Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's (blank)'s fault!

No... not Bush. It's the oldest (blank) in the book - the Church.

MIAMI (Reuters) – A popular U.S. Roman Catholic priest photographed frolicking with a woman on a Florida beach announced on Thursday he had joined the Episcopal Church to pursue the priesthood in a faith that allows married clergy.

"I've seen with my own eyes how many brothers of mine serve God as married men and with the blessing of having their own families," said Father Alberto Cutie, whose removal from his Miami Beach parish prompted public debate about the Catholic Church's celibacy requirement for priests.
Now, I want to start here: I feel for the guy. No joke. He wants to serve God, and he feels that his vocation is marriage. He and I have that much in common. One of the things that the seminary is meant to do is to bring a man's vocation into focus. Every year plenty of seminarians realize that their call is to raise families instead of parishes, and they leave, as they ought. Sometimes there's a miss and someone is ordained, as Fr. Cutie is, or they take a lifetime vow in a lay order, and they realize along the way that God's call is to marriage. And this is what brings me to the upsetting thing about all of this.

The thing is, that nobody wakes up one morning with a huge lump on his head and a collar on his neck. Fr. Cutie knew going in about the discipline required of Roman Catholic priests. If he didn't, there is one last reminder at the ordination ceremony:

You ought anxiously to consider again and again what sort of a burden this is which you are taking upon you of your own accord. Up to this you are free. You may still, if you choose, turn to the aims and desires of the world (licet vobis pro artitrio ad caecularia vota transire). But if you receive this order (of the subdiaconate) it will no longer be lawful to turn back from your purpose. You will be required to continue in the service of God, and with His assistance to observe chastity and to be bound for ever in the ministrations of the Altar, to serve who is to reign.
By stepping forward despite this warning, when invited to do so, and by co-operating in the rest of the ordination service, the candidate is understood to bind himself equivalently by a vow of chastity. He is henceforth unable to contract a valid marriage, and any serious transgression in the matter of this vow is not only a grievous sin in itself but incurs the additional guilt of sacrilege.
This is the standard. The Church gets a lot of flak for the standard, but it deals in free will, and a person understanding and freely choosing to bind oneself has the right to know what, exactly, that choice entails. It's hardly a big secret, in any case. And there is always the understanding on the Church's part of the people she shepherds and cares for. Had Fr. Cutie later realized that he had taken vows that God had not asked of him, he could go to his bishop and ask to be laicized, to be relieved of his vows and office in order to pursue his true vocation.

Well, that's not exactly the order he went in.

He was relieved of his duties at St. Francis de Sales parish in Miami Beach earlier this month after the entertainment magazine TVnotas published photos of him in swim trunks, snuggling and kissing a woman on the sands of a beach in Florida.

Cutie later said he had fallen in love with the woman and broken his vow of celibacy. He apologized for his behavior, but told the Univision Spanish-language television network, "I didn't stop being a man just because I put on a cassock. There are trousers under this cassock."
The apology is good - but the line about not being a man anymore? That's grade-A balderdash. Bravo Sierra, padre. The Church didn't ask him or any priest not to be a man anymore. The concept that a man is only equal to his sexual faculties is completely insulting.

At his news conference, Cutie described his move as "going into a new family" and said he would continue to proclaim God's word. "I will always love the Catholic Church and all its members who are committed in their faith and have
enriched my life in so many ways," he said.

So... why, then, would Fr. Cutie move to the Episcopalian church, when the Eastern rite Catholic churches permit married clergy? Of course, you'd have to married first, and as we have seen, this is not the case here; but again, there is the active ministry of the Church. There is the authority to grant dispensations at need. The saying, "Hard cases make bad law," is applicable here - the whole disicpline ought not to be overturned just for one wayward and willful man reneging on his vows, but it's possible to do something in the individual situation. That isn't possible once Fr. Cutie decides to bail.

The Spider is fond of saying that pastors are high-value targets of the evil one, and this is why. The more of them in high-profile spots that take public falls, the better his business is. It's part of the general strategy of those who oppose the Church to bring up its faults:

Some Catholics expressed sympathy for Cutie and said it was time to end the celibacy rule. Others said that, given the recent scandals involving U.S. priests sexually abusing young boys, and Irish priests raping, flogging and enslaving children in Catholic schools, they were relieved that Cutie had merely become involved with an adult woman.

Again, I'm forced to call complete BS. Who are these "some Catholics," and who are these "others?" No quote? I'm going to just come right out and say that every single one of these some and others are either theoretical, or people in the newsroom. No doubt, one could find examples of these. Fair enough. Why, then, were NO such examples found by either the two reporters or the two editors credited? They certainly found room to list up some of the more horrible sins and scandals of the recent past.

All of this could have been mitigated. I have no idea if Fr. Cutie ever did come forward to his bishop or to his confessor. It seems likely that he either didn't, or that nobody close to him was able to convince him that this was a bad idea; he went forward with this canoodling, and broke his vows. Then he held this little presser in order, not to apologize, but to justify himself by leaving the Church and putting the blame on them, instead of squarely on himself.

In the media of course he comes off like an honest fellow, caught in conflicting loyalties, and stuck with no other way out... and the media, which can't really be bothered to do even the online research I've done tonight, will gladly play this up as the acceptable storyline, with his own complicity. It's hard enough that the foes of the Church exclude any good she does or any virtue she teaches in favor of scandal and crime; worse that the good padre decided to join with those foes by blaming the Church for his own faults. It's the big danger in becoming well-known in general: it becomes more about the person and less about what they're known for. It can be politics, or music, or acting, or nearly anything else one can think of - the person stops doing their best work because they focus on themselves rather than the work. Fr. Cutie's attitude here is not that he ought to sacrifice to be a priest; in effect it's the reverse and the congregation has to sacrifice to have him - he has to be married and satisfy both his own needs and the needs of his family, first. And that's the congregation he wants to get - what of the one he's just betrayed? The priesthood is not all about him.

His words at this press conference would not be out of place coming from the mouth of any starlet going to rehab, or suspended athlete, or elected official caught cheating on their spouse. In this case, the wronged spouse is Christ Himself, which makes it doubly terrible.

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