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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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The Father Cutie Scandal

cutie9Given the recent publication of Fr. Cutie’s self-justifying book, I thought it worthwhile to publish these revised reflections at my BLOGGER PRIEST site:

There are some critics who contend that the scandal in Miami with Father Alberto Cutie is providential. While God can certainly write straight with our crooked lines, I would stress that he never directly intends evil. There I have said it. I have used the big “e” word, EVIL. I am not judging anyone’s soul. However, I can make a judgment upon scandal and the actions of people in the public square that might lead good Catholics astray. I am not entirely sure what happened with Father Alberto Cutie. He appeared on the news with details we did not need but which have further confused and complicated matters. Now he writes a “tell all” book which attacks the teachings and disciplines of the Catholic Church.

He insisted that for twenty-one years he absolutely preserved his celibacy intact and was not sexually intimate with anyone. That is fine and dandy. But then, what happened? During one TV interview he said he “believes” he has fallen in love. He said he “believes” that God might be calling him to marriage. He said he “believes” that celibacy is a good thing and does not want to be the poster boy for married priests. He denied a sexual relationship, told one interviewer he had been intimate with the woman in the photographs, but not sexually and yet he apparently said in another news program that he had been sexually intimate with her. He said that he did not go out of his way to make trouble for the Church. He said that he and the woman he cared about were almost alone on the beach and that they were not there long. But the compromising photos were taken, despite attempts at stealth. Okay, but still he sought to hide a romantic relationship to which he had long ago given up any right to have.

He preached and gave one message in his parish and on radio and television; but he lived another. Had he been an ordinary parish priest, there would have been a local scandal, but it would not be international news. It would not be the stuff of tabloids and anti-Catholic videos. After he was censured, this priest continued to speak about the matter in public. The problem grew. He gave countless interviews in both English and Spanish. He just would not stop talking. He still has not stopped.

A Reflection on Celibacy

What can we say to the enemies of compulsory celibacy for priests? Priestly celibacy is not outdated. It is a powerful sign of contradiction that neither the devil nor the hedonists of the present age can stand. They malign it as a fantasy or cover-up for hordes of homosexual and/or pedophile clergy. Priests forgive the sexual transgressions of other men and women all the time. However, if a priest should fall, there is only recrimination and exile.

There is nothing wrong with men and women expressing love to one another. It is natural and beautiful. But sexual congress belongs to the state of marriage alone. Priests like all men can make mistakes; but, unlike most men, the majority of priests in the Roman Rite are pledged to a lifetime of celibate love. Yes, while celibacy is a discipline, it is also a manner of loving others, albeit in a single-hearted way. The celibate priest knows a special solidarity with the brokenhearted, the poor, the suffering and those who are alone. His celibacy says that he belongs to the people he serves, without reservation or distraction. He does not belong to another person or even to himself. He belongs to the Church in which he serves. He demonstrates his love for God in how he pours out his life for others.

One early interview was particularly disturbing when it was asked if he would stay or leave the Catholic Church. He admitted that he was currently weighing his options. I was saddened. I thought to myself, if a charismatic priest, regarded by some as the Oprah of the Church, should defect, the harm he would inflict upon the Church could be enormous. He had been instrumental in drawing many people back to the practice of their faith. This scandal could further explode and cause an exodus of souls from the true Church.

He was handsome and seemingly filled with vigor and love of the Church. Such things are contagious in a good way. But hero-worship of any sort, particularly with celebrities, has a dangerous flip-side. They can do much good. But, they are also capable of terrible wrongs and damage. Younger people who easily related to him might now view the rules of the Church as arbitrary and heartless. They might say to themselves, if someone like Father Cutie can no longer tolerate the Church, then why should I?

Critics contend, “Isn’t the Father Cutie scandal just further evidence that it is wrong and dangerous for Catholic priests to suppress their natural desires for sexual intimacy with women?”

