Father Alberto Cutie (center) is flanked by his girlfriend and Episcopal Bishop Frade accompanied by his wife Diana (AP Photo/Al Diaz / May 27, 2009)
An old adage says "there but for the grace of God go I". Any one of us can fall. We are all sinners who need to repent. Forgiveness and mercy are available to anyone and everyone.
While none of can judge the spiritual state of Father Cutie (only the Good Lord can do that) and none of us can cast the first stone since none of us is without sin ourselves, nevertheless the ACTIONS he has taken are public and must be evaluated. His inner disposition and the state of his immortal soul is only known by him and by God. Every time I hear or read of a brother priest leaving the active ministry, I am saddened and I pray for his soul. I also pray to God for myself that I be stronger in temptation and that by God's grace, hopefully I can be a better priest.
The issue of celibacy is a smoke-screen. Father Cutie went to the seminary like the rest of us. I went twelve years since I attended high school seminary. Yet, if a man only had eight or six or even four years of seminary, guess what? You KNOW the Church in the Latin Rite requires CELIBACY. It is no secret and it is no surprise. They tell you from day one and every day afterward that you will be ASKED to take an OATH of CELIBACY the day you are ordained a transitional deacon. You have plenty of time to leave the seminary before you take that solemn oath.
Once taken, it is as solemn and sacred an oath as is the vow taken by a bride and groom when they become husband and wife. Father Cutie took an oath of celibacy and allegedly his girlfriend, if previously married and now divorced, took a vow 'until death do us part' when she was married. Both promises were made before God and were supposed to be permanent.
Pope John Paul II taught us in Pastores Dabo Vobis that priests in the Roman church are celibate which means they do not have a wife. But it does not mean we are not married. We ARE. Our spouse is the Church since priests are ordained as an ALTER-CHRISTUS (another Christ). As the Church is the BRIDE and Christ is the BRIDEGROOM, then, JP2 points out, priests are also bridegrooms with the Church as our beloved spouse.
When a priest breaks his vow of celibacy, he is cheating on his spouse, the Church, just as any married man cheats on his wife when he commits adultery. Whether adultery or fornication, any sex outside or before the sacrament of Matrimony is wrong, immoral and sinful. Yet, our culture not only tolerates and gives a wink and a nod to extra-marital and pre-marital sex, it distorts it as some sort of natural right everyone has. Sex is not a right, it is a privilege and it is sacred since it is reserved to married couples (one man + one woman in a permanent, faithful and God-willing fruitful union).
Defecting from the Catholic Church which has the FULLNESS OF GRACE (all seven valid sacraments) and the FULLNESS OF TRUTH (sacred scripture and sacred tradition) is not only apostacy, it is a serious spiritually self-inflicted wound. The Episcopal and Anglican Church do not have valid Orders, so their deacons, priests and bishops are not validly ordained. They have valid baptisms but no valid Holy Orders, hence, no valid Confirmations, no valid Masses or Holy Eucharist. No valid confessions or anointing of the sick, either. The Church of England (Anglican Church) and the Episcopal Church of the USA have so-called ordained women and recently an openly professed gay bishop. This is the church Father Cutie and his girlfriend have embraced after leaving the 2,000 year old Catholic Church founded on the rock of Saint Peter and his successors, the popes.
Celibacy is not a doctrine but a discipline. Yet, it was made normative for the western Church in 309 AD by the Council of Elvira and made mandatory by Pope Gregory VII in 1076 AD. So, it has been around for quite some time. The Byzantine and Eastern Orthodox Churches have married clergy BUT they must be married BEFORE ordination AND their bishops must be ordained from celibate priests. So while celibacy is optional in the eastern Church it is still mandatory for the episcopacy. Yet, the press and news media NEVER mention the Greek or Russian Orthodox Churches when they cover the issue of women's ordination. Only the Latin rite of the Catholic Church is held up for scrutiny and ridicule.
Fidelity to one's commitments, be it marital vows or ordination oaths, should still be expected and sought by everyone. The recent sex scandals have nothing to do with celibacy either since they involved perversions and deviant behavior which is present in the general population. Sadly, parents, siblings, teachers, coaches and others have committed equally horrific and disgusting acts of child abuse as have some pathetic celibate clerics. Celibacy did not cause anyone to molest a child nor did it cause anyone to cheat on their spouse. If someone joins the military, they take an oath to obey orders just as a religious takes a vow of obedience or a priest promises obedience to his bishop. If a soldier or sailor does not like to take orders or he feels uncomfortable in obeying others, then he should not have entered that way of life. Once an oath has been taken, however, it cannot and should not be treated lightly or casually. While promises are broken, oaths and vows are sacred promises made before God and can never be dissolved only renewed.
Yes, pray for Father Cutie that he come to his senses and repent of his action. First he betrayed his vows made on ordination day, then he betrayed the Church when he abandoned and left her for another denomination. Apostacy is a serious matter as is Schism and Heresy. But so is infidelity in marriage and infidelity in the priesthood. It is never too late to repent and reform. Pray for all 'former' priests because ontogically, they are still priests as they are priests forever according to the order of Melchizedek. And pray for the rest of us, too, because the priests who have not left and have not broken our vows are still sinners in need of mercy and forgiveness.