.
REHMWhen you hear about the priests who've struggled or even left the Church because of falling in love or when you hear about priests who've been removed, even bishops who've been removed from their posts because of sexual abuse of young men, what goes through your mind, Father James?
MARTINWell, I think those two things are separate. I would -- you know, I think it's important to say that celibacy does not lead to pedophilia. I mean, you know, most sexual abuse, as most people know, takes place within families and, you know, no one says that, you know, marriage somehow leads to sexual abuse. So I think there's celibacy and people not able to, you know, sort of follow that rule and there's also sexual abuse, you know, I mean, which is a whole other kettle of fish. I mean, when I hear of people who are leaving the priesthood, you know, I think of Jesuits who I know who have left the Jesuits and, you know, what happens is, you know, guys, you know, they fall in love and they have to make a choice.
MARTINEither you stay and you keep your vows or you leave and, you know, you get married and, you know, that's a part of a lot of peoples' journeys. But, you know, most of the -- well, I would say, I don't know anyone, for example, in the Jesuits, you know, among my friends, of whom there are many, who are in a relationship and so I think it's important to say something like, you know, the same way that the fact that there are many divorces in the Unites States does not negate the value or the beauty of marriage, the fact that there are some people with their vows of chastity or their promise of celibacy does not negate, you know, the chaste life or the celibate life in the priesthood, I would say.
REHMFather James Martin, he's a Jesuit priest and culture editor of America magazine. Father Cutie', how do you feel about whether the Church is now outdates?
CUTIE'I think part of the thing, I think -- I agree with almost everything Father Martin said and I really appreciate his work -- his work in America magazine. As a matter of fact, America magazine wrote a beautiful editorial a few days after my pictures -- before my pictures were published, it was called "A Modest Proposal." It's online, America, "A Modest Proposal," saying that bishops should take leadership in asking Rome to allow for married priests. So I understand the dilemma that Father James and many people are in when they talk about these things. I think 100,000 plus priests have left to marry since the Second Vatican Council. Not all of them Religious, not all of them Diocesan, but from the priesthood.
CUTIE'And I say to myself, how many of those men could still be excellent ministers of God, like Rabbis are, like pastors and ministers and priests in the Orthodox Church and in my church are. I don't feel less a man of God now, less of a priest because I'm an Anglican than I felt before. I think that, unfortunately, celibacy is a discipline that works for some people, as Father James has said, but, you know, I have friends that are -- that were former Jesuits that are now Anglican priests and work with me close to my Diocese and that and I've been able to meet them and I think to myself, why? Why is this such an important thing?
CUTIE'Celibacy's not a dogma, it's not even a doctrine, it's a discipline, it's a discipline of the Church. Sure, we accept it and I -- by the way, I apologized to the Catholic community many times in Miami and to my bishop in person because I broke the promise of celibacy and I did not announce that I had a relationship before I was caught in it. But the truth of the matter is this happens to many priests.
CUTIE'And unfortunately, priests accept having a double-life, which is a horrible thing for that woman and a horrible thing for them, believe me, 'cause having a double-life is a painful experience. I don't recommend it to anyone, by the way. But having a double-life is a horrible thing because you should be able to love publicly and to say, well, wait a minute, I'm a priest, I'm a man of God, but I'm also able to have a family and have children and have this family that for 1,200 years, priests were allowed to have until it became mandatory.
REHMDo you think, Father Cutie', that you wanted to get caught?
CUTIE'Oh, people say that all the time. As a matter of fact, one of Father Martin's colleagues, a former Jesuit who's now a married man, was my therapist when I went through all this. I had to go see someone and I went those days after the pictures were published and he said to me, you know, Albert, maybe in your subconscious, you were kinda ready to get out.
CUTIE'You know, Diane, I don't feel that way. I don't think I ever wanted, in my heart, to offend God's people or to offend the Church. I don't think any priest that breaks the promise of celibacy or breaks the vow of chastity in the case of Religious. I don't think any of them go deliberately out of their way to hurt anyone. I think what happens is you are a sexual being, you are a good human being, you have a great heart, you've been given this capacity to love and not everyone can channel it in the purist way, as Father Martin was saying, where all of this energy and all of this strength and all of the beautiful energy that we have inside of us is channeled just for the service of God.