The priest in question admitted he had a long-standing serious struggle with his sexuality and need for a wife and family. It may be that he sought ordination without open full deliberation and resolution of this concern with those to whom he was entrusted for formation. He may have been chaste in his behavior for many years but failed to surrender dreams and hopes for a family of his own. The man who would be a priest must let these things go. His hopes and aspirations should revolve instead around his prayer life and his goals and service as a pastor of souls. Men in seminary must also be realistic about their drives. As St. Paul reminds us, it is better to marry than to burn. Priests must also be very wary of their fantasies regarding choices not made and how other men might live. The grass might seem greener on the other side of the fence; but priests must not trespass where they do not belong. They freely embraced celibacy so as to enter into holy orders and become priests. Had they become married deacons, they would still be clergy in the Church. They could have lived saintly lives as laymen. But they made a choice. They made promises. These promises should be kept. Before ordination is the proper time for deliberation and soul searching, not afterwards.

The business about Father Cutie should have no meaning beyond this one poor priest, himself. He is not representative of the thousands of other priests in the United States who have never compromised their promises or their celibacy. The impression from the question is that men cannot be expected to have any semblance of self-control. This is silly and shows just how far our society and its views have been contaminated and distorted by excessive nudity, immodesty, and eroticism. We even dress our little girls like whores and then wonder why there is child abuse. Teenagers have their bellies exposed and shorts up to their crotches. Parents sometimes object but then cannot find decent stuff in stores. Television and movies celebrate fornication and give us scene after scene of simulated sex acts. Pornography has gone main stream and sexual gratification is viewed as a necessary rite of passage. It is into this mix that we find the celibate priest. Mothers want their sons married because they cannot see how a man might otherwise be happy. Fathers want their sons married because otherwise everyone will think they are gay. The truth is that celibacy can be very rewarding and liberating. Celibacy is not a denial of love but a special way of loving.

The priest promises perpetual celibacy but even married men promise a fidelity to a spouse which will require periodic chastity. Those who follow Natural Family Planning would understand how one must be creative in love, perhaps reverting back from time to time to the romantic and chaste acts of courtship during fertile periods. Celibacy is not merely a matter of priests suppressing their sexuality; rather, it is redirected to a love of God and a love of neighbor in sacrificial service. Priests, who say their prayers and stay busy, have neither the time nor the interest to pursue an exclusive relationship. If men in general cannot be expected to control themselves, then what happens when a spouse is sick or incapacitated or away? If the husband has military duty abroad or the wife has to travel back home to care for an ailing parent or there is an extended business meeting, would the man control his sexual urges or be compelled to commit adultery? If his wife is sick and cannot have sex with him, does he necessarily turn to her pretty nurse as a proxy? An over-sexed society suffering from an epidemic of fornication, perversion, adultery, pornography, prostitution and child endangerment can hardly speak in a credible way about priestly celibacy and marriage. The trouble with these fallen priests is not the Church but the fact that they themselves are formed and affected more by the fallen world around them than by the Gospel. Secularists and hedonists criticizing priestly celibacy are like inebriated boozers telling teetotalers to take a drink.

Where Does a FIRED Catholic Priest Go?

Before he made his jump, I read one critic who argued that Father Cutie could defect to the Episcopalian Church, get married and continue his parish and media ministry. I wrote: “Yes, he could do this, but he might forfeit his soul in such a move. The moral state of people who were raised in the Episcopal or Anglican Church is one thing; the state of those who abandon Catholicism to join their ranks is another.”

The original Protestant reformers may have paid a terrible price in their break from Rome. They should have known better. The same cannot be said for those who were raised in the Protestant traditions. This is all they know. Those elements of Catholic faith preserved after the break may very well be meritorious for our Protestant brothers and sisters. However, those very same elements may convict former Catholics who were supposed to remain steadfast within the body of the Church and in the profession of all that we believe as true. Ignorance of the truth does provide some measure of excuse. Catholics in general and priests in particular, would have a more difficult time. They were one with the true Church. They professed its faith and received its sacraments. The conviction from the Fourth Lateran Council, Trent and in the margins of Vatican II cannot be escaped: there is no salvation outside the Church. Those who know, perfectly well, that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and then refuse to join or leave its ranks, might lose their place in the heavenly kingdom. In addition, the Holy Father has insisted that Protestant churches are ecclesial communities but not churches in the full Catholic sense. The Anglicans like to see themselves as a branch of Catholicism, but this sentiment is not shared by the successor of St. Peter. There are serious questions about apostolic succession and its priesthood and Mass. Non-Catholic communities suffer from many dire errors in teaching. Yes, the Episcopalians have married priests, but they also have openly gay clergy and (women) priestesses. They tolerate abortion, sodomy, fornication, contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc. I doubted Father Cutie could stomach such a so-called church for long; I guess he is proving me wrong.

