Father Alberto Cutie (sorry I can't figure out how to do accents, but he gets one on the "e") has left the Catholic church and has been received into the Episcopal church (in Miami) after having decided that he could no longer live the promise of celibacy he made at his ordination.  The best coverage of the story is here on AP.  As for the worst coverage, that is quite a contest. 

What does this case have to do with the prospect of the church changing its position on priestly celibacy?  Very little.  Probably the most profound effect will be on members of Father Cutie's parish, as well as on the many Latino Catholics who followed his popular television show on Telemundo (and his radio show as well).   But, contrary to what some commentators have been saying on the web and on TV, the departure of a single priest--no matter how popular or influential--from the Catholic Church is unlikely to make the church revamp its 1,000- (or 900- or 1,100- or 1,200- depending on what history you accept) -year-old rule.  The question of priestly celibacy was covered in our editorial of a few weeks back, called "A Modest Proposal," in which the editors called for the U.S. bishops to discuss the question openly, particularly in light of the increasing number of "priestless" parishes in this country.

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Anonymous | 5/28/2009 - 9:28pm
In our celebrity driven culture, there is no telling what the defection of a single priest might do - not to the Curia, but to those who simpathize with him.  He may get people talking in a way that has not been seen yet.
Anonymous | 6/21/2009 - 9:20am
The Catholic Church bases her mandate of priestly celibacy on the example of Jesus Christ in His own life. [color=black]Catholic men are not forced to be priests in the Catholic Church. It is a choice one makes for the love of God. It is a calling or vocation. “Many are called but few are chosen” Those chosen to the priesthood, willingly and lovingly sacrifice having a wife and biological children and worldly possessions so that they can fully give themselves to God in the service of His Church and God’s people.[/color] [color=black] [/color]The duty of a husband is firstly to his wife and children. If husbands and wives are faithful and mutually love and sacrifice for each other there would not be so many divorces. The duty of a Catholic priest is to give God to the world and to take the world up to God by his life of sacrificial prayer and works. He is called to be a spiritual father of many and faithful to his spouse the Church.   Ordained priests are chosen from among men of faith who live and intend to remain celibate "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Called to consecrate themselves for life, with an undivided and joyous heart to God and his ministry, they sacrifice that which is good, choosing celibacy as a sign of new life to serve God’s people. There is a direct connection that exists between Christ and the priest. A priest’s chaste celibate love for the church is a sign of Christ’s presence to the faithful. He makes Christ present through his sacramental ministry at the altar and in the confessional and is acting, not simply in the name of Christ, but in the person of Christ…he is “another Christ”, whose total gift of self to the church as spouse, is an integral part of his priestly life making him a spiritual father to countless souls.  Father Cutie’s problems started not when he met a woman, but when he forgot that as a priest his first obligation is union with God through constant prayer, sacrifice and obedience.   “Thou art a priest forever…”
Anonymous | 5/28/2009 - 8:19pm
Would it be difficult for a Latin Rite priest to be a Byzantine Rite priest? Or to become an Orthodox priest?
Anonymous | 6/2/2009 - 1:28am
I hope that being a celebrity priest did not give him the hubris to think he was above the promises he had made.  If this is the case, then defecting to the Church of England will not give him the peace he seeks.  If, on the other hand, his vocation is to be married and a priest, then perhaps this is a good thing - and will be the kind of example that the hierarchy finds invconvenient in a way that is necessary.  Actually, all of the above can be true.  God sometimes uses bad circumstances for the greater good.  Strike that - he always uses them that way.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 1:15pm
I hate to rain on your parade, D.O., but "as he knowingly separated himself from God" does not happen ipso facto when one leaves the Catholic Church.  In many cases it becomes an encounter with God after many years of pretending to do so. I am not accusing Cutie of pretending; I'm just challenging your rather imperious assertion that to leave the RCC is to separate oneself from God.