CUTIE'I think people -- many people feel that they must manifest it in a sexual, healthy way and I think having a hidden girlfriend, by the way, I don't think is the biggest scandal we've seen in the Church these days. I mean, unfortunately, there's horrible crimes being committed, there's promiscuity among some priests because they're not well sexually integrated. You know, in our church, we admit that we have homosexual priests and we even have a publicly, you know, homosexual bishop, you know, who has his partner and lives in a loving relationship. I know many people disagree with those things, but you know what? There's many homosexual bishops and cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church that have to live closeted lives.
CUTIE'So I say to myself, why -- why all this obsession with sex? Isn't the gospel much bigger than that? That's part of my problem.
REHMHow do you speak to that, Father Martin?
MARTINWhich part, I'm sorry?
MARTINWhich part exactly?
CUTIE'It's a lot, I know.
MARTINIt's a lot -- that's a lot to speak to.
REHMIt's a lot, but why is there this obsession with sexuality within the Roman Catholic Church? Wouldn't all of its Secular priests be better able, perhaps, to relate to people within their own communities if they are allowed to make the choice of marriage, children, family and so on?
MARTINI would say no. I mean, I don't think you have to be married to understand, to sort of accompany someone in marital problems. I don't think, you know, all of my friends need to be Jesuits and celibates to understand me. You know, I don't think we have to be sort of exactly equal. I would say, though, I think what's being maybe overlooked a little bit in this discussion is that, you know, the chaste person can love in his or her own way. I mean, I have many friends, you know, I love very deeply who love me, I love my work and I don't think you become asexual, I think you just learn to express your love in a different way. Chastity, for me, is just simply a different way to love.
MARTINOnce again, it's not for everybody, but it's just different, so...
REHMBut help me...
REHM...that when you say, a different way to love. What do you mean?
MARTINWell, a nonsexual way to love. So for example, you know, when I love my friends, I'm not, you know, in sexual relations with them. I don't have an exclusive relationship with one person, I have, you know, many, many friends. That doesn't mean -- you know, in other words, you know, sexual intercourse is not the only way to love somebody. That's basically what I'm saying, which I think most people would agree with. And so it's just different. It's deep friendships, it's -- it is intimacy in terms of being open and honest with one another, but it's not expressed sexually, which is not -- you know, I don't think sort of sexual intercourse is the only way to express love.
REHMAnd Father Albert, you and your wife to be certainly had that closeness, that feeling of love, before you began to think about marriage, to engage in sexual relations. Why wasn't that enough?
CUTIE'It's interesting. It's what Father Martin is saying, it doesn't apply to everyone. I think that most men who enter the Roman Catholic priesthood, in their own mind, feel, I'm going be able to do this and I'm going to do it well, but then things happen. And I think with me, I can tell you, I thought I was going to be part of this fraternity where there was going to be this great support system and you hear about it in the seminary and you read it in the Church's documents and you're going to have this bishop who's going to be your spiritual father and there's going to be this -- but you know, you become part of this dysfunctional family, really.
CUTIE'And the Church really is, in many ways, a dysfunctional family where you don't always get that fraternity from people, you don't always get that father figure in the bishop who really is concerned for you as a human being and you end up really being very lonely and I think that I experienced, in a way, great loneliness and also experienced a beautiful love in connecting with the woman who today is my wife.
REHMLet's go now to Grand Rapids, Mich. Good morning, Jack.
JACKGood morning. I just had a quick question. I'm not personally Catholic, but I've read the Pope's recent book, "The Light of the World," and he made an argument for celibacy that it's about sacrificing one of the most important things in life, having a wife and having children, and I'd just love to hear Father Cutie's thought on that.