Father Alberto Cutie Defects to Episcopal Church

I grieve for the Church. It was bad enough that Father Alberto Cutie was living a secret life. He seemed more apologetic about being caught than about having his scandalous doings with his lady-friend photographed on a Florida beach. But next we are told that he joined the Episcopal Church. My heart droped at the news.

The wayward priest spent his designated “retreat” time hanging out with his girlfriend. He did not even try to reform. We have all been deceived. While he asked forgiveness and said that he did not want to be the poster-boy for married priests, he has abandoned the true Church entirely. He has done the very thing which he promised he would not do. He has brought both Church doctrine and discipline to ridicule. He has hurt the faith of simple people. Given his popularity as a pastor and as a widely-known media priest, the danger of his defection is incalculable. Who knows how many will follow him out of the Catholic fold?

The Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade should be deeply embarrassed by his disrespect to the priest’s legitimate bishop, Catholic Archbishop John Favalora. Bishop Frade was not Father Cutie’s true spiritual father, but rather of a robber who came to steal from the flock. In this case, he did not get away with sheep but with the shepherd. Ecumenism was dealt a serious set-back. I was surprised not to see lightning bolts from heaven about this travesty. The good Archbishop would have us pray for his prodigal son in the hope that he might return to the fold.

Quickly defecting after the news of his infidelity broke, he was unwilling to give the matter the proper amount of time and distance for sober reflection. I have to wonder how much of this was premeditated. There was even speculation that his girlfriend may have had some prior involvement with the photographer on the beach. But I think it is reaching to suppose he was setup to force his hand. Regardless of the machinations behind the scenes, the blunt of the blame must be borne by Father Cutie.

Although supposedly orthodox in his teachings, this latest act shows quite the opposite. He broke trust with his bishop and brother priests but now refers to Episcopalian priests as his “many brothers… [who] serve God as married men and with the blessing of having their own families.” This act sickens me. Episcopalian priests may be good Christians, but he sees no difference between the authentic priesthood of Catholicism and the empty shell of Anglicanism. He is not the first. But, almost every one of them abandoned Roman Catholicism, not for deep-seated doctrinal reasons, but because of the desire to bed a woman and still retain a public or ministerial persona as a spiritual guru.

Catholicism receives many Episcopalian priests into her ranks, but they are drawn by doctrinal permanence over fluctuating instability, moral absolutes over relativism and humility coupled with obedience to God and his Church over a selfish and earthbound liberalism. Those who become Catholic often sacrifice much in the way of salary, standing and home. While a few married Episcopalian priests have been ordained in the Catholic Church; many have sacrificed their ministries entirely to be a part of the Catholic family. They placed a higher premium on divine truth than upon a capricious religion easily swayed by the fads and fashions of the day.

How could he give advice about faith and relationships to others on television, radio and in writing when he was so personally messed up? People came to him for life-giving water; but he was really an empty well. Many of his supporters seemed more “on his side” than in harmony with the mind of the Church. He made disciples, inadvertently I suppose, less for Christ and his Church and more for himself. Sometimes I think the Church should rotate clergy in media settings. Left too long in front of the camera or on the radio– and a personality cult frequently develops. We should not hero-worship our clergy. If a popular priest should fall, he might take many souls with him. This business with Father Cutie has re-ignited the married priest debate even though most active priests prefer the status-quo in favor of compulsory celibacy. Who knows how dire this will continue to be for the Church in Miami?