Anonymous | 6/1/2009 - 12:01am
As an Episcopalian, I must acknowledge we seem to be getting all your castoffs be they gays, adulters or unfaithful priests. I suppose this lines up well with our theology of being a broken, falliable and provisional wing of the catholic tradition. Well and good I guess as Jesus supps with sinners. They really must do something about that sign at the front door-'' The Episcopal Church welcomes you.''  
Anonymous | 5/31/2009 - 11:23am
Having just had the privilege of witnessing the deaconate ordination of a good friend and future priest (where the vows just broken by Fr. Cutie were taken), I can only think of how sad this is. At first glance, Father Cutie seems to have walked away with everything. He has his girlfriend, his vocation and a new supportive “spiritual home.” In hindsight, his every appearance seems to have been orchestrated and timed to gain sympathy, allowing him step into the shoes of another church without missing his stride, as if orchestrated by a media celebrity.   It would be natural to feel sympathetic to a man who has fallen in love. That is until one considers the numbers of people who held him to a higher standard. When he strayed from his vow of celibacy, as he admitted, he fell. But in leaving the Church, he broke another vow of obedience. As a result, how many people who had believed in him have had their trust betrayed? Okay, the relationship authority stumbled.  We can understand that, I think. I’m having more trouble understanding his swift abandonment of the Catholic Church. Looking at him today, it seems that he is insisting on of having it all, no matter what damage it has caused.   Also, for all of the priests and deacons out there who have faced Fr. Cutie’s temptation, who have either stayed true to their vows at tremendous personal cost or sought a path through their difficulties within the framework of the Church, have their sacrifices been cheapened by Fr. Cutie’s actions? If I were any of them, I’d feel like anyone expressing sympathy for Fr. Cutie’s decisions, or blaming the Church for having required a vow that was voluntarily given, has slapped me in the face. 
Anonymous | 5/31/2009 - 2:47pm
What a whirlwind this guy has caused in Miami if not the Latino American Catholic community as a whole.  As if his breaking his vow of celibacy was scandalous enough but to leave the Catholic Church altogether?  Come on.  It really makes me wonder about his original intentions when he became a priest.  Personally, I am not a priest because I don't feel worthy or do not feel the call but I have the utmost respect and admiration for the holy priesthood.  My granduncle was a holy priest and I know good men who live by the vows they professed to God and the community.  Their sacrifices are an inspiration to us all.  Fr. Cutie's actions scandalized the faithful.  I feel more remorse for the many devout Catholics who looked up to him not because of him but because of the office of the priesthood which he represented.  He has fallen short of that and now to abandon the Catholic Church in order to satisfy his selfish desires to remain a ''fake'' priest and cheat on the Church by continuing to fornicate with a divorced woman whom he is not married to is beyond acceptable.  His physical appearances will fade but the Catholic Church will live on as it has for centuries.  Sure he is human as we all are but it takes the Holy Spirit and humility to make a simple man to be a Catholic priest.  It takes a special grace to follow in the footsteps of the celibate Christ.  Celibate priests remind us of Christ's sacrifice. 
Anonymous | 5/31/2009 - 9:45am
Very funny, Jim Lein. You put the the Fr. Cutie affair (pun intended) in proper perspective for me. Thanks.
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 10:03pm
Did we lose a good priest?  I wonder how those who celebrated Reconciliation with him even as he knowingly separated himself from God through his own personal sin feel about him now.  I would hope that a good priest would ask a leave of absence, for respectful and prayerful discernment, rather than lie to his parishioners even has he celebrates the Eucharist.  Fewer "good" priests are better than many that stand in defiance of the Church.  Sadly,  Fr. Cutie appears to simply be another unfaithful spouse, who should have ended the marriage before he wandered - and prevented this scandal.  What an unfair position these parishioners must find themselves in - hopefully they realize where their faith truly lies and if it is in the Catholic Church, they resist the temptation to follow this confused guide.