CUTIE'I think that that is a beautiful ideal and that people are taught really to make that sacrifice and I think I believed that with my whole heart. As a matter of fact, I was a great admirer of Cardinal Ratzinger when I first entered the seminary and I actually met him at Saint Peter's Square several times, going from his office -- you know, the holy office there, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith visiting John Paul the Second, going across the square, so I got to greet him on several occasions. A humble man, a good man. My impression of him at least on the outside was that he was a very spiritual, good person and I still have those feelings for him and for the Church. I haven't resentment toward the Roman Catholic Church.
CUTIE'But certainly, to say that this sacrifice, if you will, is for everyone, I don't find it practical or realistic for the 21st century.
REHMThe book we're talking about is titled, "Dilemma." Father Albert Cutie' is here in the studio and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now, to Phoenix, Ariz. Good morning, Tony. Tony, are you there?
TONYThis is Tony, I'm...
TONY...my comment -- hi, can you hear me?
TONYOkay. While I was listening to the priest, seemingly -- I hope to ask this question with the utmost respect, but painted with a lot of elaborate, desperation rationalization for his behavior. I think he paints a good picture of the dysfunction in the Church, but he doesn't take any accountability for his seemingly being a part of that dysfunction. And my question kinda is, why wasn't he better than that?
CUTIE'That's a great question and actually, that's why the book is called, "Dilemma," (laugh). And I wish when people read it, they'll be able to see. Unfortunately, doesn't make the headlines, but I do apologize for my behavior and I do take accountability for what I did wrong. I recognize what I did wrong, but what I reflect on, and maybe that's what you've heard on this program, more than a justification, it's reflecting on a reality that occurs in the lives of many priests. I've said before, I don't know if you heard that part, that 100, 000 priests were married, many of them were involved in a secret relationship before they were able to go out and basically say, you know, here I am, I'm getting married.
CUTIE'Also, unfortunately, the Church requires that you go through a process called laicization, which is something that I really couldn't accept. If you're called to be a priest, I think you're a priest for life and you should be able to minister to God's people, no matter where you are. I think that every church that follows the gospel and especially in our church, where we profess the Catholic faith and have the early creeds and the sacraments. You know, I did not change religions. My wife and I went to a different church within Catholic Christianity, which is the Anglican communion, the Episcopal Church. The Orthodox church is also Catholic, even though it's not in communion with Rome.
CUTIE'So you don't have to necessarily be in communion with the Vatican and its rules in order to profess the Catholic faith.
REHMFather Martin, would you agree?
MARTINWell, I mean, for me, being Roman Catholic is -- it's who I am, so I would find it very difficult to leave. You know, but I do know people who have left and it is a very painful decision.
MARTINI think that -- you know, I hope that Father Cutie' -- and it sounds like he's found some peace and some happiness and can serve God, which I think is wonderful, but I would disagree politely with the idea that there are many priests that have hidden lives. I mean, you know, I'm only going by my experience and, you know, I read things and, you know, work for the Catholic Press, but, you know, I think when those things happen and when people fall in love, it's -- you know, it's a real -- it's a real problem and it's not something that's just sort of, sort of par for the course, shall we say.
REHMPerhaps not par for the course, but the scandals that have permeated the Church have surely been an example of the difficulty of dwelling within that kind of celibacy, Father Cutie'.
CUTIE'Well, I think the scandals -- and I agree 100 percent with Father Martin, pedophilia has nothing to do with celibacy. I would not even make that relation. As a matter of fact, most of the scandals in this country -- and I know this sounds revolutionary, but I want people to pay attention. They're not pedophilia. Eighty-one percent of the situations were committed against young men, 15 and up, if you look at the John Jay study of the John Jay University that was commissioned by the U.S. Bishops here in Washington, it clearly says it was a problem of priests that were not well adjusted, homosexually oriented priests who were basically sexually involved with 15, 16 and 17-year-old boys.
CUTIE'That's not pedophilia. Pedophilia's being attracted to the sexual organs of someone who has not reached puberty, so let's not confuse pedophilia with what has happened in the Church. What has happened in the Church is the sexual expression of people who were not well adjusted or well integrated.
REHMFather Albert Cutie', his new book is titled, "Dilemma: A Priest's Struggle with Faith and Love." Good luck to you.
CUTIE'Thank you, Diane.
REHMThank you for being here. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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