A television station showed parishioners of St. Francis de Sales Parish marching around their church in support of their former pastor. Evidently they did not care that their pastor had broken his promises and had lived a lie. When interviewed they compared Father Cutie’s transgressions favorably against the terrible crimes of pedophiles. The real comparison is with good and faithful celibate priests.

The situation was intensely precarious. Later it became a great deal worse. The woman was identified as Ruhama Canellis. She stood by his side at Trinity Cathedral where they both entered the Episcopalian church. The Episcopal bishop and priests in attendance dressed up for the event. They pulled all the stops. Even priestesses were in attendance. He was planning to marry his lover and to become an Episcopalian priest. He has now realized these aspirations. I suppose it is fitting. King Henry VIII stole the English people from the Catholic Church so that he might divorce and remarry. Canellis is a divorced woman. Did Father Cutie miss the class in seminary on basic Christian morality? Are not fornication and adultery still sins? This should matter to them both. In addition to these concerns, he is now a renegade Catholic priest. If he accepts Protestant teaching, and plans to expound upon it, then he will be a heretic as well. He is digging a big hole for himself. My fear is that thousands might fall into it with him.

Well, it is a sad thing, but if the Episcopalian church wants our rejects then that is their trouble. Look how quickly they grabbed this fallen priest. We would have taken more time with one of theirs. His legitimate Catholic bishop was not even notified about his reception into the Episcopal “church.” That shows how little respect Father Cutie had for him and the ROMAN Catholic Church. The Episcopal diocese should be ashamed of itself. But given the current fragmented status of the Episcopal communion, are they even capable of shame? This was all quite sleazy and I suspect it was in the works for some time. I have no respect for men who do such things.

Father Cutie described his new faith affiliation as “a new family” and yet we do not subscribe to any form of religious relativism. Father Cutie disowned his family. That should be the real headline. All churches are not the same. The Holy Father was clear. The Catholic Church is the true Church; Orthodoxy is a defective church; and all Protestant groupings are ecclesial communities, but not properly CHURCH. Many Protestant communities claim no priesthood or Eucharist; Episcopalians claim both but the Catholic Church judged their orders invalid and their Eucharist as false.

SEE APOSTOLICAE CURAE (Pope Leo XIII, 1896)

They are not a branch of Catholicism but a foreign misbegotten creature that has delusions of grandeur while feigning a pedigree it does not really possess.

What clouds the issue is the presence of former Catholic priests in the Episcopal community. They are still priests, even if in mortal sin and excommunicated. Father Cutie says that he will continue to proclaim God’s Word; but what is a Catholic priest apart from the Catholic Church? Will he preach the Word of God or the word of Cutie? Father Cutie is rejecting the Pope, the authority of his lawful bishop, the seven sacraments as clearly defined by Catholicism, our view of priesthood, our moral teachings on sexuality and marriage, the prohibition against divorce and remarriage, and the basics of Catholic ecclesiology. Will he be happy? Can he close his mind and heart to the many differences we have with Episcopalians? He will be obliged to accept women priests, gay bishops and same-sex unions, a tolerance for abortion, artificial contraception and divorce with remarriage. He is leaving the Church of commandments for the church of anything goes. He says, “I will always love the Catholic Church.” But, he did not love her enough. The Church was his bride. Now he has traded her for two paramours: the divorcee and the mistress church of Henry VIII and Cranmer the despoiler.

Scripture & Tradition

Why must we deal with anti-Catholic critics and their distortions? The fact is that Scripture, separated from the living tradition and Magisterium of the Church, loses its grounding and can be easily corrupted. The assertion that the authenticity of the Scriptures rests entirely upon itself is an argument that runs counter to the facts and the history of God’s people. The Church collected and, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is the source for the New Testament. Before one word of the Gospel was written, there was the ministering and teaching Catholic Church. The notion that Old Testament prophesies legitimate the Bible fails to recognize that the promise was given to the Jewish people, the first people called by God to be in covenant with him. There are no Scriptures separated from a community established by God. The Catholic Church recognizes that Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah do indeed point to Jesus. This is not a matter of debate. Some anti-Catholic bigots still insist upon fighting the Catholic Church and her historical role in all this.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.