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 5:00pm
I think there is probably an automatic excommunication in there somewhere, if not an explicit declaration - although the curia in Miami may soft pedal the whole thing in order to "avoid scandal" (start discussion that they can't control).
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 1:08pm
Since he just *poof* left, did he ever get laicized? Canonically speaking, what would his status be once he marries?
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 2:25pm
Rocco Palmo's blog  [url=http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/]http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/[/url]  has the full text of Archbishop Favalora's statement on Father Cutie, which answers some of the questions raised @9 and 12.
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 11:06am
@2 - I think yours is the right solution. I think, however, that Benedict XVI and his cohort would be content with a smaller, more orthodox Catholic Church in the U.S. and in Europe. If that's the case, then we won't just be closing schools; we'll be closing churches, as well, and maybe then there will be enough priests to go around. When there are too few priests to say mass, how many people will fill the pews to just receive communion from a deacon or lay minister? That won't "feel" like a Catholic experience, and the bleeding away of the faithful is likely to accelerate. I hope I'm wrong.
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 10:52am
You win some and lose some.  Newt Gingrich for Father Alberto Cutie.  What to make of this God only knows.  And God has some sense of humor. 
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 10:37am
How does the Church fall on the question of validity of the masses Cutie will be saying as an Episcopalian priest? Though the mass would not be licit, would not the Eucharist he consecrates be a valid one? After all, the sacrament of Holy Orders Cutie recieved is forever and irrevocable. Is this point being addressed in reference to the Cutie case? It's a core point, set apart from more talked about issues of celibacy and clerical marriage.
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 9:24am
I agree with Father Martin that this may have little effect, but I hope that it adds some momentum to the need to discuss the future of the priesthood.  I cannot believe that our good Lord provided American Catholics with extraordinary educations and opportunities, only to be stymied by unbending allegiance to rules established in the Middle Ages.  I am very glad that there are celibate priests, but I would welcome men and women, married or not, to fill ranks that are so depleted as to have left my home town, my parish without a meaningful priestly presence.  One would have to ask:  is the priesthood so marginal in the end that we can do without them? Is better to have a generation raised without priests, just to abide by a rule that was not God-given?   Smart, committed and concerned American Catholics are leaving the Church for want of leadership.  We must choose between ''ad altare days'' and a meaningful future for rising generations of Catholics.  PS:  kudos to Father Martin for his presence on CNN during the speech delivered by President Obama in South Bend.  
Anonymous | 5/29/2009 - 9:33am
Yòú gõ: “holð døwn thê cøntrøl kè?y àñd thé  äçcent kéy together; lët gø; then thê lêttér." And that's all that needs to be said on the matter.
Anonymous | 5/28/2009 - 11:08pm
Jim, Great job on CNN tonight.  You were honest and balanced and concise. Thank you for being such a great voice for the Church in these days when we get so caught up in too many sad issues that do such terrible damage to the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Anonymous | 5/28/2009 - 9:23pm
I believe that the Eastern Rite allows married men to be ordained as priests, but once ordained they may not marry, so changing rites would not help him.  Although I would guess it is possible that they might re-ordain him, but I suspect not. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect that there is going to be a great deal of pain in Fr.'s life and in his girlfriends over this.  I find the whole thing very sad. Mike L
Anonymous | 5/28/2009 - 7:58pm
One possible answer might be to end the celibacy requirement for diocesan priests but to retain it for priests in religious orders.  That would be consistent with the distinctions between the commitments made by the two groups of priests, as Michael Sean Winters' recently discussed on Slate.com (http://www.slate.com/id/2218384/).  It would also be consistent with the special missions of the orders, which often require frequent relocation, in contrast to the way diocesan priests usually work in a limited geographic area.
Anonymous | 5/28/2009 - 7:43pm
How sad.  We lose good priest, a man of God  because of ''man made'' laws. 1Cor 9:5  Do we not have the right to take along a wife as does James the brother of Jesus, the rest of the apostles and Cephas (Peter